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the-downside-of-one-out-pitchers | April | 2008 Articles

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The Downside of One-Out Pitchers

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The Braves have played 13 games, and so far Bobby Cox has gone to the bullpen 50 times. 7 of those 50 times (14%), the pitcher only faced one batter; 14 of them (28%), the pitcher only stayed in long enough to get one out. This is a really good way to burn through pitchers. And it isn't necessarily effective: of those 14 times a reliever only got 1 out, only 6 of them were able to get the first batter. (On one other occasion, Jeff Bennett came in to face one batter and induced a double play.) The other 8 faced a combined 20 batters, giving up 8 walks in the time it took to record 8 outs. That's inefficient, and we can probably assume that the pitchers aren't able to exploit good matchups if they're walking the guys they're supposed to be retiring. Rampant use of pitchers as ROOGYs and LOOGYs empties out the bullpen on the night in question: one side effect of averaging almost 5 pitchers a game is not having many relievers in reserve in case the game goes into extra innings. (We're 0-2 in extra inning games, as you know, and were 6-9 in extras last year. Weirdly enough, we were 8-3 in extras in 2006.) Obviously, averaging 5 pitchers per game isn't good for our pitchers' arms either. The injury bug is starting to hit us pretty hard, and that's distressing because it's claimed our two most effective relievers. Overall, our bullpen hasn't been good, and that's not news. 50 calls to the bullpen and 45 2/3 bullpen innings have yielded 6 home runs already and a total of 30 runs (28 earned), for a 5.51 ERA. Other than Soriano and Moylan, the rest of our bullpen has pitched 36 innings with a collective ERA of 6.50. Obviously, a manager has to have the discretion to give a pitcher the hook when he just doesn't have it, as Ohman didn't tonight, though in my opinion Ohman never should have been brought in to try to get out of a bases-loaded jam. But Carlyle didn't appear to be having any such problems; it made little sense to take Carlyle out after facing only one batter, and absolutely none to replace him with the ineffective Ohman. In my opinion, Bobby has a tendency to out-think himself, to make too many moves and too many substitutions. This taxes his pitchers and sacrifices his own flexibility in later innings. If a pitcher's up and throwing strikes, there's no reason to remove him from the game; the effect on his arm of facing one more batter is relatively negligible compared with the fatigue on a pitcher's arm of simply warming up and coming into the game. Bobby has to improve his bullpen management. Bringing in a pitcher to get only one out is a poor way of using a pitcher, and it should be something for him to reconsider.

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