Jan
19

The way to use Rafael Soriano

By

Yankee fans who came of age during the past four years could be forgiven if they don’t understand the concept of leverage situations for bullpen pitchers. Since the Yankees rushed a young Joba Chamberlain up to the Bronx in 2007 to fill the set-up role and had to force Joe Torre to use him carefully, the team has had a seemingly unhealthy obsession with The Eighth Inning™. Rafael Soriano‘s presence on the Yanks should change that.

The idea behind leverage differs a bit from the concept of a set-up man as the eighth inning pitcher. Major League managers will never get to the point of using their closers in high-leverage situations well before the ninth inning. Ideally, though, the best relievers will be used in the best situations. For instance, if the home team has a two-run lead in the 6th inning but their opponents have bases loaded and one man out with the top of their order up, the pitcher is facing a high-leverage situation. That’s not when a manager should call upon his third- or fourth-best pitcher even if the inning dictates it.

Often, though, we’ve seen Major League managers adhere too closely to the time of the game. Even if it’s not the eighth inning, the seventh inning middle relievers must pitch. If it’s not the ninth inning, the eighth inning guy but not the closer will make an appearance. Oftentimes, closers end up pitching in lower leverage situations than the lesser pitchers behind them on bullpen depth charts. Sometimes, those lesser pitchers blow the game, and the closers never even see action. Losing with the best pitcher sitting on the bench can be a frustrating experience indeed. Ask any Yankee fan who had to sit through Chad Gaudin pitching before Mariano Rivera last year.

For 2011, the Yankees can do something different with the bullpen. While I’m not enamored with the Rafael Soriano signing, he certainly makes the bullpen better and deeper. Now, we just have to hope Joe Girardi uses him correctly.

With Soriano around, the Yankees have two closers: one for the ninth inning and one for appropriate high leverage situations that pop up late in close games. Earlier today at The Yankee U, E.J. Fagan explored Soriano as a fireman. Instead of the traditional eighth-inning only set-up guy, the Yanks should use Soriano to put out fires. Fagan proposes the following three rules to guide Soriano’s appearances:

  1. In a close game, Soriano comes into innings 5-7 in any situation with the starter out (or gassed) with less than 2 outs, a runner on second or third base and a right-hander coming up to the plate.
  2. If no situation presents itself by the 8th inning, Soriano pitches the 8th inning.
  3. Against top lefty hitters with runners on base in a close game, Feliciano or Logan relieve Soriano. He stays with no runners on base and against most lefty hitters.

These rules may be too rigid. I’d amend the first one by urging the Yanks to use Soriano at any point during innings 5-7 when the pitcher — starter or reliever — is getting into trouble, and the Yanks need to get out of a typical jam. If the team is losing by a run and needs to keep the score close, Soriano should pitch as well. If the Yankees are in a position where a path to a victory requires one of their top relievers to get a few outs, Rafael Soriano is now the clear leader in the non-Mariano category of bullpen pitchers.

Rafael Soriano is, in a certain sense, an unnecessary luxury for the Yankees, and they might only have him for one year. But his presence on the team can help shorten games in a way we haven’t seen since 1996 when a young Rivera would hand the ball to John Wetteland over and over again. As Fagan wrote, “If they use Soriano the wrong way, they’re going to do a very good job taking a lead that they had at the beginning of the 8th inning and transferring it into a win. If they do it the way I am arguing for, they will do a much better job of taking a lead in the 6th inning and holding on for a win. That’s really what shortening a game is about.”

Categories : Pitching
  • mike c

    sounds like a plan, girardi’s going to be in hook heaven with a heavy binder this year

  • Rey22

    I expect about a 0% chance (barring some pitching injury catastrophe) we ever see Soriano this year in innings 5-6. Probably the 7th if things get dicey.

    Thankfully Robertson has been a pretty good fireman these past couple of years.

    • mustang

      Less then zero.

      • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

        Kerry Wood made an appearance in the sixth inning in a 2-1 game against the White Sox in August. There’s no compelling reason to expect Soriano wouldn’t do the same in 2011 if the situation arose.

        • mustang

          Ok I will give you the one game.

        • Mike HC

          “the team has had a seemingly unhealthy obsession with The Eighth Inning™. Rafael Soriano‘s presence on the Yanks should change that.”

          You are saying differently now?

          • mustang

            Its not, but they are trying.

            • Mike HC

              I don’t get what you mean here at all

              • mustang

                Mistake sorry.

                • Mike HC

                  haha … I was thinking every which way to try to figure out what you could have possibly meant … Spinning my wheels I guess, like all of us still waiting for Joba to be turned back into a starter.

                  Joba for two righty batters in the sixth!!! is obviously the best way to use him, ha.

                  • Mike HC

                    I’m completely just playing around with the Joba comment. Definitely not looking to turn this into yet another Joba thread.

        • http://www.lennysyankees.com lenNY’s Yankees

          Wood hadn’t established himself as the team’s “setup man” at that point. Compare his appearances from August to September. Seventh, eighth and ninth ONLY.

          http://www.baseball-reference......;year=2010

          I’ll predict Soriano records either zero or one out before the seventh inning all season.

          • http://www.lennysyankees.com lenNY’s Yankees

            Sorry, forgot:

            To further back up my original point, see D-Rob’s game log in August. It makes my point quite clear.

            http://www.baseball-reference......;year=2010

          • Mike HC

            This was my assumption as well but was too lazy to do the research so I didn’t even mention it. Nice work and this explains the appearance.

  • Mike HC

    Agreed with this. I never understood not bringing in your best relievers to get out of a jam. I have never been more frustrated watching Mo sit in the pen for what felt like the entire 2010 ALCS while the Yanks brought in far worse relievers. It made no sense to purposefully not use your best pitcher, waiting for a situation that was never going to come.

    I will add that who is due up should also be taken into account, beyond lefty or righty. For example, if the meat of the order is up in the 7th inning, go to Soriano in the 7th and use a lesser reliever for the 8th inning and bottom of the order guys.

    Why do I doubt any of this will happen though. It is going to be a Joba, Robertson, Logan, Feliciano mix and match party until the rigid Soriano for 8th and Mo for the 9th.

    • MikeD

      Sadly, you’re probably right. There used to be the time when the closer was known as the “fireman,” and he would appear at any point from the seventh inning on. He’d still close the game, but the point he entered the game was very much determined by how the starting pitcher was doing and the game situation.

      They also weren’t too concerned about heavy usage. I mean, look at this one game and how many innings Gossage tossed:

      http://www.baseball-reference......5282.shtml

      Or the year earlier in the playoffs when Lyle was still the closer, err, I man fireman:

      http://www.baseball-reference......0080.shtml

      Sadly, not only have we turned the best arms into one-inning closers, as opposed to being true firemen, there is now another movement to create people who are just eighth-inning pitchers. One of these days, someone is going to throw all these new rules out the window.

      • Mike HC

        I’m hoping the tide is at least beginning to turn back to the fireman days. Or maybe, the near future will be somewhere in between the rigid roles and fireman role. Because the whole your best reliever only pitches the ninth with a 3 run or less lead is obviously irrational and has been exposed over and over again as an overly rigid system to the detriment of the team.

        • MikeD

          The problem is once a guy is an established closer, they only want to be used in save situations and in the ninth. Maybe one additional out in the 8th on occassion. In comparison, Lyle (since I just looked him up), pitched in 72 games that year, with 50 games being multiple-inning appearances, andn 59 times there were runners on base.

          I’m not recommending the best relievers go quite back to the heavy work loads since it did seem to shorten their careers (I’m not sure Rivera would still be going if he was cranking out 100 innings every year), but there’s a balance between what they used to do and the one-inning affairs they’re asked to do today.

          The problem with Soriano is I don’t know if he can handle more than an inning at a clip. He really hasn’t at any point in his career. That’s still fine, but they don’t have to restrict him to only the 8th inning, if the critical point is in the 7th. My guess, though, is we’re only going to see him in the 8th.

          The Oakland A’s seem to in some ways be trying to get away from the dominant closer idea. They have a guy every year who gets most of the closer-type saves, but they may not always be putting the best arm in that role. Just one that’s good enough, leaving other good arms (maybe even better ones) for the 7th and 8th innings. Be interesting to see what they do with all their relievers in 2011.

          • Mike HC

            I’m with you here completely.

          • Evan

            Anyone have God’s numbers in non-9th inning situations? I know he’s more than capable of a 5 out save, but have there been a significant numbers of situations where Mo has come into games in situations in the 6th or 7th?

            I know that seems a bit of a bizarre question, but my reason for asking it is that, using the eye test, it seems like Mo is not nearly as good when he comes in and it’s not a save situation, i.e. 8th, tied game, or something of that nature. Maybe it’s his mental composition that causes this, but it seems as if when it’s not a textbook save situation, Mo’s prowess is not the same. This could just be me, but I seem to remember many more occasions where Mo comes into a tied game, and gives up the go ahead run, than when he comes into a save situation, and gives up the tying run.

            Anyone have any hard info to prove or disprove my theory?

      • Big Apple

        i just repeated your thoughts below…sorry…but wouldn’t be great to see a guy like Goose on the yanks right now. You could carry one less pitcher and one more bench player.

        • The Three Amigos

          His name was Aceves and unfortunately we only had him for one glorious year.

          • ND Mike

            I miss Aceves. Only middle reliever I’ve seen get 10 wins in a season.

            • king of fruitless hypotheticals

              I think Tyler Clippard (!) got 10 for the Natinals last year. Of course, he also had a handful of blown saves, so…

      • Ted Nelson

        There’s a legitimate reason for limiting usage.

        You can play the “toughen up” card, but as an organization you’d rather be a little cautious than burn guys arms out. Sacrificing a few innings and some false sense of machismo short-term is definitely worth keeping a good pitcher healthier longer-term.

      • toad

        True. The current idiocy of “save situations” and pitchers assigned to specific innings and the rest is a fairly new development.

        Benjamin writes,

        Major League managers will never get to the point of using their closers in high-leverage situations well before the ninth inning.

        But they were there once. During Sparky Lyle’s Cy Young season – 1977 – he averaged almost two innings per appearance, and Gossage averaged 1.6 during his six years with the yankees. Why the managers moved away is a mystery.

        • Ted Nelson

          “Why the managers moved away is a mystery.”

          No it’s not.

          • toad

            Well, it’s a mystery to me. Maybe you can explain.

          • toad

            Should have said that I understand limiting usage. But doing it by inning rather than situation seems wrong.

  • Brian

    The eighth inning>all other innings

    • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

      all hail the 8th

    • Jess

      ninth inning > all of innings. If you get three outs with the lead, I hear the game ends and they give you a win.

      Wasn’t the idea behind the Soriano signing is now you push better relievers down the chart for the 6-7 inning? So now you are putting better pitchers in pressure situations instead of Chad Gaudin and his ilk?

      It’s not like Soriano now has to pitch the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th!

    • http://danielslifka.wordpress.com Jerome S.

      the eighth inning = 1/8 of all innings. Pitchers could fuck it up there as easily as they could in any other.

  • nyyankeefanforever

    I respectfully disagree with the Mr. Kabak’s premise. If used correctly, Soriano should always pitch the 8th inning and Rivera will always pitch the 9th, period. That way, Girardi can best use Feliciano, Logan, Robertson and Joba in the apporpriate high-leverage lefty-righty matchups and situations for which they are best suited, which in turn assists in preserving the starters and their leads. Following Mr. Kabak’s logic, starters would never be allowed to pitch their way out of a jam. That’s no way to shorten games or preserve leads; that’s just a way to shorten the opponents’ path to our bullpen – the primary goal of every lineup when facing a starting pitcher.

    • futureman

      If the jam involves the heart of a team’s order then you would be preserving Soriano to face the feared 7-8-9 hitters in the 8th. While generally starters > relievers, this isn’t the case if said starters has thrown 110+ pitches in 5 1/3rd – that’s the sort of thing that just caused Gil Meche to retire.

    • http://danielslifka.wordpress.com Jerome S.

      That only applies if every inning the Yankees happen to be pitching against the heart of the opponents’ order.

      Let’s take, for example, a team like Texas, which in 2010 had a weak 7-8-9 despite a strong core. The score is four-three Yankees at the top of the sixth inning but Phil Hughes has just thrown 110 pitches. Andrus lead off the inning with a single. Michael Young then followed up with a it so Andrus ran to third and Phil got knocked out of the game. You got Josh Hamilton at the plate batting >.350. It’s Yankee stadium. Who do you bring in?

      • MattG

        This.

        Always pitch the 8th inning? Huge waste of talent.

        Starting pitchers pitching out of jams? A good manager knows when his pitcher has what he needs to make pitches and get out of jams. And it’s not pitch count, either.

        If a game is tied going into the 7th, if you win the 7th inning 1-0, do you have any idea what that does to your chances of winning a ballgame? According to WPA, its pretty damn significant.

      • pete

        feliciano, but that’s an exceptional occasion, because Hamilton’s an elite lefty hitter.

      • toad

        Koufax.

    • Ted Nelson

      That’s ridiculously rigid even if you can prove that there’s an advantage to the 8th/9th dynamic (and I don’t know that there is).

      “that’s just a way to shorten the opponents’ path to our bullpen – the primary goal of every lineup when facing a starting pitcher.”

      If your starter is Mitre or Nova or an off AJ, and the guy you are bringing in to relieve him is Robertson, Joba, Soriano, or certainly Mo (or maybe one of the lefties against a lefty) then you really don’t have this problem. The Yankees have some relievers who are better pitchers than some of their starters.

      “starters would never be allowed to pitch their way out of a jam.”

      I don’t think that’s implied at all. I think it’s more of a “once the decision is made to take out the starter…” situation.

  • Sal

    Totally agree with YFF, and yes respectfully, that’s the beauty of this trade, you have 6 pitchers all capable of pitching in high leverage situations. If the folks who don’t like this deal were ready to use Chamberlain and Robertson in high leverage situations leading to Mo why has anything changed now that NY got deeper in the pen?

    It’s amazing how everybody who puts down this deal agrees Soriano makes the team better. I’m not sure if the fine writers here, at fangraphs, and at ESPN want a killer team or want to be economically sound like the Sox, who just over paid for Jenks, Crawford, Papelbon, Ellsbury, and last season went down that Burnett road with Beckett. We get it you guys at RAB don’t like the value of the Soriano contract, but he isn’t bringing his wallet out to the bump, lets have the games and the match ups play out for the pen, with all the movable parts available, when they participate is important but it might be the least of our worries. A bigger concern outside of the starting rotation is who to keep out there now that we have 7 relievers and only 6 chairs when the music stops. Unless they’re bluffing, Joba is not starting and Mitre shouldn’t be anything more then a long man/ human white flag

    • CS Yankee

      Great points.

      Joba as the 4th RP maybe is a waste but if he is the best 4th RP in the majors, he is earning his 1.4M$. It may only be 40-50 innings but could impact a dozen games; if he wins (the matchups) 10 out of those it could translate into a couple of wins above what we had in 2010 (or before).

      We all know that Mo hasn’t been the save leader forever but know that a) he is usually saved for the 9th, b) a higher leverage situation will occur with a less skilled pitcher to help decide the game before him & c) the Yankees should be in more closer games this year with a weaker SP rotation.

      Could be the ‘pen of a lifetime.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    While I agree that Soriano’s contract might be structured in his favor. Its about building the best club possible with your available talent in the farm system, FA’s and trades. With Lee in Phila. and a terrible bunch FA rotation guys to sign and Andy P. out of the quotation.

    The right move was Soriano. He can be used in any way possible for 12 million a year as you outlined but the feature about his signing to me is the ability to rest Mo on the occasions that Mo pitches three days in a row. Having these two playing Boston in a 4 game set bring a whole different meaning to bullpen in my opinion.

  • MattG

    I whole-heartedly agree with Fagan’s concept and have been propping this type of usage since the minute Soriano signed on, but the rules are stupid and will serve to have people miss the point.

    The point is this: when you need a reliever in a close game, and Mariano can’t finish it, you go to Soriano or an even better matchup.

    Outs, people on base (and what bases they are on!) mean nothing. Even if the reliever is needed to start a clean frame, you go to Soriano or a better matchup.

    • Ted Nelson

      “when you need a reliever in a close game, and Mariano can’t finish it, you go to Soriano or an even better matchup.”

      That seems overly simplistic to me… You might need a reliever for the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th innings of a close game, two or three days in a row. You might not have much data on how your relievers stack up against a young hitter or one whose spent his career in the NL.

      “Outs, people on base (and what bases they are on!) mean nothing.”

      Really? So basically, leverage does not exist to you? Two men on, no one out and a 1 run lead is the exact same two outs no one on?

      • MattG

        I can’t accommodate for all hypotheticals in which pitchers are tired.

        I don’t understand the reference to leverage. Using a poorer reliever reduces your leverage of winning a game. Also, why am I going to a reliever with two out and none on again?

        The problem with all the run expectancy data is that they all show how many runs are likely given a situation. They don’t show how likely one run is in a given situation. If you want to win a close game, you use your best pitcher available. You don’t wait for the situation to become more dire.

        • Ted Nelson

          Again, I feel like your point is just way too simplistic. If it’s a big spot, just use your best reliever or the best match-up… But you can have big spots several innings in a row several days in a row. You need to decide who to use not knowing exactly what you’ll need later in that game or the next game. That’s why a manager–who does have to accommodate their pitchers being tired–can’t just always turn to his best reliever whenever he needs some outs and the starter is done.

          “I don’t understand the reference to leverage. Using a poorer reliever reduces your leverage of winning a game.”

          You said “outs, people on base (and what bases they are on!) mean nothing.” If no one is on base the worst outcome of any single at bat is one run scoring. If 2 or 3 men are on base, 3 or 4 runs can score in any given at bat. If no one is on and there are 2 outs, you need only one out before the guy at the plate advances 4 bases. If there are runners on 2nd and 3rd, no one out… you need to get 3 outs without giving up a single hit to not allow a run. In the first situation, you can theoretically go to a reliever you fully expect to give up 2 singles/walks before getting an out. In the 2nd, if it’s a close game, even one hit probably means 2 runs score.

          “If you want to win a close game, you use your best pitcher available.”

          Again, though, when? You use your best reliever in the 6th. Second and third best in the 7th assuming one’s a LOOGY. Now most teams are getting down to mediocre fringe major league pitchers at a time in the game where their offense has little or no time to put runs on the board should these mediocre guys give up runs… There are holes in the accepted logic, but your system is not necessarily any better. Part of the logic of the currently accepted system is that should you give up a couple of runs in the 6th, your offense had 9-12 outs some or all probably coming against relievers to recoup those runs. If you give up a lead later in the game you have fewer or no outs to recoup it.

    • EJ Fagan

      For the record, in my original post I did refer to these as guidelines, not rules, for the reasons you mention.

  • Big Apple

    Imagine a time when you could bring a reliever in the game to put out a fire in the 7th inning and that same guy could pitch the 8th and 9th innings..

    oh…that’s right…his name was Goose Gossage….

    • nyyankeefanforever

      Yeah, and he got shelled when they used him that way. Hence, the gravitation toward dedicated setup men and situational short relievers.

      • Big Apple

        shelled? from 1975-1985 (ignore 1976 when he started), Goose’s stats are sick. He pitched 972 innings in 554 games – 1 3/4 IP per game and all of his stats were very good.

        I split closers into two groups…the modern ones who pitch one inning and the pre -90s guys that pitched more than one. Gossage was the best in the old group and Mo is the best in the new group.

        • CS Yankee

          It’s always fun hearing Goose talk about todays kids that all look the same, pitch the same way, etc. No “Mad Hungarian’s”, seldom use of “knuckle draggers”, all the mechanics and timing are the same and makes fun of pitch counts (the coach should know when mechanics are breaking down & should change at that point).

          He feels that Bonds, etc. have it so much easier because the timing and looks and pitch selection are all about the same.

  • Big Apple

    So is this new pitcher’s official name:

    Rafael “I’m Not Crazy at All About This Deal” Soriano? Seems like it is a required title or nickname for every blog post written about the guy.

    Like the deal or not, at some point we need to drop that descriptive sentence. He’s signed and he improves a team that needed improving..

    • nyyankeefanforever

      Agreed, Big Apple. Sometimes, as Freud said, a cigar is just a cigar. We have our stoppers now for the 8th and the 9th inning. Switching Soriano from closer to setup guy is experimental enough. Let’s not tempt yet another Joba disaster with ridiculous “Alfonso’s Rules.”

      • Big Apple

        A “closer by committe” situation rarely works b/c the closer needs to know he’s the closer. The Yanks don’t have that situation b/c everyone, including Soriano, knows who the closer is. Hopefully Soriano can transition back to the setup role much like Flash Gordon did a few years back.

        Now the Sox situation is a bit precarious. Papelbon is on shaky ground and they have Bard and now Jenks. If Papelbon slips up in the beginning of the season is going to get chaotic very quickly. Everyone will be calling for Jenks (who has faltered more than Papelbon) or Bard (who is great as a setup guy but has not proven himself as a closer).

        What gets me about the Sox is Papelbon is still effective and a top closer in the league. He has blown a lot of saves but he still gets the job done most of the time. He’s pitched in a lot of high pressure situations and has the demeanor. There aren’t a lot of great closers in the game and he still ranks high. I hope they run him out of town. I hate that summbitch, but he’s not as bad as they make him out to be.

        • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

          A “closer by committe” situation rarely works b/c the closer needs to know he’s the closer. The Yanks don’t have that situation b/c everyone, including Soriano, knows who the closer is. Hopefully Soriano can transition back to the setup role much like Flash Gordon did a few years back.

          No one is suggesting a closer by committee. What’s being suggested is a more efficient deployment of the best pitchers in the bullpen.

        • Ted Nelson

          I think you’re overplaying the mental aspect of things. It shouldn’t really matter whether you are pitching in the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, whatever inning (so long as you’re not being over-used or used in poor match ups). Just go out there and pitch. I could buy that poor communication could lead to a guy not being ready because he always pitches the 9th and suddenly the manager gives him the ball in the 6th one day. As long as the guy is ready, though, suck it up.

      • http://danielslifka.wordpress.com Jerome S.

        The name’ll drop a few games in, don’t worry; I don’t know about you guys, but I hardly even think about contracts and stuff while the season is going on.

        • Big Apple

          me neither…just stay healthy. contracts are more of a concern if there is a cap.

          it will be interesting to see commentary from the Boston media and fans now that they’ve signed Crawford for $20MM (and AGonz will get at least that.)

          I’ve already developed a response..when comparing our left fielders there is no greater disparty in payroll than the $20MM for Crawford and the half mil that Grit is getting.

  • Monteroisdinero

    One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is:

    Can God also pitch in a high leverage non-ninth inning and let Soriano pitch the 9th?

    BTW, Mo-ses also works if folks don’t like God. I like the “God to Jesus” battery designation myself.

    • The Real JobaWockeeZ

      I don’t trust Soriano nearly as much as Mo. Mo can get people out without resorting to a flyball at least.

    • http://www.twitter.com/jordansmed JGS

      He absolutely can, but the odds of that happening are less than zero. Mo wants the save record, and Girardi wants to let him get it.

      • Big Apple

        honestly…i don’t think Mo gives a crap about the save record…his legacy is set. they guy currently holding the save record isn’t even in the top 10 of all time closers…in the highest pressure situations he caved every time.

  • choochoo

    when my head hits the pillow tonight, I plan on uttering a short prayer, with thanks that the author of this ridiculous article is not the Yankee Manager.

  • mike

    it doesnt matter where or how they structure the pen unless there are viable pitchers in the 4/5 spots in the rotation, as the pen will either get burned out or the Yanks will not be in contention

    • Ted Nelson

      That’s simply not true.

      Maybe the pen gets burned out–who knows?–but having a lot of depth should help that.

      Not being able to contend with a weak back-end of the rotation is just not true. The Rangers made the WS last season and Rich Harden and Scott Feldman were their 4/5 starters for a lot of the season, combining for 40 starts. Wellemeyer started 11 games for the WS champs. The Yankees won 95 games with a AJ/Javy/Moseley/Nova/Mitre mess combining for 78 starts… 48% of their games were started by one of those 5…

      Certainly it would make the Yankees better to have at least one more quality starter. Having two question marks in your rotation–one of whom is young and could improve–hardly means you just give up and forget about the best way to deploy your bullpen. There is this crazy thing called “offense” which allows you to also put runs on the board and the Yankees are pretty darn good at it. There’s this other thing called a “come-from-behind win” where you starter can exit with your team losing and you can still win the game.

  • Ted Nelson

    I don’t disagree with the article’s main point, but I don’t think the 8th inning thing started 4 years ago… Nelson/Mariano and then Nelson/Stanton were used as primarily 8th inning guys long before Joba.

    • Big Apple

      i blame tony larussa…circa the late 80s/early 90s with the A’s

      • Monteroisdinero

        LaRussa is the ultimate micromanager. He could turn a 4 hour game at Fenway to 5.

        /West

  • Kevin Ocala, Fl

    So, suddenly we have one or more baserunners standing second/and or third. And out trots Soriano. How is he going to warm up so quickly? And, then if the umps tell the starter to throw the damn ball and said runners score Soriano sits back down? This sort of thing always sounds great, managers are not stupid or this stategy would be the norm already. The only way, as I see it, would be for the manager to look at who’s due up, and bring the reliever in the beginning of the inning. Of course the reliever is not going to be at all crazy about the scenario because his pay will be adversely affected. Sparky Lyle wrote about this kind of scenario back in the ’70′s and you can see that even then relievers didn’t like being yanked around. I agree with strategy, but it’s still a great way to either burn a pitcher out with too many “dry humps” or too many rushed warm-ups, and then, as I’ve written, these guys want their money….

    • Ted Nelson

      Good points. Didn’t even think of this. The human aspect of things certainly complicates the issue.

      One out, one man on first in the 6th with your starter nearing his pitch count could very quickly turn into either an inning ending double play or a runners on 2nd and 3rd no one out situation.

      • Ted Nelson

        Sorry meant “one out situation” at the end there… Hard to lose an out.

        I think the original article still has a point that roles should not be overly rigid, but at the same time you have to consider the human aspect which dictates that relievers can’t just be thrown out there cold.

  • Mister Delaware

    “1.In a close game, Soriano comes into innings 5-7 in any situation with the starter out (or gassed) with less than 2 outs, a runner on second or third base and a right-hander coming up to the plate.”

    The problem with this is you risk either multiple warmups in the same game or very short warmups when a situation gets bad quickly. We have no idea if Soriano (who has been very consistently used the past few years and, as we’ve harped on forever, has a history of arm issues) has the ability to get up then down then up again or get ready in an instant.

  • Sal

    Be-careful when you start to arm wrestle with the Nation, they have a lot of yr’s under their belt when the Yanks spent way more dough then they did, that said when they start to whine about the Bombers being $50M over their payroll, just remind them they’re $50M over a lot of teams and have a higher payroll then 28 other franchises, plus this yr we won’t be $50M over them. The Soriano deal sent them over the top as far as getting upset at the Evil Empire, credit to them they hit the perfect storm with Gonzalez, it’s a shame he’s working for $6.3M this season it allowed them to bolster their OF with Crawford who yes indeed is by far the highest paid corner OFer in baseball, tack on the $21M platoon in Drew and Cameron in RF and you might be able to put some chewing gum on their seat, but only for a brief time, they’ll point out the left side of our infield. Just remember the genius of Theology was dropping close to $320M in signings this season, 28 other teams in baseball would have a hard time doing that.

  • pete

    With the utmost respect for your opinions (I actually think that they are largely correct in a theoretical sense), Ben, I disagree, for the following reasons:

    1. Joba. IF Joba is in the pen this year, then I expect him to not only see a correction towards his 2010 peripherals in 2011, but I’m confident that he’ll actually improve those peripherals, and be a fairly elite reliever. This is, of course, a somewhat irrational expectation, and there is a theoretical possibility that he starts or is traded. My whole proposition is contingent on his being a superior quality reliever, though, so take it at that. If he does meet my expectations (elite one inning reliever), though, then we’ll have three elite one inning relievers in the bullpen.

    2. Beyond those three, Robertson is capable of throwing full innings, Logan and Feliciano are both death on lefties, and Mitre is a perfectly capable long man.

    Bearing all of that in mind, it would appear that there should be a viable “fireman” – be he Soriano, Joba, or Robertson – for every situation. This is, I think, the (completely valid) basis of this article’s argument. But there’s another train of thought that I think is similarly unexplored in MLB practice. Certainly, either of these routes (the “fireman/firemen” route or my proposition) would, in my opinion, lead to better results than the current prevailing methodologies of bullpen construction. Over the past couple of years, the A’s have used a “fireman”-type strategy with some success, so we know that it has been validated in practice and is not purely saber-speculation.

    My idea is similar to the Girardian method, but really hasn’t ever been implemented in full, so I can’t say for sure that it would hold up as superior, but whatever. Anyway, I think that health and consistency should be the primary goals of a manager in his use of the bullpen. I would rather see a lead lost here and there over the course of the season that theoretically could have been won than see a bullpen disintegrate 2/3 of the way through the season due to overuse or erratic use.

    Generally, it’s impossible to keep relievers on a regular schedule due to the fact that the majority of them tend to suck, and getting all of them regular work would cause the team to lose too many games. This bullpen, however, is not full of suck. It’s practically overstocked with quality arms. In my opinion, the best way to get the most out of the bullpen we have is to allow the collective talent to take over, and manage towards health and continued effectiveness over the course of the whole season.

    With that as a priority, what I would do would be to essentially schedule relievers for each game. Essentially, I would make three of Mo, Soriano, Joba, and Robertson available for each game on a purely rotating basis. In other words, each pitcher would be “on call” three out of every four games, and have the fourth game a guaranteed off day for that pitcher. During each pitcher’s three games on call, I’d make sure that he pitches in at least two of those games, or, if the game situations prevent that, have him throw a 25 pitch bullpen session after the third game (or the second if he hasn’t pitched in either of the first two). This way, each of those pitchers gets not only regular use and regular rest, but scheduled use and rest, making it that much easier to prepare and recover, preserving arms without causing diminished effectiveness or increased wildness.

    I would keep the scheduling more flexible for Logan and Feliciano, having a “soft” alternating schedule, whereby one would essentially be the primary LOOGY one night, the other the next, and they’d each be available IF necessary, up to three days in a row.

    I would then have the long man (Mitre if we acquire another starter) throw a 60 pitch bullpen session after each start by the 5th starter, if he does not pitch in that game (or the previous one). If he does, then I would have him pitch in the bullpen after he comes out of the game until he gets to 60 pitches. If he pitches in a game started by Nova, I’d have him rest until the next 5th starter’s start before throwing again. If he pitches in an AJ or Hughes start, I’d have him throw a shorter session after the next 5th starter’s slot.

    I’d be more flexible, obviously, with the long man than the rest, but I would place a lot of emphasis on the first four guys in guaranteeing that they will or won’t pitch a certain day, and letting them know as early as possible in the game when they will be expected to be ready by.