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Thursday, August 02, 2012

John Smoltz: Leave Aroldis Chapman in the bullpen

Aroldis Joba? That’s news to me.

As John Smoltz’s pitching career was winding down, there was little doubt what his future would include: TV. He is candid, articulate and he likes to talk. Sure enough, Smoltz has lived up to such expectations by becoming one of TBS’ lead baseball analysts.

He shared a few of his latest insights in a phone interview with Sporting News to promote his role with TBS.

SN: What should the Reds do with Aroldis Chapman next year? Start him or keep him as their closer?

Smoltz: I can’t believe I’m hearing this. I had no idea they’re even thinking about making him a starter. You would think people would have learned their lesson from the Joba Chamberlain situation. I don’t think it’s fair to bounce a guy around early in his career. The transformation between starting and closing is night and day. (Chapman) is lights out as a closer. I don’t know if he can be lights out for eight innings.

Repoz Posted: August 02, 2012 at 09:14 PM | 55 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: media, reds

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   1. Boxkutter Posted: August 02, 2012 at 09:24 PM (#4199342)
You shut your dirty whore mouth, John Smoltz!
   2. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: August 02, 2012 at 10:22 PM (#4199398)
You would think people would have learned their lesson from the Joba Chamberlain situation.


The only lesson from the Joba Chamberlain situation is that pitchers get injured. Especially pitchers who have already been injured. The Yankees developed a transition plan to get Chamberlain from his temporary relief role to full-time starting without increasing his work load too much too fast, and although much-maligned and even mocked, the fact is that it worked pretty much to perfection. Chamberlain was one of the most effective starting pitchers in MLB in August of 2008 and right on track to throw his target number of innings for the season. And then he got hurt.
   3. JJ1986 Posted: August 02, 2012 at 10:26 PM (#4199401)
You would think people would have learned their lesson from the Lance Lynn situation.
   4. Biff, highly-regarded young guy Posted: August 02, 2012 at 11:11 PM (#4199420)
Come on Smoltz, be more recent. They could have learned from the Daniel Bard situation.
   5. McCoy Posted: August 02, 2012 at 11:17 PM (#4199423)
Hitler's plan to conquer Russia worked right up until the point that it didn't.
   6. Ray (RDP) Posted: August 02, 2012 at 11:18 PM (#4199424)
The only lesson from the Joba Chamberlain situation is that pitchers get injured. Especially pitchers who have already been injured. The Yankees developed a transition plan to get Chamberlain from his temporary relief role to full-time starting without increasing his work load too much too fast, and although much-maligned and even mocked, the fact is that it worked pretty much to perfection. Chamberlain was one of the most effective starting pitchers in MLB in August of 2008 and right on track to throw his target number of innings for the season. And then he got hurt.


I have no evidence that the Yankees' handling of Chamberlain led to the injury problems, but I do know that there was zero basis for handling him in that bizarre fashion, switching him from starting to relieving and then back to starting and then putting absurd pitch control limits on him, etc. There was no evidence that that was good for him, and ironically their plan to keep him healthy may have led to him getting injured. May have. Again, nobody can know for sure.
   7. The John Wetland Memorial Death (CoB) Posted: August 02, 2012 at 11:24 PM (#4199428)
You would think people would have learned their lesson from the Joba Chamberlain situation.


Uh, they did. Nobody traded for Ivan Rodriguez this year.

</sarcasm>
   8. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: August 02, 2012 at 11:24 PM (#4199429)
You would think they would have learned from the Mordecai "Four Finger" Brown situation.
   9. The John Wetland Memorial Death (CoB) Posted: August 02, 2012 at 11:26 PM (#4199432)
There was no evidence that that was good for him, and ironically their plan to keep him healthy may have led to him getting injured. May have. Again, nobody can know for sure.


Unless their plan for "keeping him healthy" included specifically called for having him play with Pudge Rodriguez ... no, it didn't.

And ... well, no we can't, but not for the reason you think we can't ...

   10. Nasty Nate Posted: August 02, 2012 at 11:42 PM (#4199440)
It seems there are more of the D-Lowe / CJ Wilson success stories than the failures but maybe I'm biased.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: August 03, 2012 at 12:05 AM (#4199449)
Smoltz couldn't be more wrong. What the Reds should do with Chapman is trade him to the Cubs for Alf ...

I almost made it through that with a straight face.
   12. PreservedFish Posted: August 03, 2012 at 12:14 AM (#4199454)
Pudge Rodriguez never should have made Joba Chamberlain go to that trampoline center.
   13. flournoy Posted: August 03, 2012 at 12:27 AM (#4199459)
Smoltz's position here is not ridiculous. Chapman has been wildly successful this year in his role as a closer. Leaving people in roles where they are wildly successful instead of moving them around is generally defensible.
   14. NJ in DC (Now with Wife!) Posted: August 03, 2012 at 12:28 AM (#4199460)
There was no evidence that that was good for him, and ironically their plan to keep him healthy may have led to him getting injured. May have. Again, nobody can know for sure.

This is silly. He got injured on the Pudge play. That had nothing to do with the Yankees' "plans."

EDIT: Cokes
   15. charityslave is thinking about baseball Posted: August 03, 2012 at 12:30 AM (#4199462)
Chris Sale! Chris Sale! Chris Sale!


Chapman should be given every chance to start. He's being paid like a starter. He has the stuff. He has been a starter in the past. He seems to have gotten control of his pitches. He's got Randy Johnson-like potential. The Reds have got to find out if he can do it. The potential reward is too great.
   16. PreservedFish Posted: August 03, 2012 at 12:41 AM (#4199464)
I don't know the leverage index math, but here's a question:

If you have an unhittable pitcher who can throw 200 innings as a starter, how many innings would he have to throw in a highly leveraged relief role in order to make about the same impact?
   17. Walt Davis Posted: August 03, 2012 at 01:21 AM (#4199484)
If you have an unhittable pitcher who can throw 200 innings as a starter, how many innings would he have to throw in a highly leveraged relief role in order to make about the same impact?

I think LI tends to max out around 2 so, in theory, half as many innings. Also pitchers tend to do better rate-stat wise in relief so you might add 10-20% performance bonus and an LI around 1.8 would do it. If you can dig up very old threads on Eric Gagne's CYA, we discussed that a lot there.

Holy F that was 2003. I am getting old. Anyway, yes, some saber-smarties (Tango I think) argued that Gagne's 82 IP really were more valuable than Schmidt/Prior's 210. WAR however tells a different story with Schmidt and Prior blowing Gagne out of the water -- Prior had twice Gagne's WAR. Anyway, Gagne's gmLI (see b-r) was 1.7 that year and that was his general range in his heyday.
   18. PreservedFish Posted: August 03, 2012 at 01:37 AM (#4199487)
Thanks for the response. Interesting.

I don't expect Chapman to remain so good forever, but there's a part of me that thinks that an almost literally unhittable pitcher, intelligently deployed, could be most valuable in the bullpen.

Of course, "intelligently deployed" is the tough part. In a computer game I would use this robot pitcher in the 6th inning if it seemed smart.
   19. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: August 03, 2012 at 01:46 AM (#4199488)
I don’t know if he can be lights out for eight innings.

This part is true. Chapman probably wouldn't have a completely dark 8 innings.
   20. Walt Davis Posted: August 03, 2012 at 02:34 AM (#4199497)
I don't expect Chapman to remain so good forever, but there's a part of me that thinks that an almost literally unhittable pitcher, intelligently deployed, could be most valuable in the bullpen.

Could be. As we've seen with Chapman's FIP, formulas often break down in the extreme so a truly "unhittable" guy might do just that. Certainly a guy who can K half the batters he faces (as Chapman has this year) would be quite good at protecting small leads with runners on base.

It gets quite complicated of course. How many true do or die situations are there. How often do they occur in clumps (or multiple times in a game) such that Chapman wouldn't be available for some? How often are they separated by several games such that you have to use him in low leverage situations to keep him sharp?

A few things I can tell you:

a) his gmLI this year is 1.8 which is in line with top closer usage;

b) the most WAR for a pitcher with fewer than 100 IP is Papelbon at 4.9; Rivera's best was 4.2 (2008); Gossage's best sub-100 IP was 4.4 (1982);

c) the highest aLI (that's an "average" of some sort) was Gossage 1983 at 2.4; there have been a few seasons in the 2000s in the 2-2.3 range.

In contrast, in 2011, 10 starters had 5+ WAR. So you'd have to be pretty much perfect at optimising his appearances and probably push him to at least 90 and maybe substantially more innings to make him the best pitcher (from a WAR perspective).
   21. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: August 03, 2012 at 03:47 AM (#4199502)
I don’t know if he can be lights out for eight innings.

This part is true. Chapman probably wouldn't have a completely dark 8 innings.

If the Reds have been turning off the stadium lights when he pitches, no wonder nobody can hit him. Maybe the Marlins should try that with Heath Bell.
   22. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: August 03, 2012 at 06:05 AM (#4199504)
You would think they would have learned from the Ryan Dempster situation.
   23. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: August 03, 2012 at 06:08 AM (#4199505)
What the Reds should do with Chapman is trade him to the Cubs for Alf ...
HAYES: We got a problem. Shumway wants some extra power for tonight. He's lookin' to eat a live cat. We can't have people pukin' in the locker room before the game.
TAYLOR: Tell him not to worry, I'll take care of it.
   24. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: August 03, 2012 at 08:04 AM (#4199518)
Did the Jim Creighton tragedy teach us nothing?
   25. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 03, 2012 at 08:14 AM (#4199526)
in the current game a good/great bullpen can be the difference between a .480 team and a team in the playoffs. the reds look to have a core starting group of cueto/latos. arroyo can likely continue to chew innings as a the white livan for a few more years. if bailey can nudge forward that's four guys who can keep the team in the game, votto gets them the lead and chapman & co locks it down.

hey, i think chapman would be a fine starter. but if you have someone as a spectacular anchor for a bullpen in an age where bullpens are so incredibly important and can make/break a season unless you have someone 98 percent as good you leave him.

because who is option b in cincy to be the bullpen anchor? until that question is answered chapman stays put.
   26. TDF, situational idiot Posted: August 03, 2012 at 08:41 AM (#4199546)
because who is option b in cincy to be the bullpen anchor? until that question is answered chapman stays put.
Is this a serious question?

Plan B: Sean Marshall is signed through '15.
Plan C: They get first shot at resigning Jonathon Broxton.
Plan D: They have an option on Ryan Madson.
Plan E: J.J. Hoover is 24, and has a WHIP of 1.056.

Finding a replacement for Chapman as closer is the least of their worries.
   27. The District Attorney Posted: August 03, 2012 at 08:49 AM (#4199554)
Come on Smoltz, be more recent. They could have learned from the Daniel Bard situation.
They could have learned from The Situation.
   28. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: August 03, 2012 at 08:51 AM (#4199557)
Have they learned nothing from The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer?
   29. Nasty Nate Posted: August 03, 2012 at 09:07 AM (#4199563)
Have they learned nothing from Scott Wolf?
   30. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 03, 2012 at 09:12 AM (#4199566)
tdf

i will likely regret responding but i don't see any of those individuals remotely comparable to chapman in terms of competence.

having chapman allows the reds to have a bullpen that makes games six innings long. that's a pretty powerful edge
   31. Nasty Nate Posted: August 03, 2012 at 09:58 AM (#4199602)
having chapman allows the reds to have a bullpen that makes games six innings long. that's a pretty powerful edge


But that's not really true. Even this year when he has been superb, he has 4 blown saves and 1 additional loss. It's not hard to imagine getting "remotely comparable" results (in terms of team W/L) without him in the bullpen. Now, I'm not blindly disagreeing with Smoltz here. It may be the right move to leave him as a reliever, but let's not pretend that the Reds don't lose any leads with him back there.
   32. TDF, situational idiot Posted: August 03, 2012 at 10:00 AM (#4199607)
Harvey:

The Reds right now seem to have no holes in the bullpen - Bill Bray's the only one who's appeared in even one game and hasn't been excellent, and he just went on the DL to make room for Broxton; he totalled 8 2/3 IP this year.

No, none of them are as good as Chapman; but Chapman was also the best starter they had in spring training this year and moved to the bullpen only after Masset and Madson were hurt.
   33. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: August 03, 2012 at 10:22 AM (#4199628)
Chapman flashes an unhittable slider, but if it's not consistent I can't see him in the rotation. He doesn't necessarily need a third pitch (though a changeup would be nice), but he needs more than his fastball. I've long wanted him in the rotation but I have my doubts that he can make the transition smoothly.
   34. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 03, 2012 at 10:26 AM (#4199633)
tdf

madson is coming back from injury. i am reluctant to believe in a guy until he has thrown and had some success.

sean marshall has been great in his role of not being 'the guy'. sure we all think he could be 'the guy'. i don't think there is anything mystical about 'closer' but players sure seem to believe that.

broxton has not been striking out guys like he used to in an era where it seems anyone can average 8 strikeouts per nine innings. don't feel good about that

so i hear you and completely agree that chapman might well be the reds best starter.

but i don't see the plan b beyond marshall. and if you remove marshall then all the other guys get bumped in their roles

and its run prevention driving the reds success. in that ballpark the reds are among the best in keeping runners from scoring.

i have seen two brewer seasons sabotaged by rotten bullpens (2007 and 2012)

i would be really damn cautious before i messed with this setup
   35. JJ1986 Posted: August 03, 2012 at 10:34 AM (#4199645)
I don't think you want to bump him this year, now that Latos isn't sucking, but with a whole offseason I think you can put together a good enough bullpen that you don't need him in the closer's role. Hoover, Arredondo, LeCure, Ondrusek and Marshall are great 2-6 guys in a pen and you can find an ace (either Broxton or Madson or someone else) during the offseason.
   36. Bitter Mouse Posted: August 03, 2012 at 10:34 AM (#4199646)
I am a simple soul. Salary figures tell me starters are more valuable than relievers. Advanced stats tell me starters are more valuable than relieves. Common sense suggests more innings is better than fewer innings. The save rates of even bad pitchers is surprisingly good. Every years good relievers appear and previously good relievers suck, starters tend to be more consistent.

If a guy can start then have them start.
   37. Nasty Nate Posted: August 03, 2012 at 10:39 AM (#4199651)
sean marshall has been great in his role of not being 'the guy'. sure we all think he could be 'the guy'. i don't think there is anything mystical about 'closer' but players sure seem to believe that.

broxton has not been striking out guys like he used to in an era where it seems anyone can average 8 strikeouts per nine innings. don't feel good about that


If you downgrade Marshall for this, I think it is only fair to upgrade Broxton, who has had been 'the guy' in KC and LA.
   38. AROM Posted: August 03, 2012 at 10:44 AM (#4199655)
Wasn't Madson's deal a 1 year contract? He might never pitch an inning for the Reds. Does he have a player option or something?
   39. JJ1986 Posted: August 03, 2012 at 10:46 AM (#4199656)
Does he have a player option or something?


Post 26 says he does.
   40. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 03, 2012 at 10:47 AM (#4199659)
nasty

not downgrading. listing the potential for a guy previously really effective to move to a role where he is less successful. i think its important that we not regard guys as just being able to move here and there without any concern for a performance impact

but that is tied to a mindset of 'roles'. i think if a manager went into the clubhouse and very firmly outlined that the role was to be ready to pitch and not that so and so is the 8th inning guy and that guy is the closer then guys might move around freely and still be good

i think this whole assigning of roles has gotten into the players heads
   41. bunyon Posted: August 03, 2012 at 10:53 AM (#4199666)
My view is that they should try him starting but that they should make the transition in the off-season and then give it an entire season to work out or not. Switching now won't work as he hasn't built the stamina. And it may well take half a season or so for him to really adjust.

If they aren't willing to commit to his starting for a season they shouldn't try switching him at all.
   42. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 03, 2012 at 10:53 AM (#4199667)
bitter

you know that is easy to write. but again, in this era seasons seem to be made or broken on the backs of bullpens

how many sabr inclined analysts have stated that the modern formula now is 2 capable starters and a killer bullpen to go with a capable offense? at least once you get to the postseason.

i don't like this as i prefer the starter handle the whole game and relievers be an afterthought. (bygone era)

but i am not oblivious to the current day
   43. zack Posted: August 03, 2012 at 11:06 AM (#4199691)
They probably should leave him in the bullpen, he's been too successful there and now it's too dangerous to move him.

By which I mean, if they make him a starter, they absolutely have to leave him starting for at least a full season. But if he blinks once, there will be thousands of words spilled on how he should be moved back, and most teams will capitulate to the peanut gallery. Unless the Reds have the fortitude to ignore it completely (and since Dusty seems to like him in the pen, I doubt they do), just leave him in the 'pen.
   44. SoSH U at work Posted: August 03, 2012 at 11:26 AM (#4199705)
Building on zack's point, I'd be willing to go by feel. If Chapman really wants to start, then let him stretch himself out in Spring Training, slot him in the rotation next year from the get-go and don't waver from it if he struggles early. If he's not sure about the move or genuinely prefers the pen, then take the bird in the hand and keep him in the pen.
   45. TDF, situational idiot Posted: August 03, 2012 at 11:32 AM (#4199713)
Wasn't Madson's deal a 1 year contract? He might never pitch an inning for the Reds. Does he have a player option or something?

Post 26 says he does.
It's a mutual option for way too much money ($11M), but it is there and gives the Reds first chance to sign him for a realistic number.
   46. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 03, 2012 at 11:37 AM (#4199720)
They should start Chapman in Game One of the World Series, just like Jim Konstanty.
   47. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: August 03, 2012 at 11:57 AM (#4199739)
I actually agree with those who say leave him in the bullpen if that's what he wants. He's fantastically successful there and you don't want to mess with a good thing. If he starts to lose effectiveness/interest in that role, try him as a starter. This is similar to what the Red Sox did with Lowe - kept him in the bullpen when he was a lights-out closer, and then moved him to the rotation after he seemingly lost the ability to close.
   48. Bitter Mouse Posted: August 03, 2012 at 11:59 AM (#4199742)
you know that is easy to write. but again, in this era seasons seem to be made or broken on the backs of bullpens

how many sabr inclined analysts have stated that the modern formula now is 2 capable starters and a killer bullpen to go with a capable offense? at least once you get to the postseason.


By why is none of this reflected in salary or the advanced stats? I think the usage pattern is driven by nothing but being risk averse. You see it in this thread. That is why I would argue they never should have allowed him to be anything but a starter, and then if that fails move him to the pen.

It is easier to be a reliever than a starter. There is so much risk aversion that once someone succeeds at the easier role everyone panics at the thought of moving them. It is silly.

Again it is simple, but a great starter (or even a good starter) is more likely to get you into the post season than a great reliever. So your best pitchers should be allowed to fail as starters before they become relievers.

I am OK with the long reliever into starter path that J. Santana and others followed, but once they are in short relief people's thinking seems to short circuit.
   49. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 03, 2012 at 12:40 PM (#4199770)
bitter

regarding stats all stats need data sets and reliever data sets are so dramatically different from starter data i have yet to see an evaluation approach that one could consider reliable.

as for salary, that's reflective of how relievers as a group are so in-consistent it's ill-advised as a practice to tie up significant sums on a player who will lurch back and from great to ok to yuck and hey he's great again.

and you are misreading what i am saying. chapman by himself isn't propelling the reds. but chapman as an anchor point for this particular group is key. he's making the bullpen engine go. if you surrounded chapman with the brewers bullpen dusty would be getting hammered for having chapman engage in plus inning outings to close out wins.

i am in a weird place because i despise current pitching/bullpen management and loathe the turnstile approach used by so many managers.

but if this is the game we have for the moment (and it is) and you have a guy who is the foundation for a superlative bullpen you better have a really good option before you disrupt that environment.
   50. Nasty Nate Posted: August 03, 2012 at 01:04 PM (#4199803)
By why is none of this reflected in salary or the advanced stats?


I think it is requested in salary. I think you may be assuming him successful as a starter, because top-notch closers make more money than medium-and-worse starters (Papelbon got a better deal than Edwin Jackson!). If you go strictly by salary, Chapman is more valuable as a reliever unless he makes a transition as smoothly as CJ Wilson or Dempster in '08.

Now, I don't think we should necessarily go by salary, but if we do it should be comparing elite closers to all starting pitchers, and not all relievers to all starters. This is because we 'know' Chapman is at that level as a reliever, but we don't know what level of starter he would be.
   51. Randy Jones Posted: August 03, 2012 at 01:14 PM (#4199812)
This is because we 'know' Chapman is at that level as a reliever, but we don't know what level of starter he would be.


Except that even the people who are saying that Chapman should remain as a reliever admit that y-t-y performance for relievers not named Mariano Rivera is far, far more variable than that of starters. So while Chapman may be an elite reliever right now, there is no guarantee he will be next year. So yes, the correct comparison is all relievers to all starters.
   52. Nasty Nate Posted: August 03, 2012 at 01:24 PM (#4199822)
Except that even the people who are saying that Chapman should remain as a reliever admit that y-t-y performance for relievers not named Mariano Rivera is far, far more variable than that of starters. So while Chapman may be an elite reliever right now, there is no guarantee he will be next year. So yes, the correct comparison is all relievers to all starters.


But the people who are saying that Chapman should remain as a reliever are not including him in the group of "relievers not named Mariano Rivera." They are including Chapman in the Rivera/Willy Wags/Papelbon/Hoffman class that is not nearly as variable as relievers in general. Whether that is premature is a different question.

Smoltz is basing his entire reasoning on assuming that Chapman would be a very good closer in 2013 - he is not ascribing any reliever variability to him, thus "(Chapman) is lights out as a closer. I don’t know if he can be lights out for eight innings.
   53. Randy Jones Posted: August 03, 2012 at 01:40 PM (#4199837)
They are including Chapman in the Rivera/Willy Wags/Papelbon/Hoffman class that is not nearly as variable as relievers in general.


That's the mistake. A couple years ago K-Rod would have been included in that group instead of Papelbon. Look at what happened with him.
   54. Nasty Nate Posted: August 03, 2012 at 01:51 PM (#4199848)
That's the mistake. A couple years ago K-Rod would have been included in that group instead of Papelbon. Look at what happened with him.


Yes, it may be a premature.

But K-Rod is terrible example. If we start at a similar point his career to where Chapman will be after this year, he has strung up relatively full years with ERA+s of 263-162-199-110-179-144-80. That is not markedly less consistent than starting pitchers.
   55. TDF, situational idiot Posted: August 03, 2012 at 01:56 PM (#4199851)
I don’t know if he can be lights out for eight innings.
I guarantee he wouldn't be as good in 200 IP as he has been as a closer; his current ERA+ is 306, and the highest number since the 1880s is 291. Heck, his career 169 would be pretty impressive for a season.

But that's not what's important. Would his move to the rotation (where he'd likely replace Leake, who's about league-average for a starter) be a big enough improvement to counteract his loss to the bullpen? Given all of the arms the Reds currently have in the pen, plus the chance to pick someone up in the off-season, I certainly think so.

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