Tuesday, January 20, 2004

I'm back

First of all, I'd like to apologize for my several long absences from posting this winter. It has been due to a combination of a decrease in baseball news and an increase in my laziness, as well as some other things I've had to spend time on in the past couple months. At any rate, if you've continued to check this blog regularly (or even semi-regularly), I very much appreciate it.

Many of you probably have it as well, but one of the things I got for Christmas this year was the 2004 Bill James Handbook (which you probably know is just the new name for what used to be the STATS Major League Handbook). Like I said, I got it for Christmas, but I've just recently gotten a chance to look through it. As you know if you have a copy (or if you ever got the STATS version in the past), there's a lot of interesting stuff in there.

The thing that interested me most, at least yesterday and today, is something that wasn't in the old STATS books -- the manager's record. Throughout the year, most fans get annoyed by certain things their team's manager seems to do a lot, but you never really know how much they're doing that particular thing. Well, now you can find out, and I think that's a great thing.

The manager's record provides statistics for each manager in several categories -- lineups used, platoon percentage, pinch hitters used, pinch runners used, defensive substitutes, relief pitchers used, long outings, stolen base attempts, sacrifice attempts, intentional walks and pitch outs. Most of those categories are pretty self-explanatory, but two aren't. Platoon Percentage indicates how much of the time the hitter in a manager's starting lineup had the platoon edge on the opposing starting pitcher, and Long Outings are any outings by a starting pitcher of more than 120 pitches.

The book just has each manager listed alphabetically, so I went through and entered everything from last season into a spreadsheet so that I could see where the managers and teams (since some things are more dependant on the team than the manager) ranked in each category. Now, I'm going to share the things that I found interesting with you.

For lineups used and platoon percentage, I was only able to list 28 teams because Florida and Cincinnati both had multiple managers and it would have been difficult for me to figure out their numbers in those categories. Anyway, of the other 28 teams, only six teams used fewer than 125 different lineups an all six teams won more than 85 games (average of 94 wins). Bobby Cox's Atlanta Braves used 98 different lineups, the only team with fewer than 100.

On the other hand, seven teams used more than 150 different lineups and none of the seven won more than 86 games (average of 77.6 wins). This isn't to say that using more lineups causes a team to win fewer games, as Felipe Alou used exactly 150 different lineups and his team won 100 games. If there is a strong correlation throughout history between using fewer lineups and winning more games, it's probably because the teams that use fewer lineups have better players and fewer injuries, so there's less need to change the lineups.

Only four teams out fo the 28 had a platoon percentage below .50 -- the Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers and Houston Astros. Four teams had the platoon advantage more than 65-percent of the time -- the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees. The Tigers had the platoon advantage 72-percent of the time, but won just 62.5-percent of their games, so I guess having the platoon advantage doesn't always help.

The average team used 190.7 pinch-hitters. Not surprisingly, every NL team was above average (San Francisco was closest to average with 195 pinch-hitters) and every AL team was below average (Tampa Bay was closest to average with 159).

Coincidentally, seven NL teams used fewer than 270 pinch-hitters and those teams averaged 90.6 wins (with a low of 83 in Montreal) and won 14 more games than their Pythagorean records. The other nine NL teams averaged 74.7 wins (with a high of 87 in Houston) and won 10 fewer games than their Pythagorean records. As I said, I'm sure that's just a coincidence.

If you, like me, are a Red Sox fan, than you probably thought he pinch-ran for hit hitters more than anybody in the history of baseball. Well, it wasn't that severe, but he did use 62 pinch-runners, which was the most in baseball. Only four other managers used more than 40 pinch-runners. As far as I can tell, only four active managers have ever used more pinch-runners in a season than Little used this year. Bobby Cox used 72 pinch-runners in 2000, Art Howe used 74 in 1996 and 81 in 2000, Lou Piniella used 96 in 2002 and Joe Torre used 70 in 1997.

Jerry Manuel used 67 defensive substitutes to tie for the most in baseball with Art Howe. No other AL manager used more than 40 defensive subs and Florida, with 17, was the only NL team to use fewer than 25 defensive subs. The average team used 33.8 defensive subs.

Only one AL manager was in the top 10 in relief pitchers used -- Buck Showalter was third with 494. When your starting pitchers post a 6.24 ERA and can only manage 5.14 innings per start, that leaves a lot of innings for the bullpen to pitch. Texas had a 4.88 ERA from its bullpen, which was 29th in the majors, but that's not quite so bad when you consider that the Rangers bullpen was called on to pitch 601 innings. That's 205 innings more than the Yankees needed from their bullpen, which is essentially an extra starting rotation spot that the Rangers had to fill with relievers.

The average team used 431.9 relief pitchers, and Florida was the only NL team to use fewer than 400 despite the fact that Jeff Torborg used 115 relievers in the 38 games he managed (3.03 per game). Jack McKeon made up for that by using just 2.26 relievers per game, by far the fewest in the NL. Art Howe was next among NL managers with 2.56 relief pitchers used per game.

The average team allowed 6.2 long outings by its starting pitchers, but only 10 teams allowed more than six long outings. Three teams had more than twice as many long outings as the average team and two teams had more than four times as many long outings as the average team. It shouldn't be a surprise to anybody that that team is the Chicago Cubs.

Dusty Baker rode his starting pitchers for 28 long outings in the regular season and two more in the postseason. Kerry Wood made 13 long outings (plus one more in the playoffs), including a 141-pitch outing and a 130-pitch outing. Mark Prior had nine long outings (plus one more in the playoffs), including three starts with more than 130 pitches. Carlos Zambrano had five long outings and Matt Clement had one long outing.

That didn't surprise me at all, but I was surprised that Frank Robinson allowed the second-most long outings with 27. Javier Vazquez and Livan Hernandez each had 13 long outings, including two outings for each with at least 130 pitches, and Zach Day had one long outing.

(Doing the last three paragraphs on long outings, I just realized that either the Bill James Handbook or ESPN.com isn't entirely accurate. The Handbook says Baker had 26 long outings and Robinson had 23 long outings, but I checked and double-checked the game logs for all the starting pitchers on both teams and came up with 28 for Baker and 27 for Robinson. Hopefully, there aren't that many inaccuracies.)

If you like the National League better than the American League because it's more interesting with its extra bunting and base stealing, you'll be disappointed about the following news. The average team had 123.5 stolen base attempts, but nine of the 12 teams that were above that average were AL teams. Florida obviously led the majors (with 224 attempts), but the other six teams with at least 140 attempts all resided in the AL. Of the 10 teams with fewer than 105 stolen base attempts, seven were in the NL.

The Marlins attempted nearly two steals per game under Jeff Torborg (74 attempts in 38 games). The only other manager whose team attempted more than one steal per game was the other manager of the Marlins, Jack McKeon, with 150 attempts in 124 games. While the Marlins had an edge of 30 in attempts, they only had an edge of eight in successful steals. Florida stole 150 bases at a 67-percent success rate while Tampa Bay stole 142 bases at a 77.2-percent success rate.

Of course, just because more AL teams are trying to steal a lot then NL teams, that doesn't mean that all AL teams are. Only two teams attempted fewer than 90 steals -- Toronto and Oakland with 62 each. Despite not trying very often, Oakland was very proficient with 48 steals for a 77.4-percent success rate. Toronto stole 37 bases for an awful 59.7-percent success rate.

Tony LaRussa called for nearly 100 more sacrifice bunts than Carlos Tosca did. The Cardinals attempted to sacrifice 111 times while the Blue Jays attempted just 13 sacrifices. The only AL manager who was in teh top 15 in sacrifice attempts was Alan Trammell, who was ninth with 94.

Speaking of Tony LaRussa, he issued five intentional walks in one game against the Boston Red Sox. In the other 161 games combined, he issued just 31 intentional walks. The top two teams in intentional walks both resided in the NL East. Art Howe issued 71 intentional walks and Bobby Cox issued 69.

Ten teams issued at least 50 intentional walks and, not surprisingly, three of them were in the NL West, home of the man who was intentionally walked 61 times. Bruce Bochy issued 52 intentional walks total, 10 of them to Barry Bonds. Bob Brenly also issued 52 intentional walks, nine of them to Bonds. Clint Hurdle issued 51 intentional walks, but only three were to Bonds. Jim Tracy intentionally walked Bonds seven times, but only issued 35 IBBs total. In all, the non-San Francisco NL West issued 190 intentional walks with 29 of them (15.3-percent) going to Bonds.

Well, that's all I've got for today. I hope you enjoyed this little trip through the 2003 major league managers. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go get some stakes, garlic and silver bullets so I can hunt down and kill the Vampire Trade Rumor.