In the first part of the series last night, I showed you Fredi Gonzalez’s management of the bullpen this season and how it was all backwards and a bit messed up. But this season isn’t over yet and, let’s face it, relievers aren’t the most consistent bunch of people in baseball. Still, let’s take a look at the last two seasons, where Fredi has gotten a full year to manage his bullpen.
Here’s the chart again, this time with 2008 labeled.
It seems apparent that the same sort of issue arises. Kevin Gregg was not clearly the worst reliever on the team (that went to, guess who? Renyel Pinto), but he was far and away taking on the highest leverage situations. Pinto faced the second highest average leverage when entering the game, even though he was the worst reliever on the team by FIP! It appears Fredi correctly pointed out the need to manage the leverage for Doug Waechter and Logan Kensing, so that their performances don’t hurt the team as much, but to have Joe Nelson and Justin Miller pitch in less meaningful situations than Gregg and Pinto is absurd.
Gregg and Pinto led the team in high leverage appearances (remember, B-R measures this as appearances with a leverage index of 1.5 or greater) with 44 and 36 appearances respectively. In contrast, Pinto only had 19 low leverage appearances. Matt Lindstrom, who had the second highest FIP+ on the team, was third on the team with 25 high leverage appearances, but also led the team with 30 low leverage appearances (appearances with a leverage index of 0.7 or less). Of course, FIP just tells us what happened, not what we would expect to continue happening. If we just judged it on strikeouts, walks, and ground ball rate, you would likely take a look at Miller and Nelson before you looked at Lindstrom. However, Miller did not see much high leverage work, with only 14 high leverage appearances. So Fredi decided to put his worst reliever in the second highest average leverage situations, while putting one of his best relievers in the significantly lower leverage innings. Another strike on Fredi’s bullpen management.
Finally, let’s delve into 2007, Fredi’s first year as a big league manager. Did he do any better?
Probably not. Once again, Gregg, Pinto, and Taylor Tankersley received the highest number of appearances while posting the fourth, second, and third lowest FIP+ on the team respectively. Meanwhile, they more or less wasted Lindstrom’s only phenomenal season (21.8% K%, 7.3% BB%, 2.9% HR/FB%, 47.4% GB%) on an average entering LI of 1.10. They also threw away another solid season by Miller and the only good season (and only season in general) that we’ve seen of Lee Gardner. The pitchers with three highest FIP+ received the three of the four lowest average LI’s entering games.
The individual appearances recorded by Baseball-Reference paint a more even tale regarding Fredi’s bullpen management in 2007. While Gregg clearly received the most high leverage entrances (39 in total, expected for a closer), no one else received more than 24, and Pinto, Miller, Lindstrom, and Gardner each more or less received the same amount. However, the three best pitchers on the team by FIP (I can’t stress this enough), saw the three highest low leverage situations on the team, with Gardner leading the way with 29 low-leverage appearances.
One final, interesting twist on the situation. B-R keeps track of relief appearances when there are runners on and when the bases are empty. The three best relievers on the team by FIP faced a disproportionately high amount of empty bases when they entered, while the two pitchers who led the team with appearances with runners on were Pinto and Tankersley, two of the worst relievers on the team. In addition, Gregg, who was chosen as the closer and presumably the best pitcher on the team, faced only ten instances with runners on base, meaning he was held strictly for the ninth inning. Disgusting.
So in each of the three seasons in which Fredi has been manager, he has gotten the order and leveraging of his bullpen wrong. Of the three seasons listed, his 2008 season was the best managed year, and ironically that was the season when people started realizing that Fredi didn’t know how to deal with his pen. It wasn’t a good year, but it was something. I think of the three years, the worst culprit is 2007; in that year he had three high-end performers working junk seventh innings while he had three lower-end performers working the situations with the most runners and the highest leverage. Something tells me that is the wrong way to manage bullpens.
Even if you take the concept of FIP out of the picture and look at the stats themselves to determine who may be the best reliever on the team, Fredi has continuously gotten it wrong. In 2009, it was Calero. In 2008, it was Miller and Nelson. In 2007, it was Lindstrom and Miller. Yet each year, Fredi managed to bury these guys in lower leverage appearances while depending on the likes of Pinto to get him out of eighth inning jams with runners on. It seems absurd that he would miss this often, but such is the way of manager these days.
So I’ve sort of shown how Fredi doesn’t write lineup cards correctly and he doesn’t manage the bullpen correctly. So, with that in mind, what else is there for a manager to do to redeem himself? Does he make the best substitutions? Does he find the best times to pinch hit? Because really, that’s all managers can do. If Fredi isn’t choosing his lineup or managing his pen correctly, he’s basically doing 85% of his job incorrectly. Now, his lineup cards are bad, but they aren’t “bat Hanley seventh” bad (see Joe Torre, re: Matt Kemp), but his bullpen management may be one of the worst in the business.