Thursday, April 15, 2004

Goldman: Torre in a Box, Bill James Supplement

A link to the Pinstriped Bible archives has graced our sidebar since day one of this weblog, and I'm shocked to find I've never once linked to a column. The weekly column is available on Goldman also writes for one of my favorite baseball websites, Baseball Prospectus, and is one of the authors of their excellent annual book.

This week's dispatch is titled Clueless Joe Forever. It uses a format featured in Bill James' wonderful guide to baseball managers from 1870 to today, which is fittingly titled The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers: From 1870 to Today. (There are four used copies just waiting for you to buy 'em.) It's the " a box" format that James had used in previous works, where there are a series of questions or headings that, when answered or expanded upon, lead to a pretty full picture of the subject.

So go read that remarkably even-handed piece and then come back here for a bit of supplemental reading. I'll wait.




OK. Goldman says, of James' book, "The book is now out of print and James never got around to visiting Torre, whose claim to history was not apparent in early 1997." Well, Joe didn't get his own essay or anything, but he was referenced several times. I dug out my copy and decided to utilize the ol' index for a bit. Torre gets nine mentions. Here they are... if you have a copy, you can play along!

p. 101
James brings out a chart showing that as time passed, managerial jobs went less frequently to former star players and more frequently to fringe players or non-major leaguers. It's broken up, fairly arbitrarily, into one sample year out of each fifteen. I'll throw it in here (pardon the amateur table, complete with Blogger-inspired huge break between it and this text):

Player skill1945196019751990
Outstanding Players8653
Good Players66710
Fringe Players281312
Didn't Play in the Majors 1158
Good or Outstanding82%57%40%39%

Torre was counted among the "Outstanding Players." Way to go, Joe.

p. 152
Part of another chart. His record at the time of publication (early 1997): 986-1073, .479 winning percentage.

p. 255
Another chart, this one of the single-season highs for intentional walks issued. 1979 Mets manager Joe Torre comes in 3rd all time, with a total of 107. It will come as a shock to noone that all ten teams listed were in the National League. Otherwise, this chart shows how Joe's attitude toward different strategies has changed over time and between teams. Goldman notes in his column, "The Yankees have generally been stingy with the free pass during Torre's reign." It certainly helps that he's generally had an excellent pitching staff to work with. Who was the best starter on the 1979 Mets? Actually, they weren't that bad, led by Craig Swan. The offense was pathetic, however, scoring only 593 runs. For context, the Dodgers scored only 574 in 2003, Detroit only 591 (with the benefit of the DH). Onward to...

pp. 300, 301, 304, 313
This is part of a long discussion about how different managers use the bench. In it, we learn that in 1996 Torre used 55 defensive substitutes, most in the majors. Only Terry Bevington was close, using 52. On the last of these pages, Joe gets his own little chart and blurb:

In 1994, when his team had no obvious defensive sore point, he used zero defensive subs; last year (1996) he led the majors, with 55, mostly getting Mariano Duncan and Wade Boggs out of the lineup in the late innings. Platoons some, uses his bullpen heavily, makes substantial use of one-run strategies.

This is further evidence of Joe's metamorphosis. In his column, Goldman says, "He stays with his starters as long as any manager in baseball." This has been true recently, when much of the bullpen has been of questionable quality and most of the starters have been bigger names. Of course, when he had Mariano and Wetteland, pitchers were often asked only to give six solid innings. Then again, that was only in 1996. It'll be interesting to see if Joe starts to move back the other way this year, as the bullpen looks strong and the back end of the rotation is shaky.

p. 343
It turns out that Torre's Cardinals actually led the majors in relief appearances in 1992, with 424. This was one of the highest totals in history at the time, and I suspect it's still top-20.

Special thanks to Steven Goldman, whose work I enjoy, for providing a fine article on which I could piggy-back. You may now return to your regularly-scheduled Vinnyfest, while I return to counting the moments before the Yankees-Red Sox series.

Pitching matchups:
Friday: Vazquez vs. Wakefield (I'll always love ya, Tim)
Saturday: Mussina vs. Schilling
Sunday: Contreras vs. Arroyo
Monday: Brown vs. Lowe


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