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Sunday, April 20, 2014

NY Times: Who Made That Relief Pitcher?

In April 1903, a writer for Sporting Life described what might have been a baseball first: “Manager McGraw has originated a new plan,” the paper said, referring to John McGraw, the successful skipper of the New York Giants. “He will use two pitchers in every game, one being in the points five innings and the other four. No manager but one who has originality and nerve would attempt any such innovation, but McGraw has both.”

The team soon abandoned this idea, wrote Peter Morris, author of “A Game of Inches: The Stories Behind the Innovations That Shaped Baseball.” But in the years that followed, McGraw did find a way to reorganize his roster. Some pitchers would be called upon to start games; others would specialize in finishing.

bobm Posted: April 20, 2014 at 11:27 AM | 3 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, john mcgraw, relievers

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   1. KT's Pot Arb Posted: April 20, 2014 at 01:54 PM (#4689662)
Even McGraw couldn't successfully implement bullpen by committee. Only when he returned to his designated closer, Doc Crandall, did the sports scribes relentless criticism abate.
   2. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: April 20, 2014 at 02:16 PM (#4689673)
Crandall lead the league in games finished 5 years in a row, but never in saves.

Edit: Woah, he also had over 1000 career PA (and 55 starts at second base!) with an OPS+ of 120. Ok, most of that was in the Federal league but he still had 509 PAs in the NL with a 110 OPS+. Very strange career.
   3. Mike Emeigh Posted: April 20, 2014 at 07:38 PM (#4689870)
Until the mid-1920s, relief pitchers were almost always pitching in low-leverage situations; the idea of a fireman didn't really come up, even with McGraw. What McGraw did was something similar to what Bobby Cox used to do in Atlanta - he pulled his starters from the game early when they had big leads, and used guys like Crandall and (later) Dave Danforth to finish up. Of Crandall's five saves in 1911, for example, four were in blowouts (and in one of those he made it close by allowing five runs in the ninth). When McGraw needed a true fireman, it was almost always Matty or one of his other starters.

-- MWE

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