Bud Black’s Short Leash

I was flipping through The Bill James Handbook 2010 the other day and got to wondering about Bud Black’s managerial tendencies. Now that Black has three years under his belt, maybe we can start to make meaningful assertions about his style in the dugout.

James evaluates managers according to several different factors — adherence to a set lineup, platoon tendencies, substitution patterns, pitcher usage, tactics, etc. According to the available data, most of Black’s game is fairly middle of the road.

A few of Black’s tendencies, however, lie at or near the edge. Given that he is a former big-league pitcher and pitching coach, perhaps it should come as no surprise that much of what he does to distinguish himself concerns the way he handles his staff.

Among other things, Black doesn’t let his starters stay in the game too long. As a rookie manager in 2007, he led the National League with 63 quick hooks. In 2009, he finished third, with 50.

Black also ranks near the bottom in slow hooks and long outings (LO; more than 110 pitches), which seems like a desirable trait for someone in charge of so many young arms. For grins, here’s how Black compares with two well-known veteran skippers in terms of pitcher usage:

Pitcher Usage, 2007 – 2009: Baker, Black, Bochy
  2007 2008 2009
  Quick Slow LO Quick Slow LO Quick Slow LO
Dusty Baker 45 39 22 26 63 39 30 62 35
Bud Black 63 28 13 55 36 17 50 37 8
Bruce Bochy 26 50 36 24 59 42 42 40 32

Baker is notorious for working his pitchers hard, but check out former Padres manager Bochy. He led the NL in long outings in ’07 and ’08, dropping to second (behind Baker) last year. It would be interesting, and possibly a bit terrifying for Giants fans, to see how he has handled the talented youngsters Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum.

Closer to home, I’m glad someone with a more conservative approach will be guiding Mat Latos et al. in 2010. Among MLB managers, only Oakland’s Bob Geren had fewer long outings (5) under his watch than Black in 2009. Although I don’t believe in a fanatical devotion to pitch counts, I do favor caution with young arms. Knowing that Black seems to agree makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

There’s another aspect of Black’s managerial style worth discussing, but we’ll save that for some future date. Until then, watch out for that hook…

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11 Responses »

  1. I think this style with starters would also be supported by the saber-research (in The Book and various places). The idea being that a reliever is generally better his first time through a line-up than the starter his third or fourth time. Plus, as a bonus in the NL, leaving the starter in to hit too often is obviously detrimental to an offense.

  2. I’m terrified Latos will be overworked this season. OK, maybe terrified is a bit hyperbolic, but I am very worried, deeply concerned, perhaps even a tad overwrought.

    Here’s to hoping the FO and coaching staff recognize we’re not going anywhere in 2010 and we need him to be healthy for the following 5 years.

  3. I wonder how much this is due to style or predilection as to the fact that Black has always had a decent pen to tap into and the club tends to carry more pitchers on its roster than other teams. Chicken…egg..

  4. I thought, based on the title of this piece, that it was about the Padres’ intention of possibly firing Bud Black midseason. Not that I think that would be fair — under the circumstances, how could it be? — but you can see a certain logic in it: the team fails to perform or even be competitive for, what, the third year in a row, and ownership always wants a show killing then.

  5. Speaking of the Bill James handbook, does anybody know why there are no projections for Latos? Not that I think its that important, I just thought it was a strange omission.

  6. Michael: That’s an excellent point. The difference between “what he likes to do” and “what he does because that’s what he has” is often fuzzy.

    Rob: Interesting. The possibility of Black’s being fired mid-season was so far from my mind when I wrote this that I didn’t even consider it when coming up with a title, but I get what you’re saying. All indications (speaking as an outsider looking in) are that management is happy with the job Black has done.