MLB Managerial Tendencies: Over The Hill
Each week, Chris Bouvier provides analysis on the managers around the league. More specifically, he breaks down who they are, how they manage their bullpens, how they make their lineups, and how they handle the run game.
Folks, we have reached the end of an era. Félix Hernández , or “King Felix” as he’s been called by us all for the last decade, has been removed from his role as a starting pitcher for the Seattle Mariners. Mariners manager Scott Servais is making the move to put Hernandez in the bullpen in a long relief role. His team is in the midst of a playoff run sitting five games back of the Houston Astros in the AL West and one and a half games back of the Oakland Athletics for the final wild card spot.
This is a major change in Seattle for all parties involved as Hernandez pitched 190 or more innings in every season from 2006-2015. His career 3.32 era and 2400-plus strikeouts also represent a longtime representation of dominance that has abruptly come to a screeching halt over the last couple of seasons. Still only 32 years old you’d think he’d have plenty left in the tank, however, he’s pitched just over 2600 innings in his career that began when he was just 19 years young. To give you an idea of what kind of workload King Felix has dealt with for only being 32, Pedro Martinez pitched just over 2800 innings in his entire career.
This brings us to this edition of Managerial Tendencies where we examine other situations where underperforming pitchers are getting starts just because of the veteran leadership they bring to their teams. We’ll break down each situation and take a look at which managers should make a move similar to the one Servais is making in Seattle. Welcome to “Over the hill”!
Joe Maddon (Chicago Cubs)
If you google the term “regression” you’ll likely find a nice picture of Cubs pitcher Jon Lester telling some kid to get off of his lawn or announcing his hate for that “analytics BS”. Well the analytics say that he is terrible and isn’t the pitcher his surface numbers showed him to be. Needless to say, the analytics were spot on. Before we get into why he is pitching horribly let us first say that the Cubs don’t have much depth in that rotation and aren’t likely to remove Lester from a starting role with Yu Darvish being injured still and the Tyler Chatwood experiment failing epically. Also, Joe Maddon is a sucker for veteran leadership roles and probably wouldn’t make a change even if he had a little depth to turn to. Where were we? Oh yeah, Jon Lester is atrocious, yes.
Jon Lester in the first half of the season had a 2.58 era, wait, what? Yes, Lester was 11-2 with a 2.58 era in the first half. I know, what’s the catch? The catch is that Lester had a very low .253 BABIP, a 4.61 xFIP and a not-so-good 2.15 K/BB ratio in that same first half. His swinging strike rate is also 8.3% this season. Matt Davidson , the third baseman for the White Sox has a 13.6% SwStr% in his three innings of work on the mound this season. Obviously, that’s a small sample size but it’s hilarious. Regression has not been kind to Lester in the second half of 2018 with his 10.32 era in 22.2 innings. One last reason he needs to go, his nine home runs and 41% hard hit rate given up thus far in the second half. Need we say more?
Andy Green (San Diego Padres)
This one is much more practical for the Padres to do than it would be for the Cubs with Lester. Manager Andy Green has an extremely deep farm system in San Diego to dig into to make changes with his big league club. The player of focus in San Diego is Clayton Richard . He’s simply not very good. Unlike Lester, there isn’t even really anything remotely positive to say like “he’s been lucky”. Pitching in a pitchers paradise is all that is saving him and even those numbers aren’t all that special. In San Diego, Richard has a 3.66 xFIP but is giving up a ridiculous 44.3% hard contact rate. His extreme ground ball tendencies however, are keeping him serviceable at home, barely.
On the road, Richard is bottom of the barrel statistically speaking. His 6.28 era, 4.82 xFIP, 1.58 K/BB ratio and .349 wOBA have to make you cringe. As stated previously, the Padres are loaded with young talent all over the diamond in that farm system and it’s only a matter of time before Andy Green says enough is enough. San Diego has to start looking at making moves for the future being 25 games below .500. The main concern with the move away from Richard is that San Diego is notorious for making head scratching roster decisions, i.e. Eric Hosmer , so if you’re hoping for it happen this season tread carefully.
Jeff Banister (Texas Rangers)
The situation we have for you in Texas breaks all of our hearts. Big Sexy, aka Bartolo Colón , as exciting as his starts are to watch has been a bottom five starter this season. Texas is 21.5 games back of Houston in the AL West and don’t have much to play for in 2018. Colon is clearly just bridging the gap for the youth movement in the Rangers system so they may not remove him from his role until they feel one of their minor league arms are ready this season. Texas has six pitchers in their top ten prospect list but only two of them are above A-ball at this moment.
Colon, 45, is a national treasure with his adventurous inter-league at bats, running the bases, defensive plays and the joy he brings us all by watching him play the game of baseball. The problem is, he’s not any good anymore. He has a 4.62 xFIP, 13.1% K rate (not a typo), 43% hard hit rate and has given up 26 home runs in 130.1 innings this season. Bannister and the Rangers don’t ever seem to be in a hurry to bring up their prospects and the team is getting very old. This is a list of ages of some of the Rangers starters as of right now, 36,34,29,39,32,33 and Bartolo Colón at 45. They have to start picking a direction, however, it’s looking more and more like a Phillies situation after they won the World Series in 2008. Philadelphia got old really quickly and ownership refused to sell until everyone retired or got released. The time for an injection of youth is now for Texas and Jeff Banister.