12.27.2005

Interesting Question: Alou Abuse (first in series)

This is the first in a series of Interesting Questions (or eventually IQ) that I will periodically write. The main reason I started blogging was just as an experiment to see what the experience was like. But the other one was that, as a Giants fan, there are certain questions that I would have liked to see answered so, when I have time, I look into these questions and write on them, like the matter about the draft pick and Sabean's GM style.

Alou Abuse

I'm a regular at McCovey Chronicles lately and a question that popped up there is one that I've seen often whereever Giants fans post: does Alou abuses Giants pitchers. And the arguments made some sense, about letting starters go too long, about jumping from relief pitcher to next in one or two batters, etc. So I've always wondered about that, whether it's true or not.

What follows I would not call definitive but just some data for thought. I got the latest edition of Bill James annual stats book (he doesn't really do much in there, not like his wonderful annuals in the 80's, but if you feel a debt to him, you should pick one up and, in any case, it's good so pick it up anyway) and there is a section on how managers use their pitchers, both starters and relievers.

The stats I will discuss are Quick Hooks, Slow Hooks, Long Outings, and Relief Appearances. For Quick and Slow Hooks, each game is scored by calculating this - add the number of pitches to 10 times the number of Runs Allowed for the starter - and the bottom 25% of scores are Quick Hooks and the top 25% are Slow Hooks. Long Outings are the number of games in which the starter threw more than 120 pitches. And Relief Appearances are simply that.

Given what fans have been saying about Alou, I would think that he has a lot of quick hooks but very few slow hooks, plus a lot of long outings and a lot of relief appearances.

In the 2005 season, that's not quite true. In Quick Hooks, he was 13th highest out of 16 NL teams with 28, but the three below him were close so I would call it about even (27, 26, 26), essentially a dead heat for last by a clear margin (12th was 40). In Slow Hooks, he was tied for 13th lowest out of 16 NL teams with 47, though clearly not last (47, 55, 66). So in two key categories, Alou is the model of patience with his starters compared to the rest of the NL managers.

However, he was not so good in the other two categories but I don't think they are as bad as it first appears. He was on the high side on the Long Outings (LO) with 7, making him 3rd highest (behind 16 and 10 and just before 6 and 5; average was 4.4 and the median was 3.5). I decided to see who he might have abused and included any game close to LO:
  • Schmidt had 2 of the LO with another 6 in the 115-120 pitch range in 29 starts (one 131).
  • Lowry had 2 of the LO with another 6 in the 115-120 pitch range in 33 starts (one 128).
  • Tomko had 2 of the LO with another 1 in the 115-120 pitch range in 30 starts.
  • Hennessey had 0 of the LO with another 2 in the 115-120 pitch range in 21 starts.
  • Rueter had 0 of the LO with another 2 in the 115-120 pitch range in 18 starts.
  • Cain had 0 of the LO with another 0 in the 115-120 pitch range in 7 starts.

So it does not seem like he really abused any of the starters. Despite having the 3rd highest in the NL, I would not say that any one pitcher was terribly abused, both Schmidt and Lowry tied with 8 LO or close-LO, only about 1 every 4 starts, only 2 each over the 120 threshold.

The last stat, Reliever Appearances, we all know that he's up there - and he is. He had the #1 rank, with 511. And Cincinnati's managers together was 2nd with 487. But the #3 manager was very surprising to me: it was Bobby Cox with 484. So the difference between him and the acknowledged "pitchers manager" is 27 relief appearances, or about 1 extra every 6 games.

To see if there was a one year aberration, I checked Alou's Giants career. His Quick Hooks averaged 34 per season, which would have ranked 13th still. His Slow Hooks averaged 42 per season, tied for 12th. His LO averaged 9 per season, still good for 3rd and a bit higher still than 2005, but does not seem killer. Lastly, his relief apperarances averaged 498, still 1st but Bobby Cox averaged 485 himself and no one has accused him of pitcher abuse that I'm aware of.

Curious pattern for his Giants career, his first year here he was as people expected, high Quick, Low Slow, high Long, high Relief, but then the last two years he swung the pendulum and had low Quick, high Slow, and, as I've tried to show, his Long and Relief, while high in rank, doesn't look that bad, comparatively.

So, no, based on these stats, it does not look like Alou abuses his pitchers any more than other managers do, and, if anything, has been babying them the past two seasons. True, his relief use is high, but so is Cox and I don't see any such criticism aimed his way for his reliever usage.

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