From the DDN:

Biggest thing to come out of this article is a quote from Tim Naehring:

“We haven’t hired a new general manager yet,” Naehring cautioned, “but we’ll go back to a more traditional way of playing the game.”

That means a five-man rotation and higher pitch counts, but the Reds still intend to limit the number of pitches, especially for the younger prospects.

The few players (and one player’s mom) that I talked to were unanimous in their dislike for the piggy-back starting concept. One player even told me that it leads to doing MORE throwing, not less and you were throwing too much.

I can’t say that I’m a fan or critic of the piggy-back idea. It definitely hurt the lower minor teams in terms of being competitive, but if it kept pitchers healthy, is that a bad thing? And, did it keep pitchers healthy? Was it given enough of a chance to determine if it was a good system or not?

I’ve been a Reds fan since the late ’60’s, with my luck of being able to attend plenty of games at Riverfront during the BRM era. I was sitting in the Green Seats in the OF when Pete came home in ’84 and was in the Red seats when Glenn Braggs reached over the fence in ’90 to beat the Pirates. I have had many favorites from Jim Maloney to Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin, Adam Dunn, and Jay Bruce.

Join the conversation! 19 Comments

  1. I don’t think it was given enough time to know. This is the one area where I’m ready to give Dan O’Brien credit. This was a creative and innovative idea, which is the kind of (Moneyball) thing the Reds need to be trying. I’m not moved by the impressions of the players themselves, or their parents – this is coming out the wrong way, but what does a 19-year-old know about how to develop a pitcher?

  2. I thought the idea seemed reasonable too, but it would only work if the team kept more starters on the roster. Does anyone know if that was the case?

    If you are going to hold pitch counts down, someone is going to have to make up the difference. You don’t want that to be your bull pen guys, making 80 appearances in the minors. So you throw another starter out there. But then if you don’t up the amount of starters that you’re carrying, each starter ends up going out more often, which is what it sounds like the players are complaining about.

    I’m all for the piggy back system, but only because i’m all for holding pitch counts down at lower levels. But then, i also don’t think we need to be grooming middle relievers, so pretty much everyone at that level whose not some hotshot closer should be a starter anyway.

  3. They did have a ton of starters. According to minorleaguebaseball.comthey had 18 pitchers start games last year. Bailey had the most with 21. Then it went 19,18,16, 12, 8…and then got to just a few…

  4. Fascinating – injury guru Will Carroll (and possible practitioner of the dark arts – I remember when he predicted a major injury for Phil Nevin three days before it happened) just wrote a story on what he calls the “Progressive Development System” of pitcher development, which uses quite stringent pitch counts in the lower minors. This new system he advocates uses tandem starters too.

    Article was posted today at baseballprospectus.com .

    Carroll mentions that “several teams” already use the tandem system with “excellent results.” Is my head in the sand? Are other organizations riding the tandem?

  5. Bob Cluck, now ex-pitching coach of the Tigers was a big proponent of this system when he worked in other teams’ minor league systems. He came up with the idea, I believe.

    As Al pointed out, you don’t need more “starters,” you just need “pitchers.” In addition to avoiding injury, a tandem system lets every pitcher potentially develop as a starter, which is by far the most valuable role for a pitcher.

    But it makes Marc Katz cry, so I’m glad they changed it.

  6. Most pitchers drafted are starters, this let’s all of them get the chance to continue developing as starters at the professional level for a longer time. It also gives the organization a chance to see the players longer as SPs and they don’t have to decide as early who will be moved off to the bullpen.

    As for pitch counts, over a 144 game season a starter in a five man rotation on a 100 pitch count will throw 2900 pitches over the course of a season. In the 4 man tandem system a SP will make 36 “starts”, throwing 75 pitches a games a pitcher will throw 2700 pitches over the course of a season. It also lessens the chance for injuries by not letting them rack up high single game pitch counts, 120+.

    I thought it was a good idea. I feel it was a plus for O’Brien and I’d like to see them continue it.

    On the other hand, I could do without the take until you get a strike rule. There has to be a better way to instill plate discipline in hitters.

    Later,
    Tom

  7. I think the biggest argument with the piggyback system was that the pitch count at the lower minors was too low (75 pitches) and they didn’t feel they could get any rhythm if they struggled at all.

  8. Also, Bo Lanier was moved back from Billings to the GCL so that he could work on being a starter. He did well in the GCL in that respect after struggling in Billings.

  9. Will Carroll’s recent article points out that at the low minors, many pitchers need to “calm” their arms after overwork in high school or college. He actually recommends that everyone start their minor league careers with 60 pitch limits. He addresses the point Bill notes, by saying essentially, that low pitch counts will strongly encourage guys to develop the skill of efficiency. Guys always think they can “pitch out of it,” but if someone has been ineffective in 75 pitches, they need to come out of the game anyway. And if a guy is effective in 75 pitches, they’re likely going to pitch 5 innings and get the win. Anything that trains them to think, if not pitch like Greg Maddux, I’m for.

  10. I’d be surprised if you got many 5 inning outings out of young pitchers with a 75 pitch count. I’d bet even Bailey, who is the Reds best young starter only had a small number of 5 inning outings.

  11. I’d bet that especially Bailey had very few 5-inning outings. He’s not an efficient pitcher at all yet, with lots of walks and strikeouts to push up the pitchcount. The lack of control.

    With the Sarasota Reds, Tyler Pelland had similar 2005 rate stats to Bailey, with a few less strikeouts and a few more hits allowed. Last year he had exactly three outings where he pitched 5 innings (exactly 5.0 was the high number), and two of them were in the final month of the season when he was striking out fewer batters but inducing more groundballs. Incidentally, his ERA that month was the best single month of the year.

    I don’t give a flying ____ whether Reds’ prospects learn “how to pitch out of trouble” if the cost of that is more stress on the arm. A pitcher isn’t going to win any games at all from the operating room. The organization must reduce the Kremchek bills first, before they earn their way back to teaching the less tangible concepts. If tandem starting helped, then long live tandem starters.

  12. 2005
    Pelland (Sarasota): 30 games, 15 starts, 102.1 IP
    Bailey (Dayton) : 28 games, 21 starts, 103.2 IP

  13. Just to clarify: those numbers were intended to show that these two pitchers, in the top-10 Reds’ prospects, averaged about 3-1/2 innings per appearance under the tandem starter system.

  14. 2005
    Pelland (Sarasota): 30 games, 15 starts, 102.1 IP
    Bailey (Dayton) : 28 games, 21 starts, 103.2 IP
    those numbers were intended to show that these two pitchers, in the top-10 Reds’ prospects, averaged about 3-1/2 innings per appearance under the tandem starter system.

    Wow, given a strict 75 pitches/start pitch count, that means they were averaging about 21 pitches/inning, which would put them on pace for 189 pitches over 9 innings. At that pace, they would only be making it through the 5th inning at 105 pitches. So basically, in a five man rotation on a 100 pitch count, they would still be hard pressed to qualify for the win. Boy, I hope they both realize that Babe Ruth is dead and start throwing strikes.

    Later,
    Tom

  15. Interesting point, Tom – I didn’t think of it broken down that way.

    75 pitches is the upper limit, though. There are a number of situations that would have resulted in throwing

  16. …less than 75 pitches – in a relief appearance, they could be finishing a game. Or they just might not have it one day, and get taken out in the first inning after 40 pitches if 3 or so left the yard.

    My guess is that they averaged more like 16 pitches/inning. That’s still a high average, no doubt, but it’s not as horrific as 189 / 9 innings. That would really hurt. I think Bill James or one of his protogés developed a pitchcount estimate formula to look at arm stress for pitchers before pitchcounts were officially recorded – if anyone knows what that formula is we could probably get a better idea of what Bailey and Pelland are doing.

    I’ve tracked Pelland’s outings and stats very closely over the past couple years. Given their similar profiles, I think I might do the same for Bailey this year. I sure hope they can cut down on walking ~6 per 9 innings.

    (I think a ‘less-than’ symbol tripped up my post, hence the continuation)

  17. Here’s a 1998 article that introduced Pitcher Abuse Points (PAP), and has a brief history of trying to measure abuse before pitch counts were well known.

    http://www.baseball-analysis.com/article.php?articleid=148

  18. It’s also worth noting that Aaron Harang ranked 4th in MLB in Pitcher Abuse Points last year, behind noted cyborg Livan Hernandez, and Dusty victims Zambrano and Prior. Harang had 20 starts of 101-121 pitches, plus 2 where he went into the 120s.

  19. My guess is that they averaged more like 16 pitches/inning. That’s still a high average, no doubt, but it’s not as horrific as 189 / 9 innings.

    Good points on having some games at less than the top end 75 pitch counts. I’d guess though that they are still a bit higher than the 16 P/G. For a quick reference I looked on ESPN and Harang was at 16.1 last year, the Reds SP’s were at 16.5 last season, both Atlanta and Chisox SP’s were at about 15.2 last season. So I’d guess these two young guys who still need to develop control would be more in the 18-19 range.

    Later,
    Tom

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About Bill Lack

I've been a Reds fan since the late '60's, with my luck of being able to attend plenty of games at Riverfront during the BRM era. I was sitting in the Green Seats in the OF when Pete came home in '84 and was in the Red seats when Glenn Braggs reached over the fence in '90 to beat the Pirates. I have had many favorites from Jim Maloney to Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin, Adam Dunn, and Jay Bruce.

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