Reader Michael sends us this note:
Since so much of the media is saying that the Pads are a half-season fluke, but I knew they did quite well after the ASB last year, I figured I’d compile a chart of how teams have done if you add their post-ASB 2009 records with their pre-ASB records in 2010.
Michael’s findings may surprise you. Here are the 10 best teams over that time period:
Team W L W-L% RS RA Pyth Yankees 108 54 .667 889 670 .627 Braves 95 67 .586 768 599 .612 Rockies 94 68 .580 792 695 .559 Angels 95 72 .569 834 768 .538 Red Sox 92 70 .568 888 764 .568 Phillies 92 71 .564 770 659 .571 Cardinals 89 70 .560 718 597 .584 Rays 90 71 .559 771 693 .549 Padres 90 72 .556 680 629 .536 Rangers 89 74 .546 807 723 .550
The Padres check in at #9. If you go by Pythagorean records, they slip to #12 (Dodgers, Rangers, and Giants all push ahead).
Michael also presents a novel solution to a pressing concern:
A thought on the Mat Latos innings limitation problem. The main point is to have a 2.45 ERA pitcher with limited durability pitch only the most important innings imaginable. Sounds like it’s similar to the problem of managing setup men and closers. Since we know that Black, Hoyer and co. won’t let Latos pitch much more than six innings anyhow, on the days he’s scheduled to start, why not have the bullpen (perhaps including Gregerson, Adams, Bell, and co.) pitch the first three or four innings instead of the last three or four. Then if the Pads are within three runs on either side, have Latos pitch as scheduled, but if the game is a blowout either way, have him sit and let Stauffer, or someone else pitch and save those innings?
I’ve written a bit about the possible underuse of bullpens and elsewhere about the possibility of switching good bullpen pitchers to pitch an inning or two as an “opener” (esp. those with halfway decent bats such as Micah Owings or Brooks Kieschnick, since it’s likely in an away game that they’d bat once)… I think that with creative managing one could move even more important IPs to good pitchers and less important IPs to innings eaters than any of the MLB managers currently do.
Creative managing, eh? Well, that’s your problem right there.
On a slightly less facetious note, I like the unconventional thinking but see a few potential stumbling blocks:
- Baseball decision makers (along with most other humans) tend to be very risk averse. Given the opportunity to succeed or fail using tested or untested methods, many of us will choose the tested. The idea is that even if our course of action leads to poor results, at least we had a good reason for pursuing it and are not to be blamed for outcome (or if we are, then it is a problem of execution and not principle).
- We cannot know how a person accustomed to performing one role will adjust to another role “on the fly” without proper training. Yes, on balance, relievers have lower ERAs than their starting counterparts. However, this is no guarantee that every starter who moves to a relief role will take to it immediately or even at all. I am not comfortable with the assumption that Latos necessarily must be a 2.45 ERA pitcher regardless of role.
- Preparation for a relief pitcher is different from that for a starter. In Latos’ case, it may be a question of limiting not only innings but also appearances (both warming up in the bullpen and in-game). There’s a great quote from Billy Beane in Moneyball: “Baseball is a war of attrition, and what’s being attrited is pitchers’ arms.” This applies to games, seasons, and careers. Beyond the Padres current success (which most of the world did not see coming at all), there is the larger picture: Latos is one of the keys to the long-term success of this franchise; his arm must be protected at all reasonable costs.
In short, I like the idea of the idea, but I’m not sure how feasible its implementation would be in real life. Those whose opinions matter more than mine might take an even dimmer view. Either way, thanks, Michael. You have given us good food for thought.