I recently took a look at relievers who entered and left the game before you could settle back down with your beer. One-batter pitchers. The guys who appeared and disappeared before your eyes.
Did you know that six relievers entered and left a game in 2004 without even registering a full BFP (Batter Faced Pitching)? Five of those six pitchers recorded outs when an inherited baserunner was caught stealing. The other out (Scott Stewart on May 18th) came via a pickoff.
My favorite no-batter appearance was registered by Cleveland’s Jason Davis in a 5-4 loss to Oakland. Davis entered the game in the bottom of the eighth and threw four pickoff attempts to first and one pitch to the batter. It finally paid off when baserunner Mark Kotsay was out on the fourth pickoff attempt. I wonder how the Indians accounted for those pickoff throws in Davis’ pitch count.
Meanwhile, there were 1,028 occasions in which a reliever appeared for just one recorded plate appearance, an average of over thirty per team. During their brief appearances, these pitchers yielded:
- 123 hits in 939 at bats for a .131 Batting Average
- 68 walks (2 intentional) and 9 HBP’s for a .195 OBP
- 16 home runs and 196 total bases for a Slugging Percentage of .209
- 903 outs recorded, including 53 double plays, 13 caught stealings and 4 pickoffs (and 112 pickoff attempts)
- 9 sacrifice flies and 3 sacrifice bunts
- 24 stolen bases, 11 wild pitches and 0 balks
Overall, one-batter pitchers went 34-20, with 47 saves in 58 opportunities and a 1.94 ERA. Relievers gave up a total of 121 runs during these appearances (their runs or inherited runners), for an average of 3.6 runs allowed per nine innings. But keep in mind that over 80% of these appearances occurred with runners on base — in fact, ten percent of them occurred with the bases loaded — which makes that 3.6 RA an impressive number. Overall, one-batter pitchers (and the managers who called on them) were pretty successful.
Speaking of managers, there was a huge difference between them in their use of one-batter pitchers. Here’s a list, by team, of the number of one-batter appearances, the number of outs recorded in those appearances, and the ratio of outs to appearances. The outs include GIDP’s, caught stealing and pickoffs, which is why they sometimes outnumber the plate appearances.
Team PA Outs Out% San Francisco Giants 95 69 0.73 St. Louis Cardinals 54 54 1.00 Arizona Diamondbacks 46 43 0.93 Los Angeles Dodgers 46 40 0.87 Oakland Athletics 46 40 0.87 Seattle Mariners 45 40 0.89 Montreal Expos 41 33 0.80 Chicago Cubs 39 33 0.85 Cleveland Indians 39 32 0.82 Boston Red Sox 37 29 0.78 New York Yankees 36 22 0.61 Cincinnati Reds 35 31 0.89 Houston Astros 35 34 0.97 Detroit Tigers 33 32 0.97 Texas Rangers 33 32 0.97 Colorado Rockies 31 26 0.84 Florida Marlins 31 32 1.03 Atlanta Braves 29 28 0.97 Pittsburgh Pirates 29 25 0.86 Kansas City Royals 28 30 1.07 Baltimore Orioles 27 27 1.00 New York Mets 27 26 0.96 Tampa Bay Devil Rays 27 20 0.74 Minnesota Twins 26 21 0.81 Chicago White Sox 24 19 0.79 Philadelphia Phillies 24 22 0.92 San Diego Padres 23 20 0.87 Milwaukee Brewers 20 24 1.20 Toronto Blue Jays 17 13 0.76 Anaheim Angels 5 6 1.20 ==== ==== ==== Grand Total 1028 903 0.88
Wow. There really is a difference between Northern and Southern California. The Giants’ Felipe Alou (95 one-batter appearances) and the Angels’ Mike Scioscia (five) represented two extreme ends of the spectrum last year. Unfortunately, the Giants’ execution (0.73 Out Ratio) was worse than any team except the Yankees (0.61 — more about that in a minute). Poor execution was probably the reason a number of pitchers were pulled after only one batter, but Alou still blew away all other managers in his use of one-batter pitchers.
95 one-batter appearances is an extremely high number. The second-highest figure over the last three years is 57, which Alou reached in 2003. Thankfully, he achieved slightly better results that year, with 48 outs and a 0.84 Out Ratio. But in 2004, he used single-batter pitchers 67% more often than the next highest total over the past three years. That’s phenomenal.
On the other hand, Mike Scioscia showed complete disdain for the one-batter strategy in 2004, employing it only five times throughout the year. This is part of a larger trend for the former catcher, who has used one-batter pitchers less and less over time. In 2002, he brought in one-batter pitchers 43 times, with lefties Scott Schoeneweis and Dennis Cook available in the bullpen; in 2003 he employed the one-batter strategy 15 times, with Schoeneweis the sole lefty in the pen. This past year, with no lefty relievers, his use of the one-batter pitcher was less than any team over the past three years.
Yes, 2004 was the year of the one-batter pitcher extremes. Recognition should also go to Tony LaRussa (whom many credit with popularizing the one-batter pitcher strategy) for using the strategy often and well (54 times with a 1.00 Out Ratio). As you can probably tell from looking at the list, it’s hard to do both.
One-batter pitchers are primarily a left-handed pitcher vs. left-handed batter strategy, giving rise to the acronym LOOGY (Left-handed One Out GuY). Here’s a list of the top 25 one-batter pitchers last year; as you can see, it’s filled with LOOGY’s:
Name Team Hand PA Outs Out% Eyre, Scott SFG L 35 28 0.80 Myers, Mike SEA/BOS L 28 21 0.75 Christiansen, Jason SFG L 22 13 0.59 Choate, Randy ARI L 21 19 0.90 Martin, Tom LAD/ATL L 19 17 0.89 Lopez, Javier COL L 18 17 0.94 Perisho, Matt FLA L 18 17 0.94 Rincon, Ricardo OAK L 18 14 0.78 Gallo, Mike HOU L 17 15 0.88 King, Ray STL L 17 15 0.88 Shouse, Brian TEX L 15 14 0.93 Bradford, Chad OAK R 14 13 0.93 Gryboski, Kevin ATL R 14 14 1.00 Heredia, Felix NYY L 14 5 0.36 Mercker, Kent CHC L 14 9 0.64 Bartosh, Cliff CLE L 13 9 0.69 Brower, Jim SFG R 13 12 0.92 Miller, Trever TBD L 12 8 0.67 Tavarez, Julian STL R 12 14 1.17 Colyer, Steve DET L 11 11 1.00 Embree, Alan BOS L 11 9 0.82 Kline, Steve STL L 11 11 1.00 Harville, Chad OAK/HOU R 10 10 1.00 Hasegawa, Shigetoshi SEA R 10 10 1.00 Sanchez, Duaner LAD R 10 9 0.90
It appears that Jason Christiansen was at least partly responsible for the poor performance of the Giant one-batter strategy. In 2003, Christiansen had been dominant against lefty batters (.547 OPS vs. .920 OPS for righties), but 2004 was a different story. Lefties actually hit better against Christiansen than righties did (.736 OPS vs. .708 OPS).
But the absolute worst one-batter pitcher was Felix (“The Run Fairy”) Heredia of the Yankees, who appeared 14 times against single batters and only recorded five outs. In the other nine appearances, he gave up one single, four doubles, two walks, hit one batter and allowed a groundball that Jeter bobbled for an error. He is the reason the Yankees had the worst one-batter record in the majors last year.
Of course, the Yankees recently traded Heredia to the Mets for Mike Stanton, who recorded five outs in six one-batter appearances. In fact, the Mets had one of the best one-batter records in the majors last year. Think that will change?
References & Resources
Please note that this article is not a definitive study of the LOOGY strategy.