Monday, August 17, 2009

Joe Torre - Bullpen Killer?

As any reader knows, Joe Torre has long been a Fan favorite. The guy just seems to have more class in his little finger than all managers have in their entire bodies. But he certainly has gained a reputation in recent years for being a bullpen killer. Critics point to the Scott Proctors of the world that litter Torre's past. Guys like Tronsoco on the current Torre team seem to bring new fuel to the Torre reputation. But is it accurate?

Joe Torre has cemented a Hall of Fame career by finding a horse he can ride as the set up guy and his closer. The championships in New York were built that way with Rivera, first as the set up guy and then as the closer. The formula worked. But Torre also seems to have a couple of key other guys that he has faith in and runs them out there as often as possible. If he loses faith in a pitcher, that guy hardly pitches. With Tronsoco this year pitching before his closer in Jonathan Broxton, Torre tries to continue the pattern.

Both guys were brilliant early on and Broxton made the All Star team as a first year closer. At the time, he only had one blown save and an ERA under one. Broxton has now blown five saves and has an ERA over three. Tronsoco has also regressed some since that time. But Broxton has 50 appearances so far and that is right in line with the average for closers (Rivera has 51). The key here though is that this is Broxton's first year at doing this. Perhaps Sherrill should give Broxton a week off or something. Tronsoco has 58 appearances, which is in the top 25 in the league, but not near the top. But again, this is his first year in such a high stress environment.

The top 25 list of appearances would seem to indicate that Torre does not earn his reputation. Only two of his pitchers appear on the list. The Cubs have three on that list. But that's only part of the story. The Dodgers are third in the league in games for relievers behind the Nationals and the Marlins. More importantly, they hold a big lead in the league in relief pitchers getting more than three outs in an outing. The Dodgers have 116 of those. The next closest team has 86. Naturally, they also lead the league in relief pitchers pitching multiple innings.

There are two problems for the Dodgers that lead to this situation. First, their starters--two of which are young and throw a lot of pitches--average the second lowest innings per game in the National League. And yet, they are in the middle of the pack of pitches thrown by starters per game. That means that the relievers have more work to do per game. The Dodgers' relievers have had to record 3.4 innings of relief every game. That's a lot of innings. The second problem is that, yes, Joe Torre will go with a hot hand until the guy's arm falls off.

Just ask Scott Proctor.

1 comment:

Josh Borenstein said...

I was thinking the other day how Dusty Baker is considered a starting pitcher killer. But back in the day when pitchers were all innings eaters, how tame would he look? Interesting how the times dictate these things.