Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ron Gardenhire's bullpen use

Anthony Swarzak:
48 games in relief,
96 innings — an
unusual workload
in a 2013 bullpen.

Monday's post -- about the uniqueness of some of the in-game strategies of departed veteran managers Dusty Baker, Davey Johnson and Jim Leyland -- led me to take a quick look at Ron Gardenhire's entry in the just-released Bill James Handbook.

Gardy didn't led the league in anything, but one thing about 2013 jumped out at me, and I'm surprised I didn't notice it when it was happening: he had a career low in the use of relief pitchers on consecutive days. In fact, only four AL managers, five in all of the majors, had a lower figure than his 78.

Heavy use of relievers on consecutive days had been a hallmark of Gardenhire's, although he has only once led the league in that (2008, with 115; he matched that number the following season).

I'm inclined to blame/credit the change on the circumstances. The Twins didn't have a lot of four-game winning streaks, or or six-wins-in-seven-days stretches; those are the kind of short runs that have often had Gardenhire going to his top relievers day after day. 

And this year, Gardenhire used his long men (Anthony Swarzak and Ryan Pressly) as true long men. Swarzak had 10 relief outings of at least three innings, Pressly seven; without attempting to actually research it, it feels like Gardenhire didn't have 10 such outings from his entire bullpen for his managerial career. (Swarzak led the majors in relief innings; Pressly tied for fourth in the AL.)

Glen Perkins pitched 16 times on consecutive days, as did Casey Fien; Jared Burton and Brian Duensing 14 each. Pressly and Swarzak? One apiece.

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