Joe Torre is often spoken of as one of the greatest managers of his generation, but I think we have to consider the jury still out on whether or not this is true.
Now certainly winning 4 World Series titles in the span of 5 years is impressive, but looking back on how strong those teams are, it is a legitimate question whether a reasonably intelligent baboon drawing lineups out of a hat could have achieved the same results, and Yankees fans have a legitimate question as well when they wonder why Torre hasn’t been able to win even more titles given how strong some of his later Yankees squads have been.
I think we definitely have to give Torre credit where credit is due when it comes to massaging all the huge egos he has had to deal with over the years, which more and more seems to be a manager’s primary job these days. But evidence continues to mount that as an actual field manager, Torre is not particularly creative or flexible, especially in his use of the bench and bullpen.
We have already chronicled in this space Torre’s odd prediliction for playing aging Latin utility infielders who can’t get on base. But now it is time to discuss his use of the bullpen, especially after Torre pitched Scott Proctor yesterday in the eighth inning of a game his team was winning 12-0.
Joe Torre loves Scott Proctor. So much so that I’m pretty sure he would pitch Proctor every single game of the season if he thought he could get away with it. Last season, Torre pitched Proctor 83 times for a total of 102.1 innings pitched, which easily led all major league relievers (Salomon Torres was a distant second place with 93.1 IP). This season, Torre is at it again, and Proctor is on pace to pitch in 82 games.
Now Proctor’s games and innings pitched numbers, while certainly high, are not unprecedented, and if he were being used responsibly, they would not necessarily be cause for concern. The trouble is, unlike nearly all other managers, Torre seems to use his bullpen with little attention to how much rest a pitcher has had or the need to give guys a day off every now and then. If Torre pitched Proctor 100 innings but regularly gave him a day off to rest every other day, that would be one thing, but instead he does the exact opposite. Scott Proctor has pitched more games on 0 days rest (16) than games on one day’s rest (15).
You see, each year Torre gets it into his head that only one of his pitchers can be relied upon to get outs in the 7th or 8th inning. He then proceeds to pitch that guy *every* time the game is close and in the 7th or 8th, regardless of whether or not that guy has just pitched 3 games in a row. Just for good measure, he also pitches that guy other random times, like bringing Proctor in in the 8th inning of a 12-0 blowout yesterday.
The result is that every year Mariano Rivera and the annointed out-getter pitch 80-100 innings each, while the rest of the pen pitches only 35-40 innings apiece. Basically, it’s a two-man bullpen plus a bunch of mop-up men. Who don’t even necessarily get to mop up, apparently, even in a 12-0 game.
The past two years Proctor has been the only man Torre feels he can trust. In previous years Torre insanely overused guys like Steve Karsay, Chris Hammond, Paul Quantrill, and Tom Gordon. Notice a trend? Each of those guys suffered significant and debilitating injuries within two years of being “the” guy out of Torre’s pen.
Scott Proctor should enjoy the use of his right arm while he still can.