• Torre Off The Hook?

    Posted by on December 19th, 2007 · Comments (11)

    An interesting study by Mitchel Lichtman (today) at The Hardball Times has the following conclusion:

    [Jim Fregosi] is correct that relief pitchers who are worked hard during a season tend to see their ERA’s increase markedly (in our case, almost half a run), such an increase is fully expected due to two things – regression towards the mean and a “drop-out” or selective sampling effect, such that any pitcher who is allowed to pitch a subsequent year will have had a tendency to have gotten a little lucky in the current year, the same problematic phenomenon we see in aging studies. Finally, if there is a small “use-effect” such that relievers who are worked hard tend to suffer in subsequent seasons as compared to relievers who don’t throw as many innings, it is not evident from the data in this study.

    This is an interesting update to a study that Cliff Corcoran did a few years ago at Bronx Banter where Cliff concluded:

    [Steve Karsay] points to an ugly side of [Joe] Torre’s tenure as Yankee manager, one in which he attributes the failures of his overworked relievers to the pitcher themselves, rather than the unreasonable workloads with which he saddles them, and shuns them because of their resulting poor performance.

    It has always been interesting to me that guys like Mike Stanton and Mariano Rivera survived Joe Torre’s handling whereas guys like Scott Proctor, Tanyon Sturtze, Paul Quantrill, etc. got cooked – or, at least we assume they were fried by Joe. Perhaps it all was maybe just a regression towards the mean – and Torre is not to blame for them?

    Comments on Torre Off The Hook?

    1. dave
      December 19th, 2007 | 11:23 am

      That study may validate Torre’s overuse. Use the Hot hand while it hot…

    2. Andrew
      December 19th, 2007 | 11:47 am

      This tunnel-vision to blame Cashman for everything that is wrong with the Yankees, of course, leaves out the other main aspects of Torre’s horrific management: he would use ineffective relievers in high-leverage spots again and again and again because they were in his ‘inner circle’, and vice versa – pitchers he did not innately ‘trust’ he would likely never use. Prime examples from 2007 are Edwar Ramirez and Chris Britton. Because he had his Scotty Proctor, Ramirez or Britton were left to languish in the pen, and suffered due to not pitching for sometimes weeks at a time. A strong argument could be made that Joe Torre effectively ruined Ramirez’s season.

      This study involves year-to-year, and doesn’t look in at usage patterns and exhaustion. If it did, you could clearly see Torre’s horrific abuse of his ‘favorite’ pitchers.

      Oh, and in the case of Mike Stanton – Torre was lucky enough to have TWO ‘favorite’ pitchers during that time. And in the case of Rivera, he has been used conservatively since he became the closers. Closers, by definition of their role, are almost never overused. But, again, in the case of Torre, they can be underused, with April of 2007 as a very strong example.

      Torre is a well-documented abuser and misuser of bullpen arms. Please don’t try and pass this one onto Cashman as well.

    3. j
      December 19th, 2007 | 12:00 pm

      Read a game thread on any decent Yankees blog. All of Torre’s misuses are well documented before, during and after they happened.

      Explain to me how Edwar Ramirez being used after 3 weeks on the bench is regerssion to the mean. Or his own fault. He’s a change up pitcher – a guy who throws a ‘feel’ pitch to get people out. After 3 weeks of sitting on a bench, there are only two things I’d have a feel for, and they both look the same.

      How about Scott Proctor pitching after his newborn son had surgery?

      Or Vizcaino pitching 20 times with huge leads?

      Or Tanyon Sturtze outside of that 1 month he was actually decent?

    4. December 19th, 2007 | 1:52 pm

      i can understand torre using his ‘go to’ guys in tight games, but he often used proctor and vizcaino in blowouts.

    5. Nettles vs. Lee
      December 19th, 2007 | 3:16 pm

      I don’t think Proctor “got cooked.” He was inconsistent, as middle relievers tend to be, but his numbers never fell off the cliff. If you look at his numbers after he got traded to LA, he actually improved.

      2006: ERA+ 128
      2007: ERA+ 124 (117 with NY and 135 with LA).

      Proctor is still a useful bullpen piece, which is why I would not have traded him.

    6. Nettles vs. Lee
      December 19th, 2007 | 3:25 pm

      Someone looked at Proctor’s effectiveness relative to the number of days rest he got between appearances, and the analysis showed (as you would expect) that he was significantly more effective the more rest he got between appearances.

      I can’t find the analysis now, but I think that should be the real issue with Torre’s use of relief pitchers (and the point of Karsay’s complaint): the less rest they get, the worse they pitch. Once Proctor got to LA, I believe he was not as overworked and his numbers bounced back somewhat.

      The overall lesson is that you should use your best relief pitchers in high leverage situations and try to avoid pitching them in low leverage situations so that they are more effective in the high leverage situations. As someone pointed out above, Torre would sometimes inexplicably use Proctor in a blowout, even when he had already been pitching frequently. This sort of thing infuriates fans. Or when he would not use Mariano in a close game, then use him the next day in a blowout because he needed the work.

    7. Tano
      December 19th, 2007 | 3:39 pm

      Tanyon Sturtze pitched 195 innings in 01, then 224 in ’02, then 89 in ’03. Then he came to the Yankees and pitched 77 and 78 innings.
      And it is Torre’s fault that he was “fried”?

      Proctor too. There is no evidence of him being “fried”.

      This Torre ruins the bullpen meme is just a perfect example of conformation bias. You start out “knowing” what is going on – then every bit of evidence that could be spun in such a way as to support your assumption is used to reinforce that assumption. Contrary evidence is ignored.

      And so you get what you see in the “game thread on any decent Yankees blog” – people reinforcing their (often mistaken) assumptions. Hey, if we didnt have a narrative in place with which to understand things – Torre cant manage a bullpen – that what would we do? Figure things out for ourselves?

    8. j
      December 19th, 2007 | 4:54 pm

      Torre abused Sturtze in 2005 to the point of him having essentially career ending rotator cuff surgery in 2006. Looking at his IP and saying that he pitched 224 innings for the Devil Rays isn’t really providing an accurate analysis. If you watched 145+ games in 2005, you know how bad Torre abused Sturtze.

    9. Rich
      December 19th, 2007 | 7:55 pm

      It’s a mistake to treat overuse as a unitary construct, when in fact some overuse is justifiable and some is not.

      My problem with Torre is that he often used his best set up relievers who had logged a lot of innings with > 5 run leads. That’s just nuts, and there is no available rational explanation to justify it.

      The most egregious example was using Gordon in Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS with a NINE run lead.

    10. December 19th, 2007 | 11:51 pm

      Steve, I love Torre for a lot of things, but as a defense of his bullpen management, this is drivel. He has been accused (rightly) of abusing his trusted bullpen arms. You are letting him off the hook by blatantly conflating two different ways that could play out.

      This study casts some doubt on the phenomenon of pitchers suffering from overuse in the previous year. Fair enough. But the major collapses Torre is accused of contributing to are within one season. The story about Quantrill, Gordon, Proctor, Vizcaino, etc. etc. etc., is that they were overused early, and deteriorated that very season, in many cases down the stretch and/or in October, much to the detriment of the team.

      This may or may not be a fair assessment of those cases (I think that for many of them it clearly is fair, but never mind). What is clear is that showing that the fall-off of relievers from season to season has to do with selection factors has almost zero bearing on the phenomenon of reliever overuse within a season.

      The latter is what Torre is generally faulted for, and it would be absolutely astonishing if that phenomenon weren’t supported by the numbers. Relievers can’t throw infinity innings, or you would only need one. I’m ready to believe anything if the evidence is there, but that’s not a result that you have any evidence for, or are likely to get any evidence for.

    11. Otto
      January 1st, 2008 | 11:53 am

      Several online bloggers trashed Torre in early 2007 for pitcher abuse. I read two dated the end of April and one dated June 25. Vizcaino and Proctor were the main exhibits.

      After that date the Yankees took off. Vizcaino was lights out in June, July and August. Practically the best setup guy in the majors. I suppose an argument could be made that Vizcaino was the key guy in getting them to the playoffs.

      Proctor did not go bad but was traded. An online comment noted how he was being abused in LA. Proctor was the same guy there as he was for Torre. Huh?

      Mariano was Mariano again. After years of Torre abuse, he has become the best closer in baseball history.

      Torre haters just can’t give up.

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