I’ve gone through the bullpen mainstays, and I’m really not up to tackling Manny Acosta right now. So let’s talk bullpen management. Last year (this stat is from the Bill James Handbook) Bobby was the manager most likely to use a pitcher on consecutive days. I think we all knew that, instinctively, but it’s been confirmed.
Here’s the thing; this was the second consecutive season in which this was the case, but Bobby’s total relievers used went down from a league-leading 545 to a more normal 488. This is, no doubt, due to the much stronger starting rotation. Basically, the appearances by the back of the bullpen were shrunk as the starters took their innings, but Bobby piled on his top relievers more than ever. The list of most-used relievers in the majors was dominated by Braves, as Moylan, Gonzalez, O’Flaherty, and Soriano were all in the top ten in appearances. However, the next-most used reliever was Acosta, who tied for 188th, and had only one more outing than the most prolific starters.
Piling appearances on your best relievers makes sense, especially in a pennant race… but all of the top four except O’Flaherty were injury concerns coming in. On the other hand, since the Braves didn’t control Soriano’s or Gonzalez’s rights (or at least didn’t think that they did) using them hard is, if a bit cynical, arguably correct.
Off-topic, Bobby also led the majors in sacrifice bunt attempts and in pinch-runners used. This probably reflects the early season when the Braves were having such trouble scoring even though the offense didn’t seem like it should be so bad. The 125 sacrifice bunt attempts were a career high; it marked the third time, but the first since 2000, that Bobby led in sac bunts called. He actually only called for 37 pinch-runners, but the bench shortages caused by bloated bullpens have changed the standards. Bobby’s led the league in pinch runners six times now, but in previous years that always required a number in the fifties — except for 2000, when he used a remarkable 72 pinch-runners.
The good news is that he managed to control, somewhat, his penchant for calling for intentional walks. In 2007 he called for 89 and in 2008 80, both league-leading totals. Last year, he held it to more normal 59. Again, this is probably a reflection of better pitching rather than a paradigm change… BIS keeps track of the results of intentional walks, and as you’d expect they backfire a good bit. In 2007, Bobby called for so many IBB that he led in all of their categories — “good” results, “bad” results, and “bombs”. In 2008, he led in the latter two. He just called too many of the damned things, so they were bound to backfire.