I was playing a baseball simulation game a few years ago (can’t remember which one, I play Baseball Mogul and Out of the Park Baseball both a lot, sometimes Puresim Baseball), but I decided to replay the 1975 Reds.

The problem was, the Reds’ roster didn’t fit the “model” given the game (the games have since given roster flexibility). The game I was playing was insisting that I have 11 pitchers on my roster. And I couldn’t find a spot for Ed Armbrister, one of my primary right handed pinch hitters (he appeared in 59 games that year).

The problem? The Reds only used 12 pitchers the entire year, with Tom Hall (included in the 12) pitching only two innings before being shipped to the New York Mets for never-to-pitch for the Reds Mac Scarce (bad luck for Hall).

Sparky Anderson had more offensive/defensive flexibility using more position players than pitchers. Sparky used six starters regularly. Gary Nolan and Jack Billingham each started 32 games, Fred Norman 26, Don Gullett 22, Pat Darcy 22, and Clay Kirby 19. Tom Carroll started 7 and Clay Carroll started 2. Nolan, Billingham, and Gullett only started; others started and relieved; some just relieved.

Now, read that again…Sparky actually used only 10 pitchers on the roster. Tom Carroll was on the roster while Gullett was out.

Yet, this spring we’re carrying 12 pitchers. Micah Owings, starting today, hasn’t appeared in a game (as a pitcher) since March 26. Nick Masset has pitched 1 game in relief; the other relievers have made at least 3 appearances. (oh..yeah, Owings can pinch hit….why not pitch, after pinch hitting?)

Daniel Ray Herrera and Bill Bray are both guys whose record, pitching repertoire, and stuff says they can get both righties and lefties out.

Some say Homer Bailey should be in the minors because he needs regular work (I think my Earl Weaver pitching history proves that’s a manager’s choice….).

Our hitting is what’s hurting…maybe we should buck popular trend and try to maximize our strengths, and minimize our weaknesses. I don’t mean carry three catchers…maybe we should have kept a Jonny Gomes to help with our offensive weaknesses. Maybe we didn’t need to over spend on relievers who are one-dimensional. Maybe for weaker fielding hitters, we carry the extra defensive help.

For small to mid-market teams, we have to be creative to win. The every-day argument of Adam Dunn’s value came up the other day…Dunn’s weaknesses could have been minimized using intelligent roster management.

I think asking for Owings to be sharp today is a lot to ask of a guy who hasn’t played his primary position in three weeks…

15 Responses

  1. Michael Howes

    The only problem with the idea is that look what Baker chose for the extra hitters we do have. So what good is it going to be to have another no-hit bench player?

    But releasing Lincoln and recalling Gomes or Rosales sounds like a great idea
    I did notice that not many of our AAA OFers are hitting so hot so far in the short season. Hopper, Stubbs, Gomes, and Bolivar all have an OPS under .700

    Honestly it might be time to trade for a SS. That might be the single best way to improve this teams offense

    I know it’s only been a weeks worth of games. But here is the Reds offense by position with their rank in the major leagues

    RCAA rank
    4 6 1B
    2 10 2B
    1 7 CF
    0 11 LF
    0 15 3B
    -2 19 RF
    -4 23 SS
    -4 25 C

    Like what pretty much everyone has been saying on this blog in the game threads. SS and C have been our weakness.

    Asking Owings to be sharp is a LOT to ask but not only because he hasn’t started a game since March 26 but he hasn’t started a major league regular season game since July 28 2008 and hasn’t pitched a good game since May 14 2008

  2. GregD

    They aren’t going to release Lincoln after just signing him to a 2-yr deal.

  3. GRF

    I agree in theory (and some teams like SD using 13 pitchers is insane) but who would we send down? Masset is out of options, we signed Lincoln for two years, I am not sure what move we could make now to readjust things. I agree I would like to see Gomes up, but is he worth losing Masset for nothing? Maybe move Masset something (but what would you get now)?

  4. Glenn

    Lincoln would have to absolutely fall flat on his face to be released. They’d never eat a contract like that. Especially after Stanton.

  5. Brian

    regardless of how many pitchers either Lincoln or Massett should be replaced with Bill Bray in the Bullpen. Him and Herrera can get lefties and righties and Rhodes has been lights out against both this year as well.

    As for calling up another position player it would be Rosales because he can play IF and the Corner Outfield spots

  6. brublejr

    Steve, How many pitches did those starters throw per game. I bet it was well over 120 per game and it was only a 4 man rotation. I’m not saying these guys couldn’t do it today, but none of them have had to do it because the pen became so specialized in the 80’s and 90’s.

    For that to work:
    1.) Starters would throw 110-130 pitches per contest minimum.
    2.) Bullpen guys would have to throw more than more inning at a time.
    3.) No match-up pitcher changes…once they are in they are in.

    I don’t think the management wants to risk the arm problems when they shell out the type of cash they give these guys…that was the whole reason for a more specialized bullpen in the first place.

    Also, It is not that we need more guys on the bench…we just need the RIGHT guys on the bench.

  7. Michael Howes

    “Steve, How many pitches did those starters throw per game. I bet it was well over 120 per game and it was only a 4 man rotation.”

    this thread is a bit hard to follow but are you asking how many pitches/game Reds starters in 75 averaged?

    and I can’t believe I don’t know the answer to this but in 75 the Reds used a 5 man rotation not a 4 right? 6 starters had 19 or more starts with 3 of them at 25 or more starts.

    If you are asking about the 75 Reds starters and the # of pitches they threw/game I can’t find the data. baseball-references has inconsistent pitch count data from back then.

    But you might be surprised that the starters didn’t average a ton of innings in 75.
    Here are the IP/GS for the 75 Reds starters
    7.3 Gullett
    6.6 Nolan
    6.5 Norman
    6.4 Billingham
    5.6 Darcy
    5.2 Kirby

    compare that to last years Reds starters
    7.0 (111 pit/g) Harang
    6.2 (103 pit/g) Arroyo
    6.1 (104 pit/g) Volquez
    5.6 (98 pit/g) Cueto

  8. Dan

    I think the question is about the number of pitches per game that the Orioles staffs of the 70’s used.

  9. Shawn

    The game has changed. There is a lot more offense than now than there was in the 1970s, and thus more pitches thrown and more pitchers needed.

    The big debate about pitching staffs around 1975 was whether you needed 9 or 10 pitchers, and maybe you could get by with 8.

    Oh, and the rotation in 1975 was a stricter “5-day” rotation, which is sort of four guys and a “spot starter,” rather than the more frequent straight five we use today.

  10. Steve Price

    Teams those days used a four-man rotation, and the fifth guy was a spot starter, which usually went for 10-15 starts per year.

    We could do that, too, by the way.

    Nevertheless, the point wasn’t to go to a four man rotation.

    The points were about roster building and giving Homer Bailey major league innings and a major league clubhouse to utilize his talent.

    Our pitching is our strength, as strange as it may sound to Reds fans. We don’t need 12 pitchers. And, we especially wouldn’t need them if we hadn’t tied up needless millions on aging middle relievers. We have guys who can pitch to both lefties and righties, which would eliminate the need for the recently invented LOOGY and closer (has Hallmark cards invaded baseball?)

    We need more position players…we don’t have the multi-dimensional players. Our multi-positional defensive players can’t hit. The sad part is that the defensive players aren’t really defensive specialists; they just can’t hit and don’t embarrass us in the field.

    Proper roster makeup would have allowed us more flexibility to help the hitting/defense while making best use of monetery resources in the bullpen with pitchers who pitch well to lefties and righties.

    As for management/platoon options….well, let’s just say if you pick up a Baseball Prospectus book they rate the managers, too, and how much game “tinkering” they do. Let’s just say, studies seem to indicate the more game tinkering by the manager, the fewer wins gained by the teams.

    Managers seem to do their best work apart from “ingame” management.

    As for pitch counts…the Orioles of the 70’s had the DH which was one reason Earl Weaver didn’t have as many pitchers, not to mention the fact that he had quality arms. Jim Palmer averaged 8 innings a game. The others 7 or less. Not pinch hitting for them helped.

    However, those arms just didn’t fall off trees. They were developed, or acquired. If you read my post, I gave detailed information about where the players came from. The youngsters earned their spots, and they learned in the big leagues. And, they were given innings to pitch to make it happen. They weren’t thrust into the lineup. Weaver has been quoted as saying this was intentional. Young starters started in the bullpen. If they weren’t ready, they went and got somebody else, as was indicated.

    For those who think scouting is where it’s at, you’re right. The players had to have talent, but Weaver was a stats junky…he went by platoons on offense, and went with his arms pitching wise.

    Oddly enough, Sparky was known as Captain Hook, and is largely credited with helping develop today’s bullpen use. Yet, he used only 12 pitchers in all of 1975 and only 13 in 1976. He used more as the Reds’ pitching declined, but he gave his relievers innings…not thirds of an inning. Pedro Borbon had seasons of 122, 121, 139, 125, 121, and 127 innings, with three total starts in there. He used other relievers similarly.

    There’s innings for Homer, if we wanted to give them…but, there’s not with 12 pitchers; and we don’t need 12 pitchers, when we need more positional players and hitters.

  11. preach

    I agree with your post Steve. The inclusion of a DH made many of those extra innings possible for the starters. Even if your pitcher began to run into trouble, it is easier to believe that your offense will pick him up. That offense also contained a couple of HOF’ers, and more than one ROY, if memory serves. I think one year they had two guys tie for HR leaders (Grich and Murray?). That gives you a little flexibility to go with fewer pitchers. I would agree with you in principle, but I know that if we added another position player we probably would go after Juan Castro again or just promote Gomes. If we got a real power threat, then I would be OK with 11 pitchers, but it won’t happen. We will need the extra arms to try to keep scores close.

  12. Dan

    I absolutely agree w/ Steve on these parts of his post:

    –Use LESS pitcher specialization (down with LOOGY’s!)

    –Let the relievers stay in the game longer (1-2 IP for relievers should be no problem).

    –Carry 14 hitters and 11 pitchers.

    And I’ll add one plea of my own – if we were to do this, I’d really like the 14th hitter to be chosen mainly for his skills as a HITTER. We need more offense on this team! (I’d favor Gomes.)

    I sure would love to see our Reds, for once, be a cutting-edge team that’s a bit ahead of the curve, rather than a super-conservative team following along w/ whatever the current prevailing wisdom is.

  13. preach

    Want to be cutting edge? Find me a LOOGY who can play a little outfield. Put him in the nine hole and bat Owings 8th. Switch them back and forth as needed. Talk about Havoc. I would love to see it for a game or two. Good way to make SportsCenter.

  14. Dan

    That would be awesome and totally havoc-y!

    Remember when Davey Johnson did that with McDowell and Orosco in the extra inning game at Riverfront in the mid-to-late 80’s? (I’m pretty sure it was the game that Ray Knight punched Eric Davis at 3B while Eric Gregg held Davis’s arms behind him…) What an all-time classic game…