How the Pirates Should Manage the Wild Card Game

It’s not completely set in stone, but we can be pretty sure that next Tuesday, the Pirates and Reds are going to square off in the NL Wild Card game. If the Pirates sweep the Reds and the Cardinals can’t win a single game against the Cubs, then Pittsburgh and St. Louis would tie for the division title, but let’s be honest, that’s probably not happening. Without giving up entirely, the Pirates can start planning for next Tuesday’s win-or-go-home game.

So, let’s talk strategy. Last year, I appealed to the Braves to just skip the starter entirely, using Craig Kimbrel to open the game, and then mix-and-match behind him to take advantage of platoon match-ups and let the bullpen carry them to the division series. I still believe in in the theory of skipping the starter in an elimination game, but the reality is that the participants in these games are people, and they are used to set routines, and divergence from their established roles might have a negative impact on their performance. It is probably, in reality, too crazy of a strategy for any team to actually adopt.

But that doesn’t mean that the team has to just stick with the conventional in-game approach that they used for the first 162 games of the season. The modern starting rotation is entirely a function of keeping 11 or 12 pitchers healthy and productive over a six month time frame, and it is simply not the most effective way to limit the opponents from scoring in any single game. Staring at nine innings that decide the fate of a team’s season, full year strategy should go out the window.

The rules surrounding the Wild Card Game rosters even incentivize a significant turn away from standard operating procedure. The 25 man roster that will be set for Tuesday’s contest can be completely overhauled for the division series, so Tuesday’s roster only has to play on Tuesday. After that, the winner can go right back to a more normal construction for a best-of-five series. So, instead of carrying several starting pitchers who won’t actually pitch in that days game — as every team does in the regular season — the Wild Card participants can simply load up their bullpen for a war of match-ups.

Last year, for instance, the Cardinals carried 10 pitchers and 15 position players into the Wild Card Game, but 8 of those 10 pitchers were relievers. Kyle Lohse started for St. Louis, and then Lance Lynn was around if the game went extra innings, but their ability to omit three other starters from the game allowed them carry eight relievers and still have room for a designated pinch runner and extra bench depth. And I think you could even argue that a team like the Pirates might be better off punting one of those bench players — the Cardinals carried three catchers, for instance, which isn’t really necessary — and adding a ninth reliever, going with a 14/11 position player/pitcher split.

One of those 11 pitchers should be a starter held in reserve in case of extra innings, leaving the team with 10 pitchers that they actually want to use in the Wild Card Game. And with 10 arms available to get through nine innings, there’s simply no compelling reason to manage the game like a regular season affair. In particular, the Pirates have a strong incentive to make numerous pitching changes.

Francisco Liriano is almost assuredly going to start the game, and even if he hadn’t been the team’s best pitcher this year, he would make the most sense given the Reds reliance on left-handed hitters at the top of their batting order. With Shin-Soo Choo, Joey Votto, and Jay Bruce as the primary offensive forces for the Reds, tough left-handers are going to be extremely valuable for Pittsburgh, and there is no left-hander that was more of a problem for opposing lefties than Liriano this year.

Liriano held left-handed hitters to a .130/.175/.146 line on the season, good for a .151 wOBA; Major League pitchers, as a group, put up a .153 wOBA at the plate this year. Basically, Liriano turned left-handed batters into the offensive equivalent of a pitcher forced to hit. This is the guy you want on the mound against Choo, Votto, and Bruce.

However, he has to get through six other batters — almost certainly all of whom will be right-handed — to face those guys, and Liriano is roughly an average pitcher against right-handed batters, as they posted a .310 wOBA against him this year, and are at .325 against him for his career. That’s not awful, but it’s actually the second highest wOBA allowed to right-handers on the Pirates staff, with only departed pitcher James McDonald faring worse against them this year. The Pirates are crazy good against right-handers, so they can do better than letting Liriano face them too often. Instead of asking Liriano to make a traditional start, they should simply tell him that he’s going to face 14 hitters.

That’s one time through the order, plus the first five batters in the line-up a second time, which presumes that the Reds will bat something like Choo-RHB-Votto-RHB-Bruce. Under that plan, six of the 14 batters Liriano would face would be left-handers, and a seventh would be the opposing starting pitcher, assuming Dusty Baker won’t be aggressive enough to pinch-hit for his pitcher the first time he’s due up. Given the profile of the batters he’s facing, it’d probably be reasonable to expect Liriano to get somewhere between 9 and 11 outs while facing those 14 hitters, so you’re asking him to go something like 3+ innings, knowing he’ll be removed after facing Bruce the second time.

The aggressiveness of that hook might seem unnecessary, especially if Liriano is pitching well, but the data is very clear about the deterioration in performance for a starting pitcher upon repeat viewings within a game. For 2013, here are the league averages based on time through the order, and then Liriano’s numbers by the same split:

League BA OBP SLG
1st PA vs SP 0.250 0.310 0.390
2nd PA vs SP 0.259 0.319 0.411
3rd PA vs SP 0.270 0.331 0.429
Francisco Liriano BA OBP SLG
1st PA vs SP 0.196 0.276 0.269
2nd PA vs SP 0.233 0.296 0.329
3rd PA vs SP 0.252 0.333 0.355

There is a huge times-through-the-order effect on the pitcher/hitter match-up, to the point where only the absolute best pitchers in the game should even be considered for a third trip through the batting order in a critical game. In a National League elimination contest, where there is the complicating factor of the pitcher having to hit for himself, there probably isn’t a pitcher alive good enough to justify letting him face hitters for a third time. Liriano, as good as he against left-handers, shouldn’t be asked to roll through a series of right-handed batters more than once, especially with eight or nine relievers available behind him.

If the Pirates go with eight relievers, those seem likely to include some combination of Jason Grilli (RHP), Mark Melancon (RHP), Tony Watson (LHP), Justin Wilson (LHP), Vin Mazzaro (RHP), Kyle Farnsworth (RHP), Jeanmar Gomez (RHP), and then either Brandon Cumpton (RHP), Bryan Morris (RHP) or Kris Johnson (LHP). If they go with nine relievers, they can carry two of those final three, and Johnson would make some sense if they want a third left-hander to serve as a specialist to go after Choo, Bruce, or Votto once.

But, to be honest, I don’t think they’ll likely need that third left-hander, because several of their right-handers are pretty great against lefties too. For instance, Mark Melancon’s .163 wOBA allowed against left-handers is nearly identical to the mark Liriano held lefties to, and both Justin Wilson and Tony Watson are quality left-handed relievers. Between Liriano and those three, the Pirates should be able to cover the Reds three lefties for five trips the order.

So, let’s lay out the whole plan and look at how Pittsburgh might be able to use their arms to get 27 outs. We’re going to presume that the game is always fairly close, so there’s not really such a thing as a low leverage situation in game like this.

Liriano: 14 batters faced, 9-11 expected outs.

The full order through one time, plus five batters the second time to get through Jay Bruce.

Farnsworth: 4 batters faced, 3-4 expected outs.

The four right-handers that should make up the #6-#9 spots in the batting order. Farnsworth has historically been pretty decent against right-handers, and allowing him to face the weakest hitters in the line-up gives the Pirates their best chance of using him to get outs. If Liriano scuffled the second time through the order, this becomes a much better reliever to put out the fire, but if there’s no rally brewing, this is the time to use him to steal a few outs against RHBs.

Wilson: 5 batters faced, 2-3 expected outs.

You want Wilson to face the Choo/Votto/Bruce group once, so he has to get through the two right-handers in order to get those match-ups.

Mazzaro: 3-4 batters faced, 2-3 expected outs.

At this point in the game, you have to expect a pinch-hitter for the pitcher’s spot, so Mazzaro is probably only in for the 6-7-8 hitters, and there should be a pretty quick hook here if he gives up a baserunner or two, since the game should theoretically be in 5th-7th inning at this point and the Pirates would still have all their best relievers available. In fact, I’d probably suggest having Tony Watson warming with Mazzaro and throwing for his entire appearance, just in case he’s needed before the top of the order comes up.

Watson: 5 batters faced, 3-4 expected outs.

His turn to roll through the lefties. You have to really hope that he doesn’t have to hit in order to stay in to face more than one lefty, but even if he does, the value of having him go after Votto/Bruce might be worth letting him lay down a bunt and hope for a throwing error.

Grilli: 4 batters faced, 2-3 expected outs.

If everyone before him had been perfect, this would actually be a save situation, but that’s pretty unlikely, so this is probably more of a 7th-8th inning appearance. Grilli is nominally still the Pirates closer, and a very good one, but he is still best utilized against right-handed hitting. He held RHBs to a .222 wOBA this year, but gave up a .314 wOBA to LHBs. That’s not awful, and you don’t have to yank him if a left-hander gets sent up to pinch hit, but ideally, he’s mostly facing righties, and the #6-#9 batters should be mostly right-handers or pinch-hitters.

Melancon: Up to 9 batters faced, as many outs as needed to close it out.

Grilli’s the closer, but Melancon’s the best arm they have for rolling through the entire batting order thanks to his ability to put lefties away. If Grilli gets in trouble against the bottom of the order, you’ve got Melancon ready to go after Choo/Votto/Bruce and hopefully put out any fire that may arise late in the game.

Obviously, this is all very speculative, and it’s impossible to know ahead of time when Clint Hurdle may need to pinch-hit or what kind of double-switches will be pulled that move Cincinnati’s line-up around, but this kind of blueprint could be the target, with adjustments made as needed.

It only calls for using seven pitchers, so there’s room for a little more specialization if pinch-hitting or ineffectiveness cuts short a reliever’s appearance, and they’d still have a starter in reserve to handle extra innings should things get beyond 27-30 outs.

This is the kind of pitching staff a team can run in the Wild Card Game, and a side benefit is that no individual pitcher should be taxed to a level that they shouldn’t be ready to contribute in the NLDS should the Pirates advance. Even Liriano, having faced 14 hitters, could theoretically be ready to start a Game 2 if needed, since an effective 14 batter outing might only take 50 pitches or so.

The Reds line-up is tailor made for exploiting platoon splits, and the Pirates have the pitchers to take advantage of frequent pitching changes. With their season on the line, this would represent their best shot at winning the Wild Card and advancing in the postseason.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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maguro
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maguro
2 years 7 months ago

Intriguing thought, but it’ll never happen. Hurdle would be absolutely pilloried in the media if he removed Liriano after 3 shutout innings and Farnsworth or Mazzaro got bombed.

chuckb
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chuckb
2 years 7 months ago

it’s a shame that that’s the sort of thinking that will inform Hurdle’s (or any manager’s) thought process.

“Don’t lose with your 2nd best guy” will be the cry but, as Dave points out, the 2nd best guy in the 4th, 5th, or 6th, will probably be Liriano.

Cidron
Member
Cidron
2 years 7 months ago

It also happens to be the sort of thinking that will form his next contract. Especially if it blows up in his face

Billy
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Billy
2 years 7 months ago

Eh, Clint has some stones. I don’t think he’d give a damn.

JS7
Member
JS7
2 years 7 months ago

It is my understanding that the teams can make roster adjustments after the play-in game, as that is a separate round of the playoffs. If true, why not jettison your third through fifth starters in favor of some bench bats or an additional bullpen specialist, assuming you’ve got someone worth having for that 1 day.

Spencer
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Spencer
2 years 7 months ago

That is what teams do. And that’s exactly what the Pirates are going to do.

DG Lewis
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DG Lewis
2 years 7 months ago

I would love to see the Pirates do this.

But, like Maguro, I think it’ll never happen.

Julian
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Julian
2 years 7 months ago

…What if I’m a Reds fan? How will I possibly know what my team should do then??

Monroe
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Monroe
2 years 7 months ago

With Dusty Baker as the manager, strategy is irrelevant.

David
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David
2 years 7 months ago

Clearly the answer is to bat Choo, Votto, and Bruce 1/2/3 in order to get the PIT lefties out of the game that much faster!

Brian Sabean
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2 years 7 months ago

I agree.. and how do you like my rings now?

Freakshow
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Freakshow
2 years 7 months ago

Well it’s dusty so you’ll put in the veterns, even if they’re not your best option.

thehottestove
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thehottestove
2 years 7 months ago

is their added risk in bringing in 6-7 different pitchers which counterbalances some of the benefit here? seems like there would be some sort of “initiation cost” as each reliever must come in feeling good, have a decent sense of his release point, not be overwhelmed by the stakes…. I know that it is tough to quantify, but even with good matchups I’m always fearful one guy will blow up quickly or not be able to throw strikes. a starter would have decreasing effectiveness but fewer concerns about command in my opinion… I still like the idea for the pirates due to the strength of their pen but am not sure this would work well for some other teams…

Catoblepas
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Catoblepas
2 years 7 months ago

To me, this is why this won’t happen. Not because I think you’re right (because I don’t, I think that’s mumbo-jumbo), but because baseball loves its mumbo-jumbo and it will take a lot of effort to ever get them to stir from it.

Xmus Jackson Flaxon Waxon
Guest
Xmus Jackson Flaxon Waxon
2 years 7 months ago

In college a couple years back, my team got shutout on 3 hits by 9 different pitchers, each pitching 1 inning. As a hitter, it was really annoying adjusting to a new, fresh pitcher each inning. Especially as the got increasingly better as the game went on.

Hingle McCringleberry
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Hingle McCringleberry
2 years 7 months ago

Plussed 1 for the name.

Richie
Member
Richie
2 years 7 months ago

You just want people to ‘+’ yours’, too. For which I ‘-‘ed you. We’ll have none of that here, hear?

LaDennifer Jadaniston
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LaDennifer Jadaniston
2 years 7 months ago

Interesting point, Xmus!

Hingle McCringleberry
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Hingle McCringleberry
2 years 7 months ago

*single tear

thehotteststove
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thehotteststove
2 years 7 months ago

it is definitely tough to measure, but mumbo jumbo is a bit strong. i’m sure you have good reasoning, but dismissing the ideas as hogwash doesnt add much to the discussion. tell us WHY biomechanics and psychology are silly to consider in this context…
I’d add that there have to be diminishing returns because the 4th, 5th and 6th guys out of the pen are increasingly less talented than the starter… so, the question is: do most teams favor their best starter 3rd time through a lineup or several of their middle relief guys in a good matchup situation? I think it just depends on the particular team involved….

Richie
Member
Richie
2 years 7 months ago

Well, there has been research done on this. And no evidence has been found for a ‘cold hand’ effect. Which could mean they just didn’t look in the right manner. But when you can’t find a phenomenon despite professionally looking for it, that does mean said phenomenon just ain’t that strong even if it does actually exist.

evo34
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evo34
2 years 7 months ago

Richie: source?

lewish
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lewish
2 years 7 months ago

In this case are the 4-6 out of the pen less talented?…Melancon is pretty talented seems to me, and I believe that can be one of the scenarios Dave was sharring…regardless almost as talented but fresh not faced > talented and already faced, of course case by case and situation may inform differently.

jpg
Guest
jpg
2 years 7 months ago

I basically wrote the same thing in last year’s post about the Braves. I don’t see how it’s hogwash at all. Pitchers don’t always have their best stuff on a given day. Or they don’t feel sharp…Or they struggle to get a feel for a breaking pitch… Or their mechanics are slightly off… In other words their are a number of factors that could lead to a poor performance that are impossible to account for unless you send them out there to pitch. It just seems far riskier to me to bank on seven or eight guys all pitching well and doing their jobs as opposed to you starter and you three best relievers. Also pulling Liriano after 14 or so batters, regardless of how he’s pitching, is something I can’t agree with. Liriano might have a CG shutout is his arm that night. Who knows. I mean, similar things were being written when Baltimore announced Joe Saunders was getting the start against Texas last year in the play-in game. I think Dave wanted him pulled after facing Josh Hamilton four batters into the game. I think the O’s were happy with the way Buck handled it.

Jason B
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Jason B
2 years 7 months ago

But by the same token, the *starter* may not have his best stuff either. With every change you have a chance to bring in someone who’s more “on” than the last guy just as you do someone who is more “off”. So it still seems like a wash in the end.

wally
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wally
2 years 7 months ago

I think the general argument might be that for relievers hits/walks allowed is not randomly distributed per batter, but rather it might be bimodal. With peaks in the first few hitters when something is “off” and you get pulled, or after several batters when they get tired. Certainly one could check the numbers right?

Ruki Motomiya
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Ruki Motomiya
2 years 7 months ago

Yes, but if the starter doesn’t have his best stuff, then you probably should get rid of him for an early reliever.

Baltar
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Baltar
2 years 7 months ago

It does seem riskier to use many pitchers, but it isn’t. That’s just one of many flaws in human intuitive probability thinking.
Even I might not do it Dave’s recommended way for irrational reasons.

GiveEmTheBird
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GiveEmTheBird
2 years 7 months ago

We were happy with the result but awfully nervous during he game. I would still rather see an all-bullpen game from last year’s Os than Saunders (if I had to see it again).

jorgesca
Member
jorgesca
2 years 7 months ago

I would also like to see this, but I don’t think it’ll happen. I agree completely that with the increase number of pitchers coming in, the chances of one of them not having “the feel” for the curve or the slider or not commanding the fastball increases a lot. It’d be interesting to see the chance of relievers not pitching to their norm vs decreased effectiveness of the starters.

evo34
Member
evo34
2 years 7 months ago

Exactly. All it takes is one RP to have no control that night to blow the whole game. The more pitchers you cycle through, the more likely you are to see that outlier performance.

Anthony
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Anthony
2 years 7 months ago

I agree with the other commenters that, as willing to follow the numbers as Hurdle has been on things like shifts, he’s unlikely to from the outset limit his ace to 3 or so innings in an elimination game. More likely, he’ll be looking to get 3 trips through the Reds’ top 5 from Liriano.

My big hope is that Hurdle, despite re-anointing Grilli as the closer, will be flexible enough to flip Grilli and Melancon if the Bucs are ahead and it looks like the Reds’ lefties are coming up in the 9th.

chuckb
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chuckb
2 years 7 months ago

I think he’ll probably treat Liriano the way he would in a regular season game, sticking with him past Bruce the 3rd time through if they have the lead or he’s “pitching well.” He’ll keep him in if his spot’s coming up in the order or whatever.

nothing against Hurdle but I think pretty much all managers will handle it the same way.

Cidron
Member
Cidron
2 years 7 months ago

agreed, individually, they have done it for 160+ games this year, and for a number of years. It has become habit. Almost as ‘normal’ as “leading in the ninth, their team comin to bat, bring in the closer”. There is no thought process, its habit, formed by games and years of repetition.

Steve
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Steve
2 years 7 months ago

This would work in the regular season too. The highest success rate is the first time through the order. You could have 13 pitchers, a 4 set rotation with 3 guys for every game. Have an extra guy just in case, hence the 13 pitcher. All pitchers go about 3 innings. It would work.

attgig
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attgig
2 years 7 months ago

I was initially thinking the same thing…but man, that bullpen would be the most overworked bullpen in the league…

MikeS
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MikeS
2 years 7 months ago

I think Jim Leyland proposed something like this several years ago but admitted it would never be adopted.

wally
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wally
2 years 7 months ago

Maybe through stretches with an off game every week (and sometimes even 2 off days in a week), but when you’re playing 20 games in 21 days or something, I don’t think this is possible. For the A’s, they played 33 games in 34 days at one point. Granted that is with a day off at either end point, but still, that’s a whole month with one day off.

Plus, this “no-pitcher-should-go-through-the-order-3-times” thing would shift once you actually saw the numbers of your 4-5th best relievers being asked to pitch 2 times as much. Suddenly, those starters taking an extra inning would look a little better. So, there is a hidden advantage with the relievers that would be lost, and that’s their freshness. If your best reliever are pitching more, they probably won’t be as good, same for your lesser bullpen guys, and you’d probably even need to carry a couple even worse relievers to make it work.

Cidron
Member
Cidron
2 years 7 months ago

I think LaRussa tried this in Oakland some time ago. Wore out his pitchers. The pitchers he had all became arm injury casualties in a season or two.

Jason B
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Jason B
2 years 7 months ago

Did this really happen? Sounds apocryphal.

Richie
Member
Richie
2 years 7 months ago

I think he’s intermingling LaRussa together with Billy Martin. LaRussa tried some version of it, I believe in his last (awful) year with the As, and gave up on it pretty quickly.

Kaelis
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Kaelis
2 years 7 months ago
Brandon
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Brandon
2 years 7 months ago

Where did you get the “# of times through the order” splits?

DavidJ
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DavidJ
2 years 7 months ago
Ron
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Ron
2 years 7 months ago

At what point do we get to stick a pitcher in left field and swap out between batters? Because that is what I really want to see.

thehotteststove
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

I’m shocked this doesn’t happen more often… especially with the more athletic pitchers w pronounced splits…

Bryan Cole
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Bryan Cole
2 years 7 months ago

This is actually prohibited by MLB rules (see the comment on rule 3.03 here).

I think the strategy behind this is sound, and it would be very intriguing to see applied. Having said that, as a viewer I hope this never happens because oh my God this would be mind-numbingly boring for the casual fan and downright torture for a Pirates/Reds fan.

Rob
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Rob
2 years 7 months ago

It says “the pitcher will not be allowed to assume a position other than a pitcher more than once in the same inning” which means that you should be able to move from the mound to the field and back to the mound once an inning. I’ve definitely seen this happen once or twice in the past few years and don’t remember any fall out from allowing it.

attgig
Guest
attgig
2 years 7 months ago

last year, Cardinals let Lohse go 5.2 innings and then used 5 relivers over the remaining game. Hurdle probably does something similar

I’m with everyone else… Hurdle goes 3 times through Bruce, and then pulls him. And honestly, that’s not too bad of an idea…and actually, I think I’d be ok pulling him after 3 times of Votto depending on how many is on base when Phillips comes up (assuming he’s in the 5 hole).

With the 6-9 hitters being as mediocre as they are, I think leaving Liriano in to face them twice is fine.

Chris
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Chris
2 years 7 months ago

This is the exact reason I’d love to see the league *consider* some sort of pitching change limit. I get sick of watching Bruce Bochy use 8 pitchers in a regular season game that doesn’t mean anything. I certainly won’t enjoy it in the playoffs.

bdhudson
Member
Member
bdhudson
2 years 7 months ago

I’m sure that Bochy is sorry to have inconvenienced you in the name of strategy. God forbid!

cass
Guest
cass
2 years 7 months ago

There’s a difference between what is the best strategy and what is most entertaining to the fans. And Chris isn’t telling the Pirates not to use this strategy because it’s not entertaining – he’s asking MLB to change the rules so as not to encourage a strategy that is less entertaining. I really see nothing wrong with Chris’s comment.

Iron
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Iron
2 years 7 months ago

Strategy is great and all, but constant pitching changes that slow the game to a crawl can make for a very boring game. I don’t blame Bochy for exploiting the rules to his advantage, but if baseball were to change the rules to improve pace and excitement, that sounds fine with me.

David
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David
2 years 7 months ago

How about a rule that expedites pitching changes and requires relievers to take ALL their warm-up pitches in the bullpen?

Do all the team’s pitchers get time to practice with their catcher? get to know him in practice and warm-ups before the game and be ready when you come out of the pen. I haven’t played baseball so I understand that there’s something very important I may be missing but I think there are lots of places where MLB can trim the fat so to speak and speed up games without taking away a manager’s tactical options.

Richie
Member
Richie
2 years 7 months ago

Bullpen mounds and playing field mounds can be pretty different, is my understanding. If so, you don’t want to mess with the warmup pitches.

Richie
Member
Richie
2 years 7 months ago

Super ditto. Goodness, pitching changes are boring.

B N
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B N
2 years 7 months ago

I don’t see the big deal. Pitching changes give me a chance to go grab a beer or some buffalo wings. In last year’s world series, I jumped out on a pitching change and grabbed a delicious burger to bring back to the bar I was at. Both of these increased my watching enjoyment, to be sure. I don’t see why people want the games to finish so quick. Don’t you enjoy the experience?

Richie
Member
Richie
2 years 7 months ago

Umm, at home? No. I can always take a leak between innings. Or grab a snack, for that matter. I don’t think your burger was more delicious because you got it on a pitching change, rather than 5 minutes later when the half-inning was over.

Paul Wilson
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Paul Wilson
2 years 7 months ago

Mmm-mmmm. That is a tasty burger.

SFDave
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SFDave
2 years 7 months ago

I like Ron’s question. Why aren’t more managers putting pitchers in LF and using them more than once an inning but to different batters. The benefits have to out weigh the costs in a one game playoff. Especially if you put them in the pull field as most RH and LH hitters have to resort to going the opposite way against similar handed pitchers. Maybe there’s a rule barring this from happening?

KDL
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KDL
2 years 7 months ago
olethros
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olethros
2 years 7 months ago

It’s been done, quite a bit.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/blog/archives/175

In the AL you lose your DH as well as the replaced position player. It’s a triple switch! Fuck you, NL strategy snobs!

Richie
Member
Richie
2 years 7 months ago

Pitchers are amateur outfielders. Any non-routine ball gets hit to him, you’re going to be very sorry he’s out there.

Given that the platoon advantage ain’t THAT! big, I suspect the defensive cost may totally override it. And in a 1-game playoff with whatever roster you want, as Dave shows, it shouldn’t be necessary anyway.

people to cake ratio
Guest
people to cake ratio
2 years 7 months ago

then have them take some practice fielding fly balls.

when they get into left field, play them deep, so they can run forward for most balls hit to them. keep in mind you’ve now got a pitcher in left field; do baserunners rounding third take into account that a throw to home is now coming from a guy with what would likely be a plus throwing arm for an outfielder?

Richie
Member
Richie
2 years 7 months ago

If it were that simple, everyone would be a good outfielder. And since throwing a ball with movement to a spot 90 feet away is massively different from arcing it straight to a spot 250 feet away, they’d be awful at that, too.

Nope
Guest
Nope
2 years 7 months ago

You mean like Rick Ankiel

jpg
Guest
jpg
2 years 7 months ago

The Mets used to do it all the time in the 80’s with Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco.

LTG
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LTG
2 years 7 months ago

You mean the one time?

Richie
Member
Richie
2 years 7 months ago

Well, I seem to recall them doing it more than once. Whitey Herzog, too. Who also gave up on it, tho’, I believe.

eltorostrikesagain
Guest
eltorostrikesagain
2 years 7 months ago

How many times have we heard announcers go on and on about managers searching for the “one bullpen arm who doesn’t have it today”. It’s not completely crazy, as cliche as it has become. My strategy would be based on how well Liriano is throwing his change-up on that given day. When on, it’s absolutely devastating. I appreciate the thought, and all the recent attention given to the Bucs on FG, but I’d beg to differ when it comes to the proposed strategy. Liriano has, despite his splits, shown an ability to shut down opposing offenses this year completely. I’d say unless/until he falters, keep rolling him back out there and get as many innings as possible.

Richie
Member
Richie
2 years 7 months ago

Once he falters, it’s too late. Also bear in mind these aren’t STRAT cards, you’ve got to get your reliever warming up some 3-4 batters before he goes in.

Though I do agree with the sentiment “let’s factor in how he’s pitching, guys”.

PT415
Guest
PT415
2 years 7 months ago

Hey Dave,

How about starting with a right handed reliever, and then bringing in Liriano in the 2nd? That way, you force Dusty to lock in a lineup that very well may not be heavy on left handed hitters.

Iron
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Iron
2 years 7 months ago

Yeah, they are sure to sit Votto, Choo and Bruce if you do that! Wait, what?

rageon
Guest
rageon
2 years 7 months ago

If the A’s were in a one-game playoff, I do think it would be entertaining as heck to see the opposing manager announce their starter, and then remove him after the first inning for an opposite hand pitcher — once the A’s have already committed to about 4 different platoon spots.

Urban Shocker
Guest
Urban Shocker
2 years 7 months ago

Perhaps a better way to argue the same thing would be that a manager’s goal in a one game playoff in the NL is to ensure that pitchers don’t hit, thus maximizing your offensive potential. (Occam’s Razor, etc.)

Richie
Member
Richie
2 years 7 months ago

Is the Pirates’ 8th-best reliever really as good as their 4th-best starter? Role be darned, I’d rather have Burnett or Cole in there than some Quad-A reliever. Maybe hold out whomever you want to start the opening game of a next round, as you really want to win that game, too. Otherwise go with your 10 best.

Roto Wizard
Member
Roto Wizard
2 years 7 months ago

That was actually my thoughts exactly. Liriano for 3-4 innings, Cole for 3-4 and then Melancon. Cole had kept both righties and lefties to sub .300 wOBAs so far and has been on quite a roll recently.

Ivan Grushenko
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Ivan Grushenko
2 years 7 months ago

This makes more sense to me too

Pirates Hurdles
Guest
Pirates Hurdles
2 years 7 months ago

Nice work Dave, I’d love to see it attempted, but Clint is far too old school to do it. I’m with the majority that thinks Liriano stays in through Bruce the 3rd time if all goes well. Then he likely will go with defined roles Watson, Melancon, Grilli even though it would make sense to run Watson/Wilson out against the lefties.

Of course, when the Reds hit a few not so big flies in that bandbox (if they win this weekend) everything is off the table.

Ruki Motomiya
Member
Ruki Motomiya
2 years 7 months ago

I don’t agree with the all-relief pitcher plan, but I do like the obvious answer of stuffing the bench full of relievers. I don’t really like this plan because I think you’re inevitably going to get a relief pitcher, over enough time (Probably 2 of these games, which is 50%), who coughs up a bunch of runs.

It’s not necessarily even if they “have it” or not (Personally, I believe in the ability to “have it that day” or not due to the fact that the human body doesn’t necessarily distribute it’s ability evenly.), but even simple stuff like “warming up” and the like. I’m not using the right terminology, I think…basically, what I’m saying is that because both ability and performance is not distributed evenly, bringing in a bunch of guys increases the chances that one of them will be bad, if we work on the assumption that if someone has distributed good performance they will be good for more than just an inning.

Also, if you have a 14/11 hitter/pitcher split, with one being Liriano and one being “reserve extra innings starter guy”…what do you do if one or two guys don’t get their required outs because of imploding or something? It seems like, for example, Watson giving up a hit/walk to Votto (Votto hits a career .294/.391/.493 against lefties), or Choo gets on base (He has a career .340 OBP vs. lefties and .341 OBP this year, so he gets on base vs. lefties around as good as Evan Longoria, Nick Swisher and Adrian Gonzalez have done this year vs. all), or whatnot. Not to mention any kind of pinch hitting, and it only gets worse if you do as suggested and cut down to get in another PH or something.

A strategy needs to survive the ability for a reasonable number of things to go wrong and still function and I am not sure that this strategy qualifies. At the least, I feel this would be the wrong time to try: A strategy that does not work here is much more costly than any other time, save a playoff elimination game.

Eminor3rd
Guest
Eminor3rd
2 years 7 months ago

What are you basing the following on?

“I don’t really like this plan because I think you’re inevitably going to get a relief pitcher, over enough time (Probably 2 of these games, which is 50%), who coughs up a bunch of runs.”

It’s very easy to demonstrate that leaving a starter in for the third time through the lineup is much more “inevitably” going to cough up a bunch of runs. That’s the whole point.

jorgesca
Member
jorgesca
2 years 7 months ago

If you take the quoted sentence out of his whole post, it makes complete sense.

Wobatus
Guest
Wobatus
2 years 7 months ago

Well, take Farnsworth. Dave expects him to face some righties. In 23 innings against righties, admittedly a small sample, Farnsworth has a .294/.343/.446 slash line against. Liriano 2nd time through (albeit against all hitters) .233/.296/.329. Dave is suggesting not having Liriano face a chunk of the righties even twice.

Plus as Ruki suggests, the more guys you run out, the more chances one doesn’t have it that day, for whatever reason. Bill James wrote about this in one of his Abstracts in the ’80s, but more just hypothesizing.

I’d also note that Grilli’s velocity still hasn’t bounced back to pre-DL levels it seems. In a tiny September sample, with an astronomical babip allowed, so perhaps fluky, he’s surrendered a .357/.419/.536 triple slash.

All that said, I can see the appeal of limiting Liriano to maybe 4 innings+ or so, and remove him after that at first sign of trouble.

Richie
Member
Richie
2 years 7 months ago

Bill James cited the thinking, but then added that he thought it was wrong.

Wobatus
Guest
Wobatus
2 years 7 months ago

Richie, I’m pretty sure it was in a piece on Felipe Alou not having any lefty specialist one year and using fewer relievers in a given game but for longer outings. Maybe he changed his mind.

Regardless, it still seems the case that Liriano, 2nd or even 3rd time through, has been better than Farnsworth versus righties or Grilli post injury this year. If Liriano is pitching well I’d probably let him go through the order twice and then play it by ear. 5 innings, not 3, and try to avoid Grilli, sad to say. As someone suggested above, maybe Cole for 2-3, then Melancon, with the lefties in particular spots. Just a slight modification of what Dave is suggesting, since I’m not sure he was thinking about Grilli post DL.

Ruki Motomiya
Member
Ruki Motomiya
2 years 7 months ago

Spot estimate on stats, because I’ll freely admit I don’t have the knowledge of it. You can take that out if you want.

mike wants wins
Guest
mike wants wins
2 years 7 months ago

Agreed, 100% this is what a team should do in a 1 game series…..

This is what teams should do in the regular season too….2-3 “starters”, and the rest relievers that are on pitch limits regardless of success. Use AAA for the next 2-4 relievers when the first batch are tired.

Way cheaper, and more likely to have success (look a my Twins, what if instead of running out the worst SP staff ever, they had run out 10 really good relievers).

Ruki Motomiya
Member
Ruki Motomiya
2 years 7 months ago

Odds are an AAA reliever is not going to be as good as his numbers are right now if you kept running him out in the MLB.

What do you do when injuries set in? How do you get any starters to do this? How do you work when you run out of pitchers early on because no team is good enough to never have a day of implosion? Do you just trot out an entire staff of AAA relievers? What do you do if the relievers you have turn out to have been an SSS mirage, just give in?

mike wants wins
Guest
mike wants wins
2 years 7 months ago

You end up with a bad staff, just like if you try to sign Mike Pelfrey to be your best starter…..

Why would we assume it is easier to find starters, than to take failed starters and make them relievers?

Eric
Guest
Eric
2 years 7 months ago

As a Reds fan, I am absolutely dreading the one game playoff other, although I am positive Dusty will provide some much needed comedic relief. This type of game is designed for Dusty to fail. His strategy going into the game can be summed thusly: “We gotta make sure we can get Mat through the 5th so he can get that playoff W. Hopefully we have the lead after 5 and aren’t tied or we’re gonna have to get him through the 6th/7th. I better get Izturis on the playoff roster in case I need a pinch hitter in the early part of the game. I have to make sure my guys know to be aggressive. Liriano is going to want to get you out so you better swing at the first thing that looks good. Now let me check my toothpick stock.”
Now I need to go have a good cry…and drink heavily.

Ivan Grushenko
Guest
Ivan Grushenko
2 years 7 months ago

Mat for 5 and then Bailey and Chapman would make sense, and it’s within Dusty’s capability to do it.

Matt
Guest
Matt
2 years 7 months ago

I think the roster you submit for this game must be the one you use if you happen to advance to the next round.

Richie
Member
Richie
2 years 7 months ago

Can you cite something for this, because it sure looks like its wrong going off of last year’s NL wild card game.

Ivan Grushenko
Guest
Ivan Grushenko
2 years 7 months ago

A couple things I don’t understand here:

1) Why use Farnsworth and Mazzaro rather than Cole and Burnett/Morton?

2) Liriano’s 3rd time through the order numbers still look pretty good. I’m assuming we can’t just use them as is, and they must be regressed, as would the numbers for Watson and Wilson. How do we know that Watson and Wilson, who aren’t as good pitchers as Liriano, are really better than Liriano the 3rd time around?

Personally, I would use Liriano for the first 23 batters and then use Cole the rest of the way. Then you have your two best pitchers pitching the whole game. I guess the Reds could bat Votto, Bruce and Choo 7-8-9 to make Liriano face more righties, but I doubt they would actually do that.

evo34
Member
evo34
2 years 7 months ago

Think about what you would do if you *wanted* to lose the game, but were not allowed to do so blatantly. You would cycle through your entire bullpen in hopes of finding someone whose mechanics/psychology were off on that night. If you had a sufficiently large bullpen, odds are decent you’d find that guy. Risk/reward is not symmetrical. The best a given RP can do is give up zero runs; the worst he can do has no limit.

Simon
Guest
Simon
2 years 7 months ago

Nah, I’d just leave my starter in too long. You’re just making the same argument that has been made all through the thread without anything more than gut feeling to back it up. It’s no more or less persuasive this way round.

evo34
Guest
evo34
2 years 7 months ago

Simon — Gut feeling? Where do I back up anything with a “feeling”? I’m explaining how volatility increases with the more independent parts you introduce, when performance is not symmetrically bounded. Yes, it should be pretty obvious. But apparently it isn’t to the author or to you…

Jason B
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Jason B
2 years 7 months ago

lolwut

LoPa87
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LoPa87
2 years 7 months ago

While I appreciate the thinking behind the article, it’s a losing strategy. The volatility of relief pitcher performance, especially middle relief, is much higher than #1/2 starting pitcher volatility. Evo34 makes the case succinctly.

Liriano + Cole is the optimal strategy. That much is clear. Relying on Farnsworth, Mazzaro, Watson, etc to do their best Voltron impression of a starting pitcher is not. The latter is a strategy that will leave you with Bryan Morris pitching in a late inning, high leverage situation which will probably have an unfortunate outcome for Pirates fans.

David
Guest
David
2 years 7 months ago

Cole is going to start Sunday, having him pitch on one days rest is probably not a good strategy.

Kogoruhn
Member
Kogoruhn
2 years 7 months ago

The optimal strategy is probably not to decide on a strategy ahead of time

kk
Guest
kk
2 years 7 months ago

The best a given SP can do is give up zero runs, the worst he can do has no limit.

Sandy Kazmir
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

Here’s what I get when plugging these assumed matchups into my matchup tool:

I have penalized Liriano for the batters he faces a second time at around .009 points of wOBA as that is what 10 points of OBP and 20 points of SLG works out to be, roughly. I have used league average for their pitcher as you posted above and assume that first Hannahan, and then Paul will come off the bench to face whichever righty is in the game. This works out to an average wOBA of .290 and assumes 40 PA. This works out to around 13 baserunners which seems high, but it’s your world.

This is interesting, thanks for taking the time.

Sandy Kazmir
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

And FWIW, if you have Liriano face all the batters that Farnsworth, Wilson, and Mazzaro would have seen and give another .009 boost for the third PA then the overall average wOBA goes to .300. This is a difference of around .35 runs over these 40 batters. That’s probably a big enough difference for most rational people to go with your plan.

Gyre
Guest
Gyre
2 years 7 months ago

Nah, the article fails to answer the obvious question : How, after this excessive risk swapping has taken place, the bullpen is in shape to handle a 5 game division series.

“excessive risk” simply because all sorts of relievers have come into a game and then immediately been far worse than the replaced pitcher. Whenever the numerologists get rectrocranially extracted and understand that a pitchers job includes dealing with runners on base (thus assigning the baserunners to whomever is pitching and not to whomever let them get there), then relief pitchers can be selected to perform as the author clearly hopes.

jasonshure
Member
jasonshure
2 years 7 months ago

In a sense, didn’t Tampa sort of do this yesterday, with Archer? I don’t know that he has such pronounced splits. But they chose to try to win with a couple innings each from their very strong pen, as opposed to concentrating their risk with the starter, no?

Pirates Hurdles
Guest
Pirates Hurdles
2 years 7 months ago

Well, they are going with 16 batters, 9 pitchers. Liriano, Cole, and then 7 RP, the only surprise to me is no Farnsworth. I’d rather have him ahead of Morris.

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