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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Rays Disrupt Baseball’s Tanking Industry by — Get This — Trying to Win - The New York Times

One of the complaints I’ve heard about the opener is it costs pitchers wins. The other day one of MLB Radio’s hosts made an interesting comment about wins. He said using an opener will help a pitcher get more wins not less.That’s because as a starter a pitchers needs to go five innings to get a win. A reliever, of course, has no such requirement. With such high reliever usage a pitcher can come in the second, pitch three or four good innings and end up with a win. True this. Of course, the opener doesn’t get any wins and only picks up losses.

Jim Furtado Posted: August 16, 2018 at 03:10 PM | 52 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: August 16, 2018 at 03:33 PM (#5728164)
I don't know if this is a good idea or not but I've always felt that something like this is the path to the next 30 game winner. Imagine taking a guy like Pedro or Kershaw or Sale and rather than starting him using him like an old school fireman, 130-150 innings but with serious emphasis on leverage. It's probably not feasible but somewhere out there is the right pitcher for that role and a great season.
   2. PreservedFish Posted: August 16, 2018 at 03:41 PM (#5728173)
I think it's fascinating and the Rays boxscore has become a nightly must-click for me, because they seem to be trying something unexpected every night.

Yesterday they started something of an actual starter, Faria, who went only 3.1 innings. A short reliever finished the 4th inning, stranding two runners. Then came in Yarborough, a pseudo-starter that usually pitches 4-5 innings starting in the 2nd or 3rd. Last night he pitched the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th. A reliever finished the game.

All told, two short relievers combining for 5 outs, and two pseudo-starters combining for 7.1 innings, each obviously avoiding the dreaded "third time through the lineup."
   3. Rally Posted: August 16, 2018 at 03:44 PM (#5728176)
To get a 30 game winner you wait until your offense and starting pitcher have given you a lead in the 5th inning. The bigger the better. Then bring in your designated winner to get an out or two. As long as the bullpen can hold it from there he gets the win and will be available to do it again the next day if you have another lead. You can probably make a 30 game winner out of a 55 inning pitcher.

Is it a good idea for the team? Hell no, but I did it once in the minor league part of my simulation league (APBA at the time).
   4. PreservedFish Posted: August 16, 2018 at 03:46 PM (#5728179)
Imagine taking a guy like Pedro or Kershaw or Sale and rather than starting him using him like an old school fireman, 130-150 innings but with serious emphasis on leverage. It's probably not feasible but somewhere out there is the right pitcher for that role and a great season.


More realistic: taking a guy like Brad Peacock, who has the endurance but not the repertoire of a starter, and giving him 40 games of 3-4 innings each.

Baseball has decided that there are two types of pitchers, the 180+ inning guy, and the 60 inning guy. But who's to say that there isn't a class of pitchers out there that can be maximized somewhere in between? The Rays are conducting multiple experiments, and one of them might be in pursuit of this question.
   5. Nasty Nate Posted: August 16, 2018 at 03:47 PM (#5728184)
I don't know if this is a good idea or not but I've always felt that something like this is the path to the next 30 game winner.
It's possible, but I don't know if a guy will get enough appearances. The long man 2nd-pitcher usually needs a few days rest in between outings, so they won't be in 60-70 games like a setup guy. So maybe a guy gets 45-50 outings. The team would have to be winning a ton of games and of course be taking their last lead during those middle innings. So it would take a lot of coincidences, but if this usage continues, it's probably more likely happening that way than by a Scherzer-type going 30-1 or something.
   6. Nasty Nate Posted: August 16, 2018 at 03:50 PM (#5728190)
Ryan Yarbrough is the guy scooping wins for the Rays. His stat line is real funky, and partially looks like a deadball-era pitcher: 30 G, 5 GS, 114 innings, with an 11-5 record.
   7. Zonk is a Doppleclapper Posted: August 16, 2018 at 04:03 PM (#5728215)
It's possible, but I don't know if a guy will get enough appearances. The long man 2nd-pitcher usually needs a few days rest in between outings, so they won't be in 60-70 games like a setup guy. So maybe a guy gets 45-50 outings. The team would have to be winning a ton of games and of course be taking their last lead during those middle innings. So it would take a lot of coincidences, but if this usage continues, it's probably more likely happening that way than by a Scherzer-type going 30-1 or something.


Right - that's the problem.... it's awfully hard to get such a unicorn into a position where he picks up the win.

FWIW, just for giggles in an OOTP sim - I had a couple guys in my rotation go down in spring training, one for the year. I happened to have a guy - Tony Gonsolin, a middling Dodgers relief/swing prospect - that I had kind of groomed as a long man who took a couple of nice jumps in skills that I had sorta kinda worked as a starter (he's got more than a two-pitch repertoire and a decent stamina rating that I improved by using him in the Iowa rotation).

Anyhow - my team was stacked, so even with a thin rotation - I wasn't too concerned about winning the division, but for a lark - decided to really play with the roles to see if there was a way that I could goose Tony to 30 wins by very, very carefully spotting him in precisely such a way.

I let him start games against the worst opponents - always lifting him after 5 (and in particular, when he had a safe lead)... he got about 10 starts this route (and won 7 of them). Mostly, I used him as a long/swing man - and in particular, if a SP left the game with an injury - he was always my go-to guy if I had a lead before 5 innings. I also very carefully spotted him in relief in tie games.

In short - I used him all season long specifically and explicitly towards trying to get him to 30 wins... It was a good team - I won 105 games in the regular season - but he ultimately ended up at 22 wins, which did lead the league (and he was pretty good otherwise - 22-4, 3.15 ERA, 3.5 WAR, 55 games, 159 IP).

I got very lucky in that he never got hurt - on several occasions, when he was 'tired', I used him in key spots (late tie games) specifically to vulture wins.... but still came up 8 W's short.

Again - this was specifically working on lark solely to get him to 30 wins and I came up waaaay short.
   8. Rally Posted: August 16, 2018 at 04:31 PM (#5728241)
I tried a little win vulturing this season in OOTP. The situation is a team that was out of the pennant race before more or less before the season started, a 40 year old pitcher, Roger Lewis, who towards the end of the previous season suddenly saw his fastball drop to the 87 MPH range and with it all his ratings tanked, leaving him as a one star pitcher. Roger was only 12 wins away from 300 so we wanted to get him there before he retired, but he just wasn't effective enough to start.

After 2 wins in 10 starts he was moved to the bullpen. He was able to vulture 5 wins out of there, actually pitching effectively from the pen, but then got hurt. He's due back in 3 weeks so he might get the other 5 but it will be close.

He's the brother of the pitcher who I got to 30 wins in a minor league season about 20 years ago.
   9. Walt Davis Posted: August 16, 2018 at 05:03 PM (#5728267)
During prime fireman usage, Goose only got to 11 wins; he also won 13 oddly in a year with just 87 IP. Other than his starter year, the most decisions in a season was 21. Obviously it can't be done out of the fireman role.

But there were lots of high-inning relievers not in the fireman role. Mike Marshall was of course the king, once throwing over 200 innings in relief. That season he had 15 wins, 27 decisions and 21 saves. Even if you somehow shifted the save opps to decision opps, it would be hard to push him to 30 wins ... but probably not impossible.

Dick Tidrow was another guy. In 1977, he had 42 relief appearance, 7 starts, 151 innings for the Yanks and managed 11 wins, 15 decisions. His most decisions as a mostly reliever was 19 in 1979 in 125 innings. He had just 5 saves in 77 and 6 in 79 so that wasn't an issue.

The pattern of wins and losses along with an inability to pitch (say) 3 innings on back-to-back days pretty much guarantee it's very unlikely you could engineer it in the real world. Then the fact that few relievers survived that heavy 70s usage suggests it may not be a good long-term idea even if you could. (Not that many relievers survive current usage either.)

The opener (EDIT: and "bullpen games") is causing some data havoc. "Starts" for the 2018 Rays are kinda meaningless; Rays "relievers" have now thrown 100 more innings than their "starters". Run support stats apply only to the starter; times facing opponent probably takes some teasing out; I'm not sure how pitch count data is treated. If this catches on, b-r and other stat sites have some work to do.
   10. Greg Pope Posted: August 16, 2018 at 05:03 PM (#5728268)
In order to get the win-vulture up to 30, you have to be in a position where you're winning a lot of games. Because you have to be ahead in the games that he comes in, and keep the lead. So throw out all of the late-inning comebacks. And all of the ones where the bullpen blows the lead. And the ones where you score a bunch of runs in the 6th. What percentage of games are going to have the lead at the right time to bring this guy in, and then not blow the lead after he leaves?

So the problem is that to get a guy to 30 wins, you have to be a good team. And what good team is going to try this? The Rays are playing with this, but they're not good. Can you see the Yankees/Red Sox/Dodgers/Cubs trying something like this? For the near future, anyway, only a bad team would ever consider using pitchers that way, and the bad teams aren't going to get this guy 30 wins.

Now, if the Rays are just as bad (on paper) next year, but commit to a plan... and actually win a bunch of games... then the league adopts the usage... and MLB doesn't change the rules to stop it... well, then you might see a 30-game winner.
   11. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 16, 2018 at 05:46 PM (#5728292)
To get a 30 game winner you wait until your offense and starting pitcher have given you a lead in the 5th inning. The bigger the better. Then bring in your designated winner to get an out or two. As long as the bullpen can hold it from there he gets the win and will be available to do it again the next day if you have another lead. You can probably make a 30 game winner out of a 55 inning pitcher.

Is it a good idea for the team? Hell no, but I did it once in the minor league part of my simulation league (APBA at the time).
When you think about it, it makes about as much sense as having a "designated accumulator of Saves."
   12. bfan Posted: August 16, 2018 at 06:12 PM (#5728316)
I don't know if this is a good idea or not but I've always felt that something like this is the path to the next 30 game winner.


There are certain teams (the dodgers and Braves come to mind) that are creatively using the DL and call-ups to get many guys involved. Last year the dodgers had 19 pitchers that pitched more than 15 innings for them, and guys pitching less than 50 innings for the year had 49 of their decisions. It is hard to win 30 (or even 20) games when you are spreading out responsibility (innings, wins and losses) over so many guys.

The 1965 Dodgers (I just picked the first Dodger team to play 162 regular season games) had 10 guys with more than 15 innings pitched for the team that year, and 11 decisions by guys with 50 innings or less.
   13. Baldrick Posted: August 16, 2018 at 06:39 PM (#5728329)
A lot of people were skeptical that this thing was going to make any difference. We obviously don't have enough data yet to say anything for sure, but it's certainly interesting that their pitching has been quite good ever since they started this experiment. I still have a hard time seeing how it makes all that much difference, but it's really cool that they're trying things out. The starter is dying all across baseball, and it's mostly just annoying. At least Tampa is making the generally bad trend a little more engaging.
   14. PreservedFish Posted: August 16, 2018 at 06:53 PM (#5728334)
I still have a hard time seeing how it makes all that much difference, but it's really cool that they're trying things out.


They're not just trying the "opener" thing - they've really thrown the whole playbook out. See my comment in #2, and the pitching decisions last night, which fit no known pattern.
   15. TomH Posted: August 16, 2018 at 07:57 PM (#5728411)
I know Scorehseet players who have used a MLB SP in long relief from inning 5 thru x on many days and gotten 25 wins on that pitcher's record; you simply take your other SP out after 4, and often the 5th inning arm gets the W.
   16. cardsfanboy Posted: August 16, 2018 at 08:26 PM (#5728435)
I don't know if this is a good idea or not but I've always felt that something like this is the path to the next 30 game winner. Imagine taking a guy like Pedro or Kershaw or Sale and rather than starting him using him like an old school fireman, 130-150 innings but with serious emphasis on leverage. It's probably not feasible but somewhere out there is the right pitcher for that role and a great season.


I've argued in the past that 20 game winners aren't extinct (or going extinct) that they are just waiting for a return of starters getting roughly 10 or so games in relief a year. I don't think this system is going to create 30 game winners, unless the team has a guy that they are trying to get to 30 wins.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: August 16, 2018 at 08:40 PM (#5728451)
Because you have to be ahead in the games that he comes in, and keep the lead.

That doesn't get him a win ... it guarantees him a hold/save ... and potentially nothing if the lead is big enough.

The guy who finishes the 5th with the lead doesn't necessarily get the win. If the starter doesn't go 5 but the winning team leads and never loses it, then the win goes to the scorer's decision of who the "most effective" pitcher was. Now they will often give it to the first guy in and they will nearly always reserve the save for the last guy even if he might have been the most effective but there's no guarantee of it. And especially if you brought in one guy just to get the last 1-2 outs in the 5th then he got replaced by somebody who went more than an inning, I bet they give the win to the second guy.

But sure, if you could regularly get leads in the 4th, bring in the same reliever for 2-3 effective innings and keep the lead for the whole game, you can vulture some wins ... until they hold a meeting and change the way score is kept and wins are assigned. Meanwhile you have a whole bunch of "starters" who are peeved you keep taking them out before they get the win.
   18. Rally Posted: August 16, 2018 at 08:51 PM (#5728464)
In a sim league I have heard no complaints about win vultures, and the computer is consistent about giving the W to the guy who gets an out of 2 in the 4th, provided the lead holds. In real life imagine a team that wins enough to make this possible. Another game where Millie and J.D. hit a jillion homers and Chris Sale is looking for his 11th strikeout to end the 5th with a 12-0 lead. Manager comes out to get him so he can try to get 30 wins for Joe Kelly. I don’t think that would go over well.

And yeah, maximizing the save rule can get just as silly.
   19. Walt Davis Posted: August 16, 2018 at 09:04 PM (#5728483)
If you remove Blake Snell and his 183 ERA+, the Rays ERA goes up to 4.03 which is exactly (park-adjusted) league-average. So other than drafting Snell, it's not clear they've achieved anything spectacular.** They are getting excellent 1st inning performance but it's not really any better than their 3rd and 4th inning performances. Not park-adjusted but that is much better than the rest of the AL in those particular innings but then they're giving up more in the 2nd and 7th innings.

Of their best 9 pitchers (by OPS) in the first inning, six of those are starters in traditional starts, including Yarbrough and Font. Stanek has been pretty dominant in 19 1st innings. There seem to be 33 other first innings pitched by a reliever and (eyeballing it) these are probably still better than average but not by a lot (maybe enough to be wiped out by park effects). Stanek's performance probably would have elevated him to the 7th or 8th inning guy on most teams so that may be partly responsible for their poorer performance in that innings. 7th inning with a small lead is higher leverage than 1st inning tied. He also presumably pitches a few b1 where the Rays already lead but that's not an in-game decision but a pre-game decision.

Anyway, a lot of the reason the Rays have been so successful in the first inning is because their traditional starters have pitched much better than other teams' starters not so much because their openers are dominating (other than Stanek). b-r doesn't provide ERA for a the player breakdown I'm looking at (i.e. I get runs but not ER) but, assuming they pitch all of the first, the Rays' traditional starters have given up just 27 runs in 82 starts compared with league totals of 995 in 1811. The ones that have been poor are Faria and Chirinos, neither of whom has been particularly subject to openers (until maybe recently).

So now we're going to argue that the threat of an opener leads SPs to try harder in the first?

Anyway, it does make sense and is even clever to think of the idea of using an opener followed by your usual 4th/5th starter so they don't face the top of the order 3 times (but might the bottom). I assume that will improve things a bit. I'm not convinced of the wisdom of bullpen games as a regular approach.

** Sure, given payroll, league average is not to be sneezed at.
   20. cardsfanboy Posted: August 16, 2018 at 09:20 PM (#5728497)
Anyway, it does make sense and is even clever to think of the idea of using an opener followed by your usual 4th/5th starter so they don't face the top of the order 3 times (but might the bottom). I assume that will improve things a bit. I'm not convinced of the wisdom of bullpen games as a regular approach.


That is where I'm at, if you have a rotation of true ace/two/three and the normal filler, then I support this approach for the lesser pitchers, it makes some sense, if your entire rotation is number threes and filler, then it feels like you are going to burn through pitchers or constantly be forced to stick with guys who clearly don't have it, simply because you have no other real option. This system basically says the game is won and lost in the first four innings.

At the same time, the D-rays are doing something partially because this is potentially the best option they have with what they have.
   21. Greg Pope Posted: August 16, 2018 at 09:53 PM (#5728541)
That doesn't get him a win ... it guarantees him a hold/save

I know that, Walt, but I was responding to Jose's point about getting a 30-game winner. You can't just bring your stud starter into every game, because he can't pitch that much. Jose talked about high leverage. If you were to try to get him 30 wins, you don't want to bring him into a bunch of games where you're losing because in many of those you won't score (at the right time). You have to bring him in when you're winning, but (and I didn't state this) before the starter goes 5.

I think I was trying to say what you said in the rest of your post, but I didn't go into detail. My point was that you would have to be a good team, at least in regards to offense and bullpen, in order for this to work. And what good team is going to try this?
   22. Baldrick Posted: August 16, 2018 at 10:22 PM (#5728584)
If you remove Blake Snell and his 183 ERA+, the Rays ERA goes up to 4.03 which is exactly (park-adjusted) league-average. So other than drafting Snell, it's not clear they've achieved anything spectacular.** They are getting excellent 1st inning performance but it's not really any better than their 3rd and 4th inning performances. Not park-adjusted but that is much better than the rest of the AL in those particular innings but then they're giving up more in the 2nd and 7th innings.

Except you've removed their best pitcher, while allowing every other team's best pitcher to count toward the 'average.'

Getting average performance from the bottom 85% of your pitchers is above average.
   23. SoSH U at work Posted: August 16, 2018 at 10:29 PM (#5728587)
Stanek's performance probably would have elevated him to the 7th or 8th inning guy on most teams so that may be partly responsible for their poorer performance in that innings.


Stanek's been their best relief-type pitcher, but they're just 17-22 in the games he pitches. That probably doesn't happen very often for an above .500 team.

I think the other things they're doing that PF has been chronicling are far more interesting, and a bit more likely to yield different results (not necessarily better, but at least represent usage that could produce better outcomes) than the reliever as starter thing.
   24. Stormy JE Posted: August 16, 2018 at 11:51 PM (#5728634)
Stanek's been their best relief-type pitcher, but they're just 17-22 in the games he pitches. That probably doesn't happen very often for an above .500 team

I think the other things they're doing that PF has been chronicling are far more interesting, and a bit more likely to yield different results (not necessarily better, but at least represent usage that could produce better outcomes) than the reliever as starter thing.
IIRC, you and snapper were nothing short of contemptuous of the Rays when the opener debuted. Does the above comment signal that your position has softened a little?
   25. cardsfanboy Posted: August 17, 2018 at 12:40 AM (#5728649)
IIRC, you and snapper were nothing short of contemptuous of the Rays when the opener debuted. Does the above comment signal that your position has softened a little?


You might need to check your memory on that one.
   26. Stormy JE Posted: August 17, 2018 at 12:51 AM (#5728653)
Here's an opener thread from June, CFB. Do snapper and SoSH seem like big fans?
   27. SoSH U at work Posted: August 17, 2018 at 02:05 AM (#5728662)
IIRC, you and snapper were nothing short of contemptuous of the Rays when the opener debuted. Does the above comment signal that your position has softened a little?


This is what I said in that thread about the start a reliever for an inning and change, then go to a starter system:

I don't think this is some kind of catastrophe. I think it's pointless. You'll gain some things here, which you'll offset by losing things elsewhere.

This is what I said today:

I think the other things they're doing that PF has been chronicling are far more interesting, and a bit more likely to yield different results (not necessarily better, but at least represent usage that could produce better outcomes) than the reliever as starter thing.

My position hasn't changed one bit on the Romo model (which my comment on the W-L record in the games Stanek has pitched suggests - he's pitched very well, particularly since the shift, but the Rays haven't been able to leverage that effectiveness all that well. That's one of the downsides of that model).

Ultimately, I don't see how it delivers any real change, as I said then. It's just shuffling the standard usage, so there's no reason to think it's going to produce anything meaningfully different. Nothing that's happened since that thread has caused me to reconsider my initial position.

The other stuff that PF has been following and talking about (such as, from Post 2: All told, two short relievers combining for 5 outs, and two pseudo-starters combining for 7.1 innings, each obviously avoiding the dreaded "third time through the lineup.") is a legitimate break from the traditional model. I don't know that such a usage pattern will yield better team results in the long term (one of the big questions for any move away from a nontraditional usage is how well pitchers hold up over the course of the season*) than the current model, but it is actually something that could do so. Shifting your sixth inning guy to the first inning and letting your starter throw into the sixth is not.

* To be fair, they could hold up better. We don't know. Only that it's important to recognize that all staff deployment questions have both a short-term and long-term component to them.

   28. Tim M Posted: August 17, 2018 at 08:49 AM (#5728694)
If this becomes a thing, we're gonna need a better way to assign the Win than "scorers judgement". 2 scorers might take identical cases and decide differently. I predict a ranked table of IP/R combos, and whichever pitcher ranks highest (w/out getting a save) gets the W.

So 3IP/1R would rank higher than 1IP/0R, but 3IP/2R would rank lower than 1IP/0R .. that kind of thing, for every possible combo. Tie goes to the ... um, clutchiest?

And at that point, there's no reason to remove the starter's eligibility because of <5IP. If he goes 4IP/0R and no one else does, then that's the highest ranked line of the day an you get the W.

And at this point, the "kill the win" voters may finally have their day :)
   29. PreservedFish Posted: August 17, 2018 at 09:10 AM (#5728705)
Funny, and I was just thinking "finally that 'scorer's judgment' clause will come in handy." I don't have a problem with the W being awarded inconsistently, or with the scorer giving extra weight to the situation - eg, using an extreme example, maybe you'd want 3IP/2ER to rank higher than 1IP/0ER if the first guy also stranded a couple inherited runners against the opponent's best hitter, and only later allowed a 2-run dinger after his team had already piled onto the lead.
   30. Rally Posted: August 17, 2018 at 09:15 AM (#5728707)
Except you've removed their best pitcher, while allowing every other team's best pitcher to count toward the 'average.'

Getting average performance from the bottom 85% of your pitchers is above average.


Good point. You also have to consider that they lost 2 top prospects to injury before the season started, and have traded away most of their marketable pitchers (Archer, Eovaldi, Andriese, Colome) in season, or before the season even started (Odorizzi).

They are one of the better defenses around, and that certainly helps the pitchers. The ballpark helps. Facing the Yankees and Red Sox 38 times, nearly 1/4 of the schedule, certainly hurts.

If you have 2 pitchers who can stay in the rotation all year for 32 starts and give you 180 innings each (about what Snell and Archer before the trade were on pace for) that leaves about 1100 innings for the rest of the staff, 100 per spot if you go with 13 pitchers and a 3 man bench.

How can you make that work when no 2018 "reliever" handles a 100 inning workload and most top out around 55-60?

The Rays have only 2 pitchers over 100 innings right now, Snell and Yarbrough. No one else is going to get there as Austin Pruitt (60) has the next most among pitchers still in the organization, and he's in the minors right now. They have done it by using far more pitchers than they have roster spots for pitching, using the shuttle from AAA. 25 pitchers with at least ten innings. Questions to add to the "how do they do that?" list:

1) How does the AAA team manage given they will often have fresh pitchers called up, and given tired pitchers in return?
2) Will they ever run out of pitchers who can throw 95 and get people out for 1-3 innings? Seems every time they send one down or trade one, there's another ready to step into his place.



   31. mathesond Posted: August 17, 2018 at 09:29 AM (#5728710)
I'm starting to wonder if one of the long term benefits for the franchise/downsides for the players is that by reducing innings and decisions for individual pitchers, this could lead to lower arbitration awards and eventually, smaller free agent contracts.
   32. SoSH U at work Posted: August 17, 2018 at 09:33 AM (#5728713)

Funny, and I was just thinking "finally that 'scorer's judgment' clause will come in handy." I don't have a problem with the W being awarded inconsistently, or with the scorer giving extra weight to the situation - eg, using an extreme example, maybe you'd want 3IP/2ER to rank higher than 1IP/0ER if the first guy also stranded a couple inherited runners against the opponent's best hitter, and only later allowed a 2-run dinger after his team had already piled onto the lead.


Yeah, I've always wished scorer's had more flexibility (and used when it they did have it) on awarding wins.
   33. PreservedFish Posted: August 17, 2018 at 09:38 AM (#5728719)
I'm starting to wonder if one of the long term benefits for the franchise/downsides for the players is that by reducing innings and decisions for individual pitchers, this could lead to lower arbitration awards and eventually, smaller free agent contracts.


Teams have already been accused of this.
   34. Nasty Nate Posted: August 17, 2018 at 10:02 AM (#5728738)
I'm starting to wonder if one of the long term benefits for the franchise/downsides for the players is that by reducing innings and decisions for individual pitchers, this could lead to lower arbitration awards and eventually, smaller free agent contracts.
It's plausible that teams are trying something sneaky in that direction. But the innings have to go somewhere, so if they are reduced for some individual pitchers, they are increased for others.
   35. PreservedFish Posted: August 17, 2018 at 10:07 AM (#5728742)
Salaries don't necessarily follow. For years the Save stat was important in arbitration and on the FA market. If you spread around 10 saves to 4 different guys, it's not like they each get a full 25% share of that 40 save money pie. More likely they are all just viewed as middle relievers. (This is particularly so if you're spreading the wins and saves out to AAAA shuttle guys, as the Rays are.)

Of course the economics would catch up to this eventually, but a team could squeak out some savings in the meantime.

But it's tough to see this as a major motivator - no GM is going to say out loud to his manager "don't let him get Ws so we don't have to pay him as much."
   36. Rally Posted: August 17, 2018 at 10:30 AM (#5728757)
It's plausible that teams are trying something sneaky in that direction. But the innings have to go somewhere, so if they are reduced for some individual pitchers, they are increased for others.


Exactly. You can't justify paying a 180 inning starter the (inflation adjusted) salary teams used to pay for 250 inning horses. If someone can distinguish himself in a 40 game, 140 inning role then such a pitcher should be paid more than a good 60 inning middle reliever. Of course that applies only if this type of pitcher management goes beyond Tampa Bay, and veterans in position to reach the free agent market pitch in the new roles.

The Rays aren't paying any pitcher still on the roster more than 1 million except for Sergio Romo, who's making 2.5 mil.
   37. Rally Posted: August 17, 2018 at 10:38 AM (#5728759)
Looking back at some of the great reliever win seasons, I was surprised to see Elroy Face's 18-1 season was accomplished in 57 games, 93 innings. That's a little high by current standards but could have happened in the 1990s (workload, not decision). I was expecting to find him with 140-160 innings.

Bill Campbell was 17-5 in 1976, also 20 saves, 167 innings. John Hiller 17-14 in 150 innings for 1974.

   38. Ziggy's screen name Posted: August 17, 2018 at 10:40 AM (#5728761)
1) How does the AAA team manage given they will often have fresh pitchers called up, and given tired pitchers in return?
2) Will they ever run out of pitchers who can throw 95 and get people out for 1-3 innings? Seems every time they send one down or trade one, there's another ready to step into his place.


Re: 1. They're not using all of their AAA pitchers. Forrest Snow has pitched the plurality of their AAA innings - he's a 29 year old with a career 4.77 ERA in AAA. Ryan Webber is next. He's 27 and on his third organization. Snow has never appeared in the majors, Webber pitched five innings for the Rays this year. The smart move, and what it seems like they're doing, is to get as many minor league innings as you can out of organizational guys like that.

Re: 2. That's a good question, but so far so good. And there are more minor league relievers waiting to get called up. Ian Gibaut, a guy that I heard of for the first time just now, looks like he could be a cromulent big league reliever. Ditto Colin Pache.
   39. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: August 17, 2018 at 10:50 AM (#5728768)
Guys who can throw (near) 95 are everywhere now. Even if you don't have enough of them internally, you can grab them from the waive and outright market easily enough.
I like Colin Poche. He was a control and command guy at Dallas Baptist who added velocity when moved to the pen. Also have long felt Weber (a classic AAAA guy) deserves more of a big league shot than he's gotten - ideally in a role like what Tampa is doing (yet they avoid him, so what do I know?).
   40. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: August 17, 2018 at 11:46 AM (#5728786)
Our APBA league has been a few years ahead of the MLB reliever usage. We've had quite a few reliever 20 game winners, and I think the win record is 31, set by a reliever.

Last year's win leaders, mostly relievers:

BUMGARNER, Madison 17-10
HAND, Brad 16-3
BARNETTE, Tony 14-3
BLANTON, Joe 14-3
OH, Seung-Hwa 14-5
SCHERZER, Max 14-8
CUETO, Johnny 14-11
HENDRICKS, Kyle 14-15
DEVENSKI, Chris 13-4
JANSEN, Kenley 13-6

   41. Rally Posted: August 17, 2018 at 11:47 AM (#5728787)
Guys who can throw (near) 95 are everywhere now. Even if you don't have enough of them internally, you can grab them from the waive and outright market easily enough.


It certainly looks that way if you're following the Rays. Elsewhere in the AL East, Orioles can't find anybody who can consistently get outs in any role.
   42. Rally Posted: August 17, 2018 at 11:49 AM (#5728790)
Our APBA league has been a few years ahead of the MLB reliever usage.


Is this the PC APBA game or are you doing tabletop? I kept the APBA game going for almost 20 years, but eventually the lack of software upgrades jolted me into making the switch to OOTP.
   43. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 17, 2018 at 11:58 AM (#5728794)
IIRC, you and snapper were nothing short of contemptuous of the Rays when the opener debuted. Does the above comment signal that your position has softened a little?


I believe the same thing now as I believed then. It doesn't change much of anything, and it costs you a bit of leverage on good RPs. Shifting a good reliever from the 7th to the 1st isn't going to reduce your total runs allowed.

I never said it was a destructive tactic, just a pointless one.
   44. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 17, 2018 at 12:47 PM (#5728827)
Yesterday they started something of an actual starter, Faria, who went only 3.1 innings. A short reliever finished the 4th inning, stranding two runners. Then came in Yarborough, a pseudo-starter that usually pitches 4-5 innings starting in the 2nd or 3rd. Last night he pitched the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th. A reliever finished the game.

All told, two short relievers combining for 5 outs, and two pseudo-starters combining for 7.1 innings, each obviously avoiding the dreaded "third time through the lineup."


It certainly worked yesterday, but then they were facing a lineup with 2 of its biggest offensive threats on the bench, one of its star rookies in a complete funk, and the bottom 4 hitters in the lineup with BAs of .218, .211, .170, and .129. Try that approach on the Red Sox, or a Yankees team at full strength, and it might not work quite as well, especially in the 3rd game of a 3 game series.
   45. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: August 17, 2018 at 12:54 PM (#5728829)
Try that approach on the Red Sox, or a Yankees team at full strength, and it might not work quite as well, especially in the 3rd game of a 3 game series.


Given their weekend opponent let's hope not.
   46. Rally Posted: August 17, 2018 at 01:52 PM (#5728861)
Curious as to how the opener has worked out, overall. I am counting starts by this group as "openers":

Venters
Stanek
Kittredge
Wood
Romo

51.33 innings, 47 hits, 5 HR, 26 BB, 68 K, ERA of 4.56. Stanek has been outstanding in the role, 17 hits vs. 40 strikeouts in 28.67 innings. The others not so great. The ERA is higher than for the team overall, but that should be expected as you face the best hitters in the first inning.

Pro: You use a high quality reliever for at least an average (1.00) leverage index. You have one of your best pitchers against the best hitters on the other team. That doesn't show up in leverage index, which is calculated not by who you face but the game situation. But it can be viewed as a form of leverage.

Con: You don't get to use that reliever in a high leverage situation, one significantly higher than 1.00. I don't think that's a big deal as long as you are not using your ace reliever, but instead your 3rd or 4th best. For the Rays Stanek might be their best reliever, or maybe it's Jose Alvarado. Neither of these guys are truly dominant, and they have so much depth that I don't think this is an issue here. If the team were structured differently, say the 2016-17 Red Sox, using your relief ace as an opener would hurt the team. Those teams had Kimbrel, who was utterly dominant, but kind of shaky after him. It would have been a clear mistake to manage Kimbrel in a way that gives him a near 1 leverage index.

The opener is the big story but I agree with Snapper that it is not that important, if it helps or hurts the Rays the impact is minimal. To me the real story is how they have built so much depth on the pitching staff that they just don't run out of above average run preventers, no matter how quickly they pull a pitcher or how many guys they trade away.

   47. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: August 17, 2018 at 01:57 PM (#5728868)
Is this the PC APBA game or are you doing tabletop? I kept the APBA game going for almost 20 years, but eventually the lack of software upgrades jolted me into making the switch to OOTP.


BBW 5.75. They finally upgraded BBW a couple years ago, although mostly to just make it run on modern operating systems. Very few actual upgrades.



   48. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 17, 2018 at 02:13 PM (#5728875)
Try that approach on the Red Sox, or a Yankees team at full strength, and it might not work quite as well, especially in the 3rd game of a 3 game series.

Given their weekend opponent let's hope not.


Well, the Red Sox are countering with Johnson, Price and Sale, so I think they'll somehow manage. And anyway, they'd already played 13 games against the Rays by May 24th, so whatever damage this new strategy can do to the Red Sox is going to be relatively minimal.
   49. cardsfanboy Posted: August 17, 2018 at 05:21 PM (#5728943)
Here's an opener thread from June, CFB. Do snapper and SoSH seem like big fans?


Sorry, for some reason I thought you had quoted something I said in 24, I must have scrolled through it too fast.
   50. filihok Posted: August 17, 2018 at 05:37 PM (#5728949)
I think it's fascinating and the Rays boxscore has become a nightly must-click for me, because they seem to be trying something unexpected every night.

Yesterday they started something of an actual starter, Faria, who went only 3.1 innings. A short reliever finished the 4th inning, stranding two runners. Then came in Yarborough, a pseudo-starter that usually pitches 4-5 innings starting in the 2nd or 3rd. Last night he pitched the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th. A reliever finished the game.

All told, two short relievers combining for 5 outs, and two pseudo-starters combining for 7.1 innings, each obviously avoiding the dreaded "third time through the lineup."

I've been doing this for a while with Baseball Mogul.

"Starter" goes once through the order. Usually 4 innings plus/minus an out or two. A reliever finishes off the unfinished inning. Then a second "starter" comes in for 2 times through the order.

The rotation is:
#1 Starter
#2 2 piggy back starters
#3 Starter
#4 2 piggy back starters
#4 Starter

Then you've got 5 relievers. It helps if a couple of them are optionable since you sometimes burn them up.

The piggy back starters get 30+ appearances and about 120 innings. I used it with a lot of success with injury prone guys (Rich Hill) and bringing up young pitchers (Walker Buehler) (Those two guys made a heck of a starter when combined).
   51. Stormy JE Posted: August 17, 2018 at 08:40 PM (#5729024)
Sorry, for some reason I thought you had quoted something I said in 24, I must have scrolled through it too fast.
No worries, CFB, and thanks to SoSH and snapper for their replies.
   52. Bug Selig Posted: August 18, 2018 at 02:34 PM (#5729275)
"Starter" goes once through the order. Usually 4 innings plus/minus an out or two.
You're cheating:-)

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