12-Man Staffs? Yeah, I Got Your 12-Man Staff Right Here!

I was noodling around a post on one angle about the 1976 Tigers (why, don’t ask) and found a nugget that I thought I should pass along.

Right now, baseball’s conventional wisdom is to use 12-man pitching staffs for whatever reason. Loogys and roogys and ‘proven closers’ and all that nonsense.

It wasn’t that long ago, really, that teams used 12-man staffs. But that was for the entire season!

Case in point, the 1976 Tigers, who used just twelve pitchers all year. One of them (Joe Coleman) was sent packing in early June. Another (Ed Glynn) was a September call-up. Frank MacCormack and Dave Lemanczyk spent time in Evansville (lovely in the summer no doubt), so it was up to guys like Bare and his compadres (Roberts, Fidrych, Ruhle, Laxton, Grilli, Crawford and Hiller) to toe the slab for the Bengals on a daily basis.

This bunch of Tigers were resoundingly mediocre with only Fidrych and Hiller shining on the hill. When guys like Bare went out there, it was always teetering between ‘good enough’ and ‘get someone up pronto’.

You may ask with this wonderful collection of zzzzz on the hill why didn’t they grab guys from Evansville to help. Now, of course, teams use their powers of options and DFAs to keep a revolving cast of 15-20 pitchers in and out of the big league clubhouse.

It was a much different world and explains why the mid-70′s Tigers were rotten. They had juts four farm teams (Evansville, Montgomery, Lakeland and Bristol) so there weren’t that many options. The AAA Triplets (no fooling!) were 55-81 and didn’t entice many from the Pocket City to venture to Bosse Field. Though certainly players like Milt Wilcox and Fernando Arroyo could have helped. But times were tough down there – old-timer (OK, he was 28 but still it seemed like he was around forever by then) Boots Day hurled in 13-games.

Yes, Boots Day, the old Expos CF, pitched in 13 games in Evansville in 1976. Heck, he didn’t do too bad – a 3.94 ERA and a 1.375 WHIP.

Maybe that’s why Ralph Houk had his staff iron man it up in Detroit. Either that, or it was a threat, “Bare! I’ll call up a washed up CF to take your spot in the bullpen if you don’t pitch well today!”

 

Still Here

May 22, 2012

My job and my Bugs & Cranks writing has occupied my time. More soon, I promise.

Mo Money, Mo Bigga Problems

In the real world, you reward your most efficient and productive performers with promotions and pay raises. Ok, that’s how it’s SUPPOSED to work, and except for nepotism and other more nefarious -isms, it works fairly well.

Why is it back-asswards in baseball?

Why do the pitchers that do the real grunt work (keeping games close, working with runners on base in high leverage situations) get nothing, while glorified pretty boys that pitch in relative comfort and ease get the cash money?

You can make a great argument that pitching in the 8th or 9th when you are down just one run impacts a team more than pitching with a two or three run lead in the ninth, especially if you inherit runners in the former and breeze into the latter with 6-7-8 coming to the dish.

But just because managers mangle their bullpens for a stat (that really is kind of meaningless unless you combine it with holds and add leverage to it) doesn’t mean you have to reward it, and then mangle your bullpens to save a pitcher for a situation that won’t occur but instead allow replacement level pitchers to decide games.

Oh, it makes me mad. But again, I root out inefficiencies for a living. Baseball bullpen usage, currently, is probably as inefficient of a process as any I’ve encountered.

Won’t You Spare Me Over For Another Year?

I remember getting this card as a kid. Scratch that, I remember getting about a half-dozen of these cards as a kid.

Trust me, for the group of kids I was friends with, having spare Angels cards didn’t endear you to trading partners, unless you had extra Nolan Ryans or Frank Tananas hanging around.

Looking at the back of this card, seeing his less than stellar major league career to that point, the best you could do with a Mike Miley was a throw-in just to rid yourself of the doubles or triples.

Then, you notice that he didn’t get a card in 1978. You may have noticed that he wasn’t in the minor league stats for the Angels in 1977.

Then, in early 1978 you read something in a preview magazine about the Angels trying to regroup at short with Rance Mulliniks and Dave Chalk because of ineffectiveness of their prospects and…

…the death of Mike Miley.

Whoa.

Because the Angels were really out of your radar screen even after their big free agent signings (Rudi, Baylor, Grich) you didn’t really notice them all too much. They were in the wrong league and their games were always ‘late game not included’ in the morning newspaper, and in the afternoon newspaper (remember those?) they were two lines and a box score.

So, if you were me, you’d try to figure out what happened. That means a trip to the library to find old Sporting News from before the 1977 season, since you only bought those to get the minor league stats (as you were a junior stats geek already).

Car crash in early 1977.

Then you find out more about Miley. He was a gifted two-sport athlete at LSU and was the starting QB and SS for the Tigers. That’s pretty impressive. Can you imagine the hype now for a college athlete by Miley? ESPN would have daily updates on what sport he would choose.

The Angels being who they were, they thrust him into the system a bit too quickly. He started in AA and showed decent power, but had a lousy 1975 in the PCL (hitting .209 in the PCL was pretty awful) but rebounded with a strong 1976 at Salt Lake and looked like he was going to pan out. He had a little power, some speed, a lot of patience, and was improving defensively.

Then, it was over. Not just his baseball career, his existence.

He’s remembered fondly with stadiums and streets in certain places, sure. But he never really had a chance to establish his legacy in the baseball world, or the real world.

I wrote this about Mariano Rivera’s asking for some perspective. Rivera had a long career, and his ending, while sudden, would not be tragic nor sad.

Miley’s ending was both.

As a kid, I never knew that he was gone when I pulled this card. I threw him into the ‘not good’ pile and left him there.

How would I have reacted if I knew about his untimely passing? The 46-year old me speculates that I would have treated him with more respect than that.

But it’s a far cry from age 12 to age 46.

Did Somebody Say Scam?

Whew, I’m back in rainy South Florida, as opposed to Minnesota where the day of my daughters’ soccer practice it was 40 degrees and raining. Fun!

“Nails”, as you may know, is in the hoosegow for his scams, crimes and misdemeanors and has another trial this summer on federal charges. It’s not a good day to be the dude.

Why post Lenny’s card? Well, you may have seen this article on Deadspin. It’s a sad, cautionary tale about hijacking creativity and scamming folks who are creative and may not be the best business people in the world.

So, net denizens, be careful of who you’re dealing with if people offer you riches, fame and glory. Or free cards, or whatever.

(Note: I can give you my Paypal account info if you wish to make a fine donation to my card addiction…)

 

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