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Managing Starting Pitcher Workloads-Ralph Houk Part I

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

“One outstanding long man and one outstanding short man win pennants- not starters.” -Ralph Houk, 1978.

Ralph Houk aka “the Major” managed in 20 major league seasons which included stretches in the three decades being studied- the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. The former part-time Yankees catcher had an overall managerial won/loss record of 1,619-1,531. He won three consecutive AL pennants in his first three seasons as a major league manager with loaded New York Yankee teams. With Detroit and then with Boston, Houk oversaw both teams’ rebuilding efforts.

Unlike Billy Martin, Houk wasn’t consistently above the MLB PWP (Pitcher Work Points- How PWP's are calculated can be found in the Billy Martin article) average during his managerial career. Houk’s working of his starters was impacted greatly by the kind of bullpen he possessed. However, that is not to say that when Houk spotted a workhorse on his staff he did not get the most out of the pitcher. In many cases he did and in said cases, the pitcher was usually young and had just burst onto the scene.

Ralph Houk is ranked second in terms of managerial starting pitcher workloads. Houk’s ranking is mainly due to the number of times he slow-hooked his pitchers. Houk is ranked only 12th in terms of PWP/162 games but first in percentage of total starting pitchers slow-hooked (SH/SP Total %) and fourth in percentage of slow-hooks to starts (SH%).

During his managerial career Houk had a total of 91 pitchers start at least one game; of those 91 starting pitchers, Houk slow-hooked 48 or 52.75% of them at least once. Houk and Earl Weaver are the only managers reviewed to have slow-hooked more than half of their starting pitchers. Houk’s slow-hook total of 247 is 7.82% of the 3,158 total games in which he managed. Houk trails only managers Billy Martin, Leo Durocher and Red Schoendienst in percentage of total starts that resulted in a slow-hook.

Houk’s top five pitchers in terms of PWP’s make up 33.75% of his 132,917 PWP total. In other words, Houk’s PWP total is spread amongst more pitchers. Conversely a manager such as Red Schoendienst who had the privilege of managing the likes of Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton, true workhouse pitchers, has a PWP total of 110,391 of which 60.30% is attributed to his top five pitchers. Only Gene Mauch and Dick Williams had lower percentages than Houk’s 33.75%. Below are the pitchers that Houk worked the hardest during his managerial career:

Table 1- Top 10 Pitcher Workloads Under Hoak

Two pitchers on that list, Mickey Lolich and Joe Coleman, also appear on Billy Martin’s top 5 list of pitchers that Martin had worked the hardest. Houk replaced Martin as manager of the Detroit Tigers beginning in 1974. The table below provides a comparison as to how Houk and Martin worked both Lolich and Coleman:

Table 2- Pitcher Workloads for Lolich & Coleman Under Houk & Martin

In terms of PWP/start and estimated average pitch-count per start, Martin worked both Lolich and Coleman more than Houk. However, on a percentage basis, Houk slow-hooked both Lolich and Coleman far more often than Martin had. In reviewing Martin’s managing of his starters’ workload it was discovered that Martin’s slow-hooking of Lolich was mainly the result of his desire for Lolich to continue to pitch into extra-innings. What was the reason for Houk’s slow-hooking of both Lolich and Coleman? The table below breaks down slow-hooks into the three slow-hook sub-categories for both Lolich and Coleman under Houk and Martin:

Table 3- Lolich & Coleman Slow-Hook Type

To review, there are three different types of slow-hooks:

1. Pitcher pitches beyond nine innings (Ex Inn SH)

2. Pitcher gives up seven or more runs (Blowout SH or BO SH)

3. Pitcher’s runs allowed plus innings pitched equals 13 or greater (IP + R SH)

Houk slow-hooked Lolich due to an extra-inning game only three times whereas Martin had done so eight times. Five of Houk’s Lolich slow-hooks were due to Lolich giving up seven or more runs. Martin had done the same only once. Nineteen of the 22 total Houk slow-hooks of Lolich were in starts in which Lolich either gave up seven or more runs or his combined total of runs allowed and innings pitched was equal to or greater than 13. In similar situations, Martin had done the same in 10 of 19 Lolich slow-hook starts. Similar to Lolich, 13 of 15 Coleman slow-hooks were the result of Houk allowing Coleman to endure a start in which he gave up seven or more runs or his innings pitched in addition to his runs allowed totaled 13 or greater. Martin had done the same in 8 of 13 Coleman slow-hooks.

Houk slow-hooking pitchers in blow-outs (seven or more runs allowed) and in starts in which the pitcher’s runs allowed combined with innings pitched totaling 13 or more was higher compared to the MLB average in the years 1960 to 1988. The table below provides a year by year breakdown of Houk’s slow-hooks and provides a comparison to the totals of the 24 managers reviewed:

Table 4- Breakdown of Houk's Slow-Hooks

Houk is responsible for 8.57% (247 of 2,882) of the slow-hooks that occurred in baseball in the years 1960 thru 1988 and that were managed by the 24 managers in this review. Moreover, Houk’s slow-hooks in blowouts were approximately 5.22% greater than the average of the 24 managers under review. In fact, of the 30 slow-hooks involving 10 or more runs allowed by a starter, Houk is responsible for four, second only to Chuck Tanner’s total of six. Those four slow-hooks are listed below:

Table 5- All Managers' Slow-Hook Types

The August 18, 1974 Joe Coleman start was a close game up until the bottom of the eighth when the Oakland A’s scored nine unearned runs to break the game open. Coleman was forced to face ten batters that inning thanks in large part to two errors committed by his defense. Houk finally lifted Coleman after the last five batters Coleman faced had reached base. Tigers’ reliever Jim Ray then promptly gave up a 3-run homerun to Gene Tenace. The Tigers lost the game 13-3.

The Doug Bird start occurred in ’83 while Houk was managing the Red Sox. In an extremely windy day at Comiskey, Bird served up four homeruns to the White Sox in just 2 2/3 innings. In all Bird ended up being charged 11 earned runs.

Yankee Great Whitey Ford

The first of the two Whitey Ford 10+ run starts occurred on April 26, 1961. ’61 was Ford’s Cy Young Award winning season. The Yankees had jumped out to a 6-0 lead after one and one-half innings versus the Tigers but eventually gave up the lead in the seventh inning when Detroit scored five to take an 11-8 lead. Ford was charged with ten of those runs, only six of which were earned as the Yankees had committed four errors in the game. New York came back to tie and eventually win the game in the 10th inning thanks to a Mickey Mantle two-run homerun. Of note, prior to this game Yankee starters had failed to last more than five innings in their previous four contests. The Yankees lost three of those games with the other ending in a tie once that game was called after seven innings due to rain.

The July 2, 1966 start was Ford’s next to last start that season. It was also Ford’s first start in over a month. The veteran left-hander had been sidelined with an inflamed elbow. Prior to the sixth inning, Ford had pitched reasonably well against his Washington Senator opponents. He had allowed three runs over five innings; however in the sixth, thanks to two Yankee errors, the Senators erupted for seven runs which included three consecutive homeruns hit by Frank Howard, Don Lock and Ken McMullen. Howard’s shot hit the right field scoreboard in D.C. Stadium. Lock’s dinger was hit into the upper deck in left field. Despite the seven runs scored and the two no-doubt home-runs hit by Howard and Lock as well as McMullen’s dinger, Houk allowed his battered starter to complete the inning. The Daily News’ Dick Young speculated as to why Houk had allowed Ford to endure that entire sixth inning:

“Why did Houk leave him (Ford) in there to take the seven-run shelling in the sixth? Out of respect, no doubt. When you have been what Whitey Ford has been to the Yankees, you earn the right to walk off the field under your own power, and that’s what Whitey Ford did, chin up and looking straight ahead (1).”

When Houk was asked about Ford’s start, the Yankee manager plainly replied, “I thought he did all right, considering how long it’s been since he pitched (2).” Ford made his next start which turned out to be his last start of the season four days later on July 6. After that July 6 start Ford pitched out of the bullpen up until being placed on the disabled list in late August due to a reoccurring circulation problem that affected his left hand.

Surprisingly, despite managing Whitey Ford in five different seasons, Houk slow-hooked Ford only 11 times out of 124 games started or in approximately 8.90% of Ford’s starts. Almost the same can be said of Mel Stottlemyre. Stottlemyre made a total of 287 starts under Houk and was slow-hooked 22 times or in 7.67% of his starts. Conversely, Houk slow-hooked Mickey Lolich a total of 22 times in only 73 games started or in just over 30% of Lolich’s starts. Below is a table containing the pitchers Houk slow-hooked in excess of five percent of their total games started:

Table 6- Houk's Most Often Slow-Hooked Pitchers

Lolich is clearly ahead of all pitchers in terms of percentage of slow-hooks to games started. Interestingly, Oil Can Boyd with eight slow-hooks in 40 games started is second at 20% surpassing even Mark Fidrych, whose 1976 season is perhaps one of baseball’s most memorable seasons for a rookie pitcher.

That year Fidrych had broken camp with the Tigers. Detroit was coming off a major league worst 57-102 record the previous season. Nevertheless Houk was determined to field a competitive team in ’76: “As I’ve said before, this is not a rebuilding year; I feel I’ve got to do certain things to try and make this the best team possible right from the start (3),” Houk told the press just prior to the opening of the season. Houk’s original plan for the 1976 season was to roster nine pitchers; however, Houk decided to go with ten pitchers which included Fidrych. Houk had added Fidrych to the roster based on the recommendation of his scouts. “From what our people have told me about Fidrych, he’s a big-league pitcher. We simply have got to give this fellow a chance. He needs a lot of work, but if eventually everything works out right, he can move right into that fifth starting slot when we need him (4)” Houk opined just after the Tigers broke camp.

Houk’s plan for Fidrych was to “bring him along slowly (5)” and to pitch Fidrych “one to

The "Bird" Mark Fidrych

two innings at a time (6).” After having Fidrych appear just twice in relief in the first month of the season, Houk started the eccentric right-hander on May 15 versus the Cleveland Indians. In his first major league start, Fidrych fired a two-hitter to beat Cleveland 2-1. He allowed just one walk and stuck out five. Houk expressed how impressed he was with Fidrych’s starting debut in his postgame interview with the media: “He was really something. I really didn’t know what to expect from him….the amazing thing about him was that he was as strong at the end of the game as he was at the start (7).” Fidrych threw an estimated 109 pitches.

Fidrych proceeded to win four of his next five starts, all complete games including two 11-inning efforts. By June 16th Fidrych was 5-1 with a 1.86 ERA. Overall though, the Tigers were just 25-31 and 12-20 since Fidrych had joined the rotation. During that stretch the Tigers, desperate for starting pitching, had attempted to acquire three-time 20-game winner Vida Blue from the Oakland Athletics. The Tigers met the $1 million price tag placed on Blue by Athletics’ owner Charlie Finley; however, Blue refused to sign a new contract if traded to the Tigers (8). With the Tigers being unable to obtain Blue or any other starter for that matter to address their lack of starting pitching, Houk elected to go with a four-man rotation for the rest of the season (9). Commenting specifically on Fidrych being able to start every fourth day as opposed to every fifth, Houk offered the following, “You couldn’t pitch every 21 year-old every fourth day. Right now I am doing what I think is right for him….I’m not going to exploit or ruin any young good pitcher (10).” Houk was a firm believer that Fidrych could handle the change in the number of days of rest between starts.

Despite the one less day of rest in between starts, Fidrych continued to excel. By the end of July, Fidrych was 11-3 with a 1.80 ERA. After a July 29th 1-0 Fidrych complete-game loss to the Baltimore Orioles, Houk had commented that his rookie sensation had showed signs of fatigue prior to that Baltimore start. “I thought his arm was a little tired his last two starts. He was throwing a lot harder tonight than his last two games (11).” The “last two games” Houk was referring to were a nine-inning complete game win over the Twins, a game in which the Tigers won 11-2 and a 4.1 inning outing versus the Indians which was Fidrych’s shortest outing of the year up to that point.

Shortly thereafter, in early August of ’76, famed baseball writer Ken Boswell penned an article titled: “Baseball Has First Bumper Crop of Young Stars in 20 Years.” In the article Boswell identified the best young players in the majors. Boswell’s list of great young up and coming starting pitchers obviously included Fidrych. Also appearing on Boswell’s list were Frank Tanana, Rich Rhoden, John Candelaria, Larry Christenson and Bill Travers (12). How were these young pitchers’ workloads managed in 1976 compared to Houk’s handling of Fidrych? Below is a comparison:

Table 7- 1976 Workloads for Young Pitching Stars

In terms of average estimated pitch count, Fidrych was just behind Tanana. Fidrych also trailed Tanana in PWP/start and slow-hooks. Unlike Fidrych though, Tanana was not a rookie. Tanana was a 16-game winner in ’75 and had finished fourth in Cy Young Award voting that year. With respect to Rhoden, Candelaria, Christenson and Travers, Fidrych finished ahead of all four in the three categories.

Fidrych’s 1976 season earned him the AL Rookie of the Year Award. He also finished 2nd in AL Cy Young Award Voting to future Hall of Famer Jim Palmer. A comparison between Fidrych’s and Palmer’s workloads can be found in the table below:

Table 8- Comparison of Fidrych Workload to Jim Palmer

Houk worked Fidrych at a rate greater than that of a three-time Cy Young Award winner and up to that point, a six-time 20-game winner in Jim Palmer. In the years 1960 thru 1988, no rookie pitcher that had the success that Fidrych had in ’76 approached Fidrych’s workload. Below is a list of all Rookie Pitcher of the Year Award Winners for the years 1960 to 1988 as selected by The Sporting News (TSN) as well as each pitcher’s workload excluding relievers:

Table 9- TSN Pitcher Rookie of the Year Workloads

Fidrych is the only pitcher whose PWP/Start is in triple digit territory at 114. Both Fidrych’s estimated average pitch-count per start and total number of slow-hooks was also the highest amongst all TSN rookies of the year pitchers. Second in terms of slow-hooks is Detroit Tiger Dave Rozema with five in 1977. Rozema was also managed by Ralph Houk. Rozema’s PWP/start though is approximately 54 points lower than Fidrych’s mainly due to Rozema’s estimated average pitch-count per start being 115 versus Fidrych’s 125.

Fidrych averaged about 8 2/3 innings per start in ’76 in 29 starts. In ’77 Rozema averaged just over 7 2/3 innings over his 28 starts. Houk had extended Fidrych approximately one inning more per start in Fidrych’s rookie season than he had done with Rozema in Rozema’s first year in the majors. Naturally comparisons between Rozema’s 1977 rookie season and Fidrych’s ’76 season were being made in the press. Houk himself compared the two pitchers by stating that, “They both have that strong pitch- a sinking fastball- and excellent control. Fidrych has more velocity and Rozema a better change (13).”

Houk though may have understated Rozema’s change-up. After Rozema tossed a complete game shut-out versus the Boston Red Sox in just his third career start, Red Sox shortstop Rick Burleson described Rozema’s repertoire by saying, “He has a sinker and a slider but what he really has is an excellent change of pace (14).” Brewers’ first baseman Cecil Cooper concurred although he initially described Rozema’s stuff as “junk.” Cooper though conceded the fact that Rozema was very effective by stating, “That’s not to say he’s not a good pitcher. He gets you to swing at what he wants you to swing at. He’s tantalizing….With him you’ve got to be patient and wait on the ball. But heck, I used a heavier bat tonight, 37 ounces, and I was still out in front (15).”

Dave Rozema

Indeed, Rozema was in no way a power pitcher; his fastball usually clocked-in at about 83 to 85 mph (16). Instead of relying on velocity, Rozema relied on his control and moving the ball around the plate as well as keeping his pitches low in order to induce groundball outs. “I’m not overpowering. I try to stick it on the corners and make it sink. The slower I throw the more it sinks, and that’s how I get my groundballs and double plays (17),” Rozema explained to the press after a complete game victory versus the Milwaukee Brewers in May of ’77. Rozema’s excellent control was what set him apart from most starting pitchers. In fact, Houk labelled Rozema’s control as the “best control of any young pitcher that I have ever seen (18).” Indeed, in 1977 Rozema walked only 34 hitters in just over 218 innings pitched making Rozema one of only two rookie pitchers, along with New York Yankee Fritz Peterson in 1966 who incidentally was also managed by Houk, to walk 40 or less batters in 200 or more innings pitched in a season. Both Rozema’s and Peterson’s rookie season workloads are contained in the table below:

Table 10- Fritz Peterson & Dave Rozema Rookie Season Workloads

Houk was Peterson’s manager for 28 of his 32 starts in ’66. Under Houk Peterson completed 10 games, threw 196 innings, and gave up 177 hits and 39 walks. He struck out 89 batters. In ’77 Rozema completed 16 games, threw just over 218 innings, allowed 222 hits and 34 walks to go along with his 92 strike outs. Houk allowed Rozema to work close to 0.80 more innings per start over Peterson including six more complete games. Moreover, Houk slow-hooked Rozema five times in ’77, three more times than he had done with Peterson.

However, neither Rozema nor Peterson was required to pitch beyond nine innings in their rookie seasons as opposed to Fidrych whom Houk had allowed to pitch beyond nine innings six times in 1976. Fidrych’s estimated average pitch-count in slow-hooked starts that year, five of which were the result of pitching into extra-innings was 156. Rozema averaged an estimated pitch-count of 130 in his slow-hook starts.

Having both the stamina and wherewithal to pitch a complete game were important to Houk, while managing the Tigers at least. After completing “only” one of his first five starts in ’77, three of which the Tiger bullpen had blown, Rozema reeled off a string of five consecutive complete games. Later in the year, Rozema threw eight straight complete games. After his seventh complete game during that string, Houk commented on Rozema’s ability to go nine innings and his confidence in sticking with his rookie in the latter innings of a game: “Where he’s gotten so much better is in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. He’s steady. Not overthrowing. Not trying to get the game over too quick (19).” In 1976 Fidrych had three streaks of six complete games. Of note, despite Houk having the venerable John Hiller in his bullpen, the 1976 and 1977 Tiger pens ranked next to last in the majors by way of WPA/pLI – WPA/LI in each season.

Late in both ’76 and ‘77 the hope in the Detroit media was that rookies Mark Fidrych in ‘76 and Dave Rozema, one year later, would be able to make enough starts to win 20 games. A 20-win season by a rookie hadn’t been accomplished since Bob Grim had done so in 1954 pitching for the 103-game winning New York Yankees. Coincidentally Houk was a part of that Yankee team, albeit he appeared in just one game, that as a pinch hitter. For Fidych to have a shot at winning 20 games in ‘76, Houk would had to have rejigged his rotation and possibly pitch Fidrych on two days’ rest. Houk though wasn’t having any of that; “No way am I going to take a chance on ruining him by pitching him on two days’ rest (20).”

In Rozema’s case a stiff right shoulder suffered in September derailed his chance at a 20-win season. Again Houk was cautious with his starter: “I’m not going to let him throw until I’m sure he’s all right. I’m not taking any chances with him. Things look too good for the future to risk going through the whole winter wondering if he has a bad arm (21).” Rozema’s last start in ’77 was made on September 9.

Mark Fidrych and Dave Rozema weren’t the first two impactful rookie pitchers that Houk had managed. In 1963 while with the Yankees, Houk managed a 22 year-old Al Downing who had been called up in early June of that season. Downing had actually made his major league debut in 1961, Houk’s first season managing the Yankees. In his first big league start in ’61, Downing was unable to record an out in his second inning of work. Instead he gave up one hit, walked three and hit a batter before Houk summoned for his bullpen. In addition Downing made four relief appearances that season. In ’62 Downing was limited to just one relief appearance which occurred in the Yankees’ final game of the regular season.

Left-Handed Flame Thrower Al Downing

In June of 1963, the Yankees recalled Downing. Downing was still considered a rookie at the time. Downing was called up to replace Stan Williams in the Yankee rotation. Williams had been acquired the previous November in a trade with the Dodgers in exchange for Bill “Moose” Skowron. Williams was an all-star in 1960 and had won 14 games in 1962 but had developed adhesions in his throwing arm late that season (22) and struggled in the last month including in the Dodgers’ three-game tie breaker playoff vs. the Giants which decided the NL Pennant. Williams’ late season struggles made him expendable to the Dodgers.

After twirling a complete game win in his Yankee debut in ‘63, Williams for the most part struggled. On June 2nd of that year, Williams threw 5.1 innings and allowed six runs (2 unearned) versus the eighth place Indians. As a result, Williams was moved to the bullpen. Interestingly, despite being moved to the bullpen in ’63, Williams still managed 76 PWPs/start that season, the eighth highest yearly average for Houk pitchers with at least 20 starts. Several days after Houk placed Williams in the bullpen, the Yankees shipped 1961 hero and reliever Luis Arroyo to Richmond and called up Al Downing. After Downing threw one inning of relief on June 7th versus the Detroit Tigers, Houk named Downing his fifth starter, replacing Williams in the rotation (23).

Three days later Downing hurled a complete game two-hit shutout versus the Washington Senators. Downing struck out nine and walked three. According to news reports Downing had thrown 141 pitches. The estimated pitch-count for Downing for that June 10th, 1963 start versus Washington was 126. Downing’s next start was against the Tigers after Houk skipped an ineffective Bill Stafford in the rotation. Against Detroit, Downing tossed his second consecutive complete game, limiting the Tigers to two runs. Downing had struck out nine but had walked seven. The estimated pitch-count for that start was 164, the highest for Downing that season and the third highest of his career.

Downing’s next complete game win came on July 2. Downing fired a one-hit gem versus the Chicago White Sox. He struck out 10 but walked six. News reports had Downing throwing 134 pitches. His estimated pitch-count was 140. After Downing’s start against Chicago, Houk declared the flame throwing left-hander as the “next ace of the Yankee pitching staff (24)” and even invoked the name of at the time, three-time all-star Sandy Koufax. “Remember, Downing has had only two years of professional experience. Koufax didn’t make it big until his fifth year (25),” Houk reminded the press after declaring Downing his next ace.

Downing followed up his Chicago start with a 14 strike-out effort versus the Cleveland Indians. By the end of the sixth inning of that game, Downing had struck out 13 and had a legitimate shot at breaking Bob Feller’s record of 18 strike-outs in a game which Feller had set in 1938. However, Houk lifted Downing after 7 2/3 innings after Downing had given up three singles and two walks in the eighth inning. Houk’s reasoning for removing Downing: “He was tired and I didn’t want anything to happen to him. A tired pitcher is apt to hurt his arm by straining and I don't want anything to happen to that arm (26).” Downing’s line was: 7 2/3 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 14K. Downing threw an estimated 144 pitches.

In his next start Downing was sharper with his control and as a result completed his fourth game of the year and his third shutout by goosing the Kansas City Athletics 5-0. Downing struck out 10 and walked two. However, Downing’s wildness returned in his next start, a July 21 rematch versus the Cleveland Indians. This time Downing struck out 10 Indians but walked nine. Game accounts had Downing’s pitch-count at 162. His estimated pitch-count computes to 157.

By the end of the year Downing had accumulated 2,416 PWPs. His PWP/start of 110 that year was second in the majors only to Minnesota Twin Camilo Pasqual’s 129 PWP/start. The next closest was Cleveland Indian Pedro Ramos at 90 PWP/start and Jim Maloney at 89 PWP/start. Below is a table containing the top 20 pitchers in terms of PWP’s in 1963:

Table 11- 1963 Top 20 Pitcher Workloads

When comparing Downing’s 1963 season to that of great rookie pitching seasons as per the TSN Rookie Pitcher of the Year Award, Downing’s workload in ’63 placed on him by Ralph Houk is second only to Houk’s other brilliant rookie Mark Fidrych. Downing’s 110 PWP/start and 122 estimated average pitch-count in 1963 are only slightly below Fidrych’s 114 PWP/start and 125 estimated average pitch-count in ’76.

Al Downing was clearly the workhorse of the 1963 Yankees. Below is a comparison of the workload for each Yankee starting pitcher in 1963:

Table 12- 1963 Workloads For Yankee Starters

Interestingly, Houk did not slow-hook Downing that year. Downing routinely ran up high pitch-counts so it is possible that Houk recognized Downing’s fatigue and managed him accordingly given that Houk slow-hooked Ralph Terry four times and Stan Williams twice that year. Both pitchers’ estimated average pitch-count for 1963 was just over 100 pitches, 22 pitches less than Downing’s estimated average pitch-count. Thanks to Downing, the Yankees’ aggregate starting pitchers’ total PWP/162 jumped from 5,929 in ’62 to 9,940 in ’63. 1963 was one of only five seasons in which Houk’s PWP/162 was greater than the MLB average as the table below illustrates:

Table 13- Houk Seasons With Greatest PWP Difference Above League Average

Surprisingly Jim Bouton was second to Downing in PWP’s (2,163) and estimated average pitch-count (112) in 1963. While not considered a rookie that season, 1963 was only Bouton’s second year in the majors. Bouton made 16 starts in ’62 and averaged approximately 98 pitches per start. He debuted as a starter on May 6 of that year versus the Washington Senators. In that game Bouton shut-out the Sens but allowed seven hits and seven walks. He threw an estimated 155 pitches. Houk had visited Bouton on the mound in the seventh inning after Bouton had issued a one out walk to Washington outfielder Jimmy Piersall, Bouton’s sixth walk of the game. “No, I wasn’t going to take him out, (27)” Houk stated after the game when asked by the press if he contemplated removing Bouton. “I wanted him to have the shutout. The score was 5-0 and I just wanted to loosen him up with a baloney conversation. He seemed to be pressing (28).”

Yankee Right-Hander Jim Bouton

Bouton was slow-hooked by Houk in three of his 16 starts in ’62 all occurring between July 18 and August 1. His estimated average pitch-count in those slow-hook starts were 137, 118 and 137. On July 28 1962, Houk called on Bouton to preserve a 4-3 Yankee lead versus the White Sox. Bouton ended up earning the save. He had pitched on one-day’s rest and had thrown an estimated 100 pitches against the Red Sox just two days prior. The MLB All-Star Game would be played two days later on July 30th which may have been a factor in Houk’s decision to use Bouton as a reliever and close out the game. On August 1, Houk had Bouton go nine innings in a 6-4 victory over Washington which was the third time Houk had slow-hooked Bouton in a span of two weeks. In that game, along with the four earned runs, Bouton allowed seven hits and two walks; he struck out nine. Bouton had a 6-2 lead entering the final frame but survived a two-run Senator ninth to complete the game.

In 1962 the Yankee pitching staff had issues. Whitey Ford was having arm trouble as was Bob Turley. Rollie Sheldon who had won 11 games with a 3.60 ERA in ’61 as a rookie, saw his ERA balloon to 5.49 in ’62. Reliever Luis Arroyo, who had been so effective in 1961, was experiencing elbow soreness in 1962. Given these factors, Bouton’s emergence in ‘62 was very much needed. However, the following year, Houk still had Bouton pegged as a spot starter and reliever (28). In fact, Houk had considered Bouton “too important to take out of the bullpen (29).” It wasn’t until Houk had to skip Bill Stafford in the rotation due to the right-hander suffering from a rash caused by an allergic reaction (30) that Bouton was called upon to make a start in ’63.

That start came on May 12 versus the Baltimore Orioles. Just as he had in his first start in ’62, Bouton threw a complete game in his first start in ’63. Bouton completely dominated the Orioles. He allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out five in a 2-0 shutout. Bouton had been perfect up until O’s second baseman Jerry Adair singled to left in the bottom of the seventh inning. The game was scoreless at the time. Houk though stuck with Bouton and the Yankees ultimately won the game 2-0 thanks in large part to a ninth inning Elston Howard run-scoring double. Bouton threw an estimated 112 pitches.

Shortly after Bouton’s complete game against Baltimore, Houk announced that Bouton would be his fifth starter going forward. “He is going to be our fifth starter (29)…He’s been our main long and short reliever up to now. Now, that job will go to Steve Hamilton (30),” proclaimed Houk.

Bouton followed up his two-hitter versus Baltimore with another complete game win, this time versus the Los Angeles Angels. In this start Bouton allowed three earned runs on only four hits, two of which were Leon Wagner home runs. In fact after Wagner’s second homerun, a two-run shot that cut the Yankee lead to just one in the eighth inning, Houk visited Bouton on the mound. “He made me feel good…he told me to forget about the homers because Wagner hits them against everybody (31),” recalled Bouton in his postgame interview with the press. Bouton was able to retire the last four Angel hitters in order to complete the game and secure the win. Bouton threw an estimated 128 pitches.

Bouton completed two of his next three starts, all of which were wins. Heading into his June 6 start versus once again the Baltimore Orioles, Bouton had an overall record of 7-1 with a 2.25 ERA and was 5-0 with a 1.94 ERA as a starter. However, thanks to a line-drive off of the bat of O’s outfielder Jackie Brandt that squared Bouton right in the jaw and ended up requiring 12 stiches, Bouton had to be removed from the game in the fourth inning. However, he made his next start just four days later in the second game of a double-header versus the Washington Senators. The first game of the double-header was the previously mentioned spectacular two-hit 1963 starting debut thrown by Al Downing. In his half of the doubleheader, Bouton pitched seven innings and allowed just one unearned run. Houk had Roger Maris pinch-hit for Bouton in the top of the eighth with the Yankees trailing 1-0. The Yankees ended up losing the game by the same score.

Bouton followed up his Washington start with another complete game, this time a 4-2 victory over the Tigers. He then went 8 1/3 innings to defeat the Senators 3-2 and tossed yet another complete game four-hit shutout versus Boston. By the All-Star break, Bouton was 11-4 with a 2.76 ERA. He had started 13 games with six being complete games which earned him the first and only All-Star nod of his career.

After the 1963 MLB All-Star Game which occurred on July 9, Houk increased Bouton’s workload. In post All-Star game July starts, Bouton averaged an estimated pitch-count of 121 and 94 PWP’s/start. In August Bouton averaged an estimated 114 pitches per start and 107 PWP’s/start which included two consecutive 153 estimated pitch-count starts that occurred on August 18 and August 23, both versus the Chicago White Sox who were in second place in the AL standings, though a distant 10 ½ games behind the Yankees. The Yankees won Bouton’s August 18 start 8-4 thanks to a four-run Yankee rally in the ninth inning. Bouton went 8 1/3 innings with Hal Reniff recording the last two outs for the save. Bouton had surrendered a season high seven walks which assuredly drove up his pitch-count. In his rematch versus the White Sox, Bouton walked five and gave up 10 hits yet still went the distance in a 7-2 Yankee rout. “My control was off at the start but that may have been because I haven’t pitched since last Sunday. I felt better after the first couple of innings but I did get very tired pitching to the last couple of batters (32),” Bouton told the press after the game.

In the month of September, Bouton’s estimated pitch-counts in his starts were in the 91-109 range with the exception being an estimated 142-pitch effort on September 13 versus the Minnesota Twins. Bouton struck out a season high 11 hitters and scattered six hits to shut the Twins out 2-0, earning him his 20th win of the season. The win also had clinched the AL flag for the Yankees. After the game Bouton credited Ralph Houk for his tremendous season, “Ralph went out on a limb for me and stuck with me when he didn’t have to. I can’t tell him how much I appreciate it but I think I paid him back (33).”

Houlk proclaimed his 1963 Yankees to be the “best Yankee team since 1947 (34)” and singled out his two young “outstanding” pitchers, Al Downing and Jim Bouton, for the Yankees’ terrific 1963 season (35). Whereas Bouton’s estimated average pitch-count per start had dropped to 107 in September, Al Downing’s average remained above 120 pitches, 121 to be exact in the final month of the season. As a starter, Bouton averaged just over 7 1/3 innings per start and completed 40% of his 30 starts. Downing averaged approximately 7 2/3 innings per start and completed 45% of his 22 starts. As Table 11 above shows, Downing topped Bouton in total PWP’s despite starting eight less games as well as PWP’s/start and estimated average pitch-count. Downing being a strikeout pitcher that at times lacked control which drove up his pitch count, were reasons as to why his PWP total was higher than Bouton’s despite the eight less games started. Both pitchers averaged approximately the same amount of innings pitched per start. Downing though averaged approximately 30.77 batters per start while Bouton averaged approximately 29.77 batters per start.

Both Downing and Bouton had their highest PWP’s/start and estimated average pitch-count per start of their careers pitching for Houk in ‘63. Tables 14 and 15 contain Downing’s and Bouton’s PWP total as well as their PWP/start and estimated average pitch-count per start in the years in which they started at least 10 games:

Table 14- Al Downing Workload in Years With at Least 10 Starts

Table 15- Jim Bouton Workload in Years With at Least 10 Starts

Interestingly both Downing and Bouton’s estimated average pitch-count per start dropped by six in 1964 under Yogi Berra who had replaced Houk as Yankee manager. Houk had been promoted to general manager just three years after replacing legendary Yankee manager Casey Stengel in 1961.

Previous to being hired to replace Stengal, Houk had been managing the Yankee American Association affiliate Denver Bears. In 1957 while with Denver, Houk suggested the Yankees convert the hard-throwing Ryne Duren from a starting pitcher to a closer or a “fireman” as they were called in those days (36). In ’58 under Casey Stengel, Duren led the AL in saves with 19. He was 6-4 with a 2.02 ERA and a strikeout rate of 10.3 batters per nine innings. He finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting.

Heading into his first season as Yankee manager in ‘61, Houk opined on the importance of closers such as Duren: “You gotta have an ‘end man’ to win nowadays. You need the fellow to come in and hold a lead in the eighth and ninth. I’m convinced he’s as valuable to a club as a regular starter (37).” That season Houk had his own version of a Ryne Duren in left-handed screw-baller Luis Arroyo. As was the case with Duren, Houk had also been familiar with Arroyo years earlier given that both had ties to the Puerto Rican winter league- Houk as a manager and Arroyo as a pitcher pitching in San Juan during the MLB offseason. In fact, Arroyo was named the Puerto Rican league’s MVP for the 1960-’61 season.

The Yankees purchased Arroyo from Cincinnati Reds’ affiliate Jersey City (Formerly the Havana Sugar Kings until just weeks prior to Arroyo being sold) of the International League during the summer of 1960. The purchase had been made just prior to a key upcoming four-game series versus the Chicago White Sox, who at the time were in a virtual tie with the Yankees atop the American League standings. Arroyo was acquired to shore up a Yankee relief corps that with the exception of Bobby Shantz, had struggled. Arroyo ended up throwing just less than 41 innings that season. He won five games and saved seven with a 2.88 ERA.

Yankee Closer Luis Arroyo

In 1961 under Houk, Arroyo became an integral member of that famous Yankees World Series championship team. That year Arroyo won 15 games and saved another 29 as the Yankees rolled to a 109-53 record and dominated Arroyo’s former team, the Cincinnati Reds, four games to one in the 1961 World Series. In his two appearances in the series Arroyo threw a total of four innings including two scoreless innings in Game 3 in which he was awarded the win in New York’s 3-2 come from behind victory. Ironically, neither of Arroyo’s World Series appearances was in relief of Whitey Ford whom he had routinely come in relief for during the regular season. Indeed, of Arroyo’s 65 appearances in ’61, 23 had been in relief of Ford. Ford had made 39 starts that season. Previously under Stengel, Ford had averaged only 28 starts per season, reason being was that Stengel had “preferred to ‘spot’ Ford and keep him out of routine series’ in order to have him ready for series’ with contenders (38).” Houk on the other hand had placed Ford on a “once-every-fourth-day schedule” in ’61. To keep Ford “fresh,” Houk had Luis Arroyo often coming in relief of his ace.

In Ford starts that season Arroyo worked 36 innings and allowed just three earned runs for a microscopic 0.75 ERA. Arroyo saved 14, won four and lost two in games in which Ford had started. As a result Ford won 25 games, six more than his previous season best which occurred in 1956. That year though, Ford completed 18 games. In 1961, Ford completed “only” 11 games, a rarity for a 20 game-winning pitcher in those days. In fact Ford’s 11 complete games was the least amount of complete games thrown by a 25-game winner at the time. Since then only Steve Stone (1980) and Bob Welch (1990) have accomplished the feat with less complete games than Ford’s 11. Ford was named the 1961 Major League Cy Young Award winner. Ford also finished fifth in AL MVP voting, seven points ahead of Luis Arroyo who finished sixth.

Ford’s total PWP’s as well as PWP/start and average estimated pitch count in ’61 under Houk compared to his numbers in 1960 under Stengel are contained in Table 16:

Table 16- Comparison of Ford's Workloads in '60 and '61

Despite Arroyo frequently coming in relief of Ford in ‘61, Ford threw an estimated 16 more pitches per start under Houk that season than he had under Stengel the year prior. Moreover, Ford was slow-hooked by Houk six times as opposed to only once by Stengel. Of note, Ford did experience some shoulder issues in 1960 which almost assuredly was taken into consideration by Stengel when managing Ford’s workload that year. Clearly though Houk had utilized Ford much more effectively in 1961 than Stengel had the year prior.

Although Ford was the main benefactor of Houk’s utilization of Arroyo in relief that season, youngsters Rollie Sheldon, Bill Stafford and Ralph Terry had also benefitted. Arroyo had relieved Sheldon in 8 of his 21 starts. In starts in which Arroyo made an appearance, Sheldon was 3-0. Overall the Yankees were 6-2 when both Sheldon and Arroyo appeared in the same game. Stafford, who was originally pegged by Houk to be the Yankees’ closer in ’61, was relieved by Arroyo in nine of his 25 starts. Stafford was only 2-2 in those starts; the Yankees as a team though were 7-2. Terry who was 10-8 with a 3.40 ERA in 1960, improved to 16-3 with a 3.15 ERA in ’61 under Houk. Terry was 3-0 in starts in which Arroyo was called upon to relieve him. Overall the Yankees were 5-2 in those games.

After the 1961 season however, Arroyo had lost his effectiveness in large part due to injury. His MLB career ended in 1963. Marshall Bridges supplanted Arroyo as the Yankee’s closer in 1962. That year the total PWP’s earned by Yankee starters dropped from 7,260 in ’61 to 5,929 in 1962 as Houk relied on his bullpen even more than he had the previous year with a healthy and dominant Arroyo at his disposal. The estimated average pitch-count for Yankee starters increased slightly from 91 to 92 from 1961 to 1962. In 1963 however, the estimated average pitch-count per start jumped to 105. As a result, the total PWP/162 for Yankee starters increased to 9,940 or 2,407 greater than the MLB average. As previously mentioned much of that increase can be attributed to Al Downing and Jim Bouton. Houk’s 1963 managerial season trails only his 1984 season in terms of the highest percentage of PWP/162 over the MLB league average in his managerial career (refer to Table 13). Table 17 illustrates Yankee starter workloads over the years 1961 thru 1963.

Table 17- Yankee Starting Pitcher Workloads From '61 Thru '63

Both in 1961 and 1963, Houk was recognized for his managerial skills. In ’61 Houk was named baseball’s Manager of the Year by The Sporting News. In ’63 the Associated Press (AP) named Houk the American League Manager of the Year. In 1970 Houk won that award again in large part due to how he utilized his bullpen which was one of the best in baseball. According to the AP, “Houk came back this year and the Yankees finished second, 24 games over .500 although 15 games behind Baltimore. Houk did it by getting the most out of his pitching staff….Houk made excellent use of an outstanding bullpen of Lindy McDaniel and Jim Aker (38a).”

The 1970 Yankees finished the season with a 93-69 record, a 13-win improvement from the previous season. Thanks in large part to the hitting of 1970 Rookie of the Year Award winner Thurman Munson and left fielder Roy White, the Yankees were fourth in the AL in runs scored with 680. The year before New York scored a total of 562 runs which was next to last in the AL. Houk though had been lauded by the AP for the use of his bullpen. Indeed, Yankees closer Lindy McDaniel did have a terrific season. His rWAR of 4.2 was the third highest amongst relievers that season and sixth best of all Yankee players. McDaniel’s 5.73 WPA in ’70 was the fourth highest ever accumulated by a reliever at the time and is currently the 21st highest of all-time. Overall McDaniel was 9-5 with a 2.01 ERA in 111.2 innings pitched. He saved 29 games.

Houk’s other main men out of the bullpen in ’70 was the aforementioned Jack

Aker and Steve Hamilton. Aker, who led the Yankees in saves in 1969 with 11, saved 16 games in 1970. Aker was 4-2 with a 2.06 ERA in 70 innings pitched. Left-handed specialist Steve Hamilton contributed with three saves. He was 4-3 with a 2.78 ERA in 45.1 innings pitched. Combined McDaniel, Aker and Hamilton tossed 216 innings in 1970. In the previous season the three relievers threw a collective 206.1 innings.

Steve Hamilton, Lindy McDaniel, Jack Aker

In 1969 Yankee starters accumulated 6,851 PWP’s which was approximately 1,100 points lower than the MLB average. Yankee starters though still completed a total of 53 games which was the fifth highest in baseball that year. Contained in the table below is each of the Yankee starters’ workload for 1969:

Table 18- 1969 Yankee Starting Pitching Workloads

NY Yankee Mel Stottlemyre

Leading the way for New York was Mel Stottlemyre with 3,048 PWPs which was just under 45% of the Yankee total. Stottlemyre led the AL in complete games with 24. His 3,048 PWP total in ‘69 was the highest of Stottelmyre’s career with the exception of 1965. That year Stottlemyre accumulated a total of 3,583 PWP’s under Yankee manager Johnny Keane which was the eighth highest total in baseball. Stottlemyre’s 1969 PWP total of 3,048 was the tenth highest in the majors and the only season Stottlemyre’s PWP total cracked the top 10 under Ralph Houk. Stottlemyre’s next highest finish in terms of PWP’s under Houk was in 1968 when he accumulated 2,181 PWP’s which was the twelfth highest in baseball. The table below contains Stottlemyre’s workload in the years 1965 thru 1973:

Table 19- Mel Stottlemyre's Workload 1965 Thru 1973

Stottlemyre’s 39 starts and 24 complete games in 1969 were both the highest of his career. Stottlemyre, Fritz Peterson, Stan Bahnsen and Bill Burbach were New York’s main starting pitchers that season. Bahnsen had won the AL rookie of the year award in 1968. That year he was a 17-game winner with a 2.05 ERA. Unlike other outstanding rookies that Houk had managed during his career, Al Downing for example, Bahnsen was not worked as hard by his manager. In ’68 Bahnsen accumulated 1,865 total PWP’s or 55 PWP’s/start. In 1969 those numbers dropped to 715 and 22 respectively as Bahnsen’s estimated average pitch-count per start dropped from 114 to 100.

Al Downing and Mike Kekich made the rest of the Yankee starts in 1969 with 15 and 13 games started respectively. Al Downing, who chose to hold out prior to the 1968 season due to a contract dispute, arrived late to spring training in 1969. Downing had experienced arm issues in 1968 which required a stint on the DL in May of that year. He was later demoted to Double-A Binghamton. Downing’s troubles carried over to the following season. In ’69 Downing was limited to just three innings during spring training due to a sore arm. He began the season in the Yankee bullpen.

However, despite 1-3 record and a 5.34 ERA, Downing was permanently placed back into the Yankee rotation in August of ‘69. Downing then caught fire as he proceeded to go 6-2 in 13 games started, five of which were complete games and a 2.62 ERA. With Downing’s value as high as it had been since his only All-Star game appearance in 1967, the Yankees cashed in on Downing and traded him to the Oakland A’s in a deal that included first baseman Danny Cater in December of ’69. The trading of Downing meant that the Yankees would open the 1970 season again with a rotation of Stottlemyre, Peterson, Bahnsen and Burbach.

In 1970 the Yankees’ overall starting pitching workload was lessened by Houk, particularly in the case of Mel Stottlemyre:

Table 20- 1970 Yankee Starters' Workloads

Stottlemyre did make two less starts in 1970 than he had in 1969; however, given that his PWP/start in ’70 was 15 points less than it had been in 1969, the two less starts does not explain the over 700-point difference between Stottlemyre’s 1969 PWP total and his 1970 PWP total. Obviously the ten less complete games Stottlemyre threw in 1970 as opposed to 1969 was a factor in the reduction in PWP’s between the two years. The question is what was the reason behind Stottlemyre completing fewer games in 1970?

Going back to 1969, in the 15 games he did not complete that season, Stottlemyre was pulled by Houk with the Yankees down in 12 of those games. Stottlemyre was pulled in two games in which the Yankees were ahead and in one game in which the Yankees were tied. In 1970, Stottlemyre was not awarded a complete game in 23 of his 37 starts. In those 23 games, Stottlemyre was pulled with the Yankees down in 15 of them. He was pulled in six games with the Yankees ahead and in two games in which the Yankees were tied. In the two tied games, Stottlemyre had thrown ten and nine innings. Had the Yankees been able to score more than one run with Stottlemyre on the mound in those games, his non-complete game total would have been 21 rather than 23. The table below breaks down the circumstances in which Houk had relieved Stottlemyre in 1969 and 1970:

Table 21- Breakdown of Stottlemyre Non-Complete Games in '69 & '70

In 1970 Houk used his stellar bullpen more often in Stottlemyre starts. The reason being was that he was in a position to do so as opposed to Houk drastically changing his managerial philosophy from the year prior with Stottlemyre on the mound. Indeed, in 1969 Houk had only two opportunities to summon his bullpen with the Yankees leading in a Stottlemyre start. In 1970 Houk had relieved Stottlemyre with the Yankees ahead six times. Moroever, that number would have been higher and Stottlemyres PWP total even lower had Stottlemyre benefitted from the improved 1970 Yankee offense. In both 1969 and 1970, the Yankees scored an average of 3.4 runs per game while Stottlemyre was on the mound even though overall, the Yankee offense had improved from 3.47 in ’69 to 4.17 in ‘70.

Conversely, Fritz Peterson’s run support while on the mound increased from 2.80 in 1969 to 4.20 in 1970. In ’69 Peterson did not pitch a complete game in 21 of his 37 starts. He left the game with a lead only three times in said starts. In 1970, Peterson failed to complete a game in 29 starts of his 37 starts. He left with the lead in those 29 non-complete games 12 times. He was 11-0 in said games.

Second to Stottlemyre’s 732-point PWP differential from ’69 to ’70 was the difference in PWP’s between the departed Al Downing’s 1,020 PWP total in 1969 and for all intents and purposes his replacement, Steve Kline’s 445 PWP total which amounts to a difference of 575 points. With Downing gone, Houk and the Yankees had to replace Downing’s 15 starts heading into the 1970 season. They ended up doing so with rookie right-hander Steve Kline.

In 1970 Kline matched Downing’s 1969 season in terms of games started and practically matched Downing’s innings pitched per start. In ’69 Downing threw 99.1 innings in 15 starts or 6.62 innings per start and had five complete games. In 1970 Kline threw 98.2 innings as a starter over 15 starts or 6.58 innings per start. Like Downing, he also completed five games. However, Kline’s PWP/start was 30 as opposed to Downing’s 68. The main reason for the difference in PWP’s/start was the fact that Kline was not a strikeout pitcher and had more control than Downing which meant less pitches thrown. This is evidenced by both pitchers’ estimated pitch-counts in their five complete games. Kline averaged 121 pitches in his complete games whereas Downing averaged an estimated 132 pitches in his complete games. A 121-pitch performance earns a starter 63 PWP’s whereas a 132-pitch performance earns a starter 128 PWP’s. Kline’s five complete games in 1970 earned him 277 PWP’s. Downing’s five complete games in ’69 earned him 577 PWP’s, 300 more than Kline.

The 22 year-old Kline had been inserted into the Yankee rotation in July of ’70. He made his first career start on July 10 versus the Washington Senators. Three weeks earlier, June 18th to be exact, the Yankees had climbed to second place in the AL East standings, just 1.5 games behind the powerful Baltimore Orioles. However, New York won 7 and lost 12 of their next 19 games which prompted the club to promote Kline from Triple-A Syracuse where he had been 8-2 with a 2.54 ERA. “Our starting pitchers have been letting us down. Our hitting hasn’t been bad, but most of these games we’ve been out before you get a chance to turn it around (38b ),” Houk had commented to the press once it was announced that Kline would be promoted to the big club.

L to R: Mel Stottlemyre, Mike Kekich, Fritz Peterson, Steve Kline

Indeed, the starting pitching had let the Yankees down to an extent during that stretch. Mel Stottlemyre wasn’t pitching like an “ace” given his 4.11 ERA over that span. Number two starter Fritz Peterson could be given pass given his 3.63 ERA. However, Stan Bahnsen had an ERA of 4.70 and was averaging about six innings per start. Gary Waslewski had a 5.03 ERA in his five starts and averaged just below four innings per start. Waslewski, who had been acquired by New York in May of ’70 from the Montreal Expos, was one of several starting pitchers the Yankees had used in order to make up the starts that they originally had counted on Bill Burbach making. The 21 year-old Burbach, who was 6-8 with a league average 3.65 ERA in 24 games started in 1969, was brutal in his first four starts in 1970. Burbach was 0-2 with a 10.26 ERA before being demoted to Syracuse that May.

In addition to Waslewski, the Yankees had also tried John Cumberland, Mike McCormick and Rob Gardner in what had been Bill Burbach’s spot in the rotation. The rookie left-hander Cumberland began the season with the Yankees and had replaced Bill Burbach in the rotation in early May. He was 1-4 with a 4.62 ERA in 48.2 innings pitched and eight games started. In what Ralph Houk had called a “gamble” at the time, Cumberland was then traded to the San Francisco Giants in July for the veteran south-paw and 1967 Cy Young Award winner Mike McCormick. McCormick ended up making just four starts for the Yankees in ’70. He was 1-0 with a 7.54 ERA in just 14.1 innings pitched.

Below are the records of the five pitchers the Yankees had used in what was originally Burbach’s spot in the rotation:

Table 22- 1970 Stats for Yankee Fifth Starters

In 22 starts, Burbach’s replacements were a combined 4-8 with a 6.07 ERA. In 1969 Bill Burbach alone was 6-8 in 24 starts. That year the Yankees were 12-12 in Burbach starts. In 1970 the Yankees were 11-11 in the games in which Burbach’s eventual replacements had started. Was it Houk’s handling of his vaunted bullpen the reason the Yankees were able to win 11 games in those starts or was it the much improved Yankee offense that had bailed out the starting pitching? Table 23 provides a breakdown:

Table 23- Breakdown of Wins For Yankee Fifth Starters in '70

Wlst represents “wins lost” i.e. instances in which the pitcher left the game in a winning position only to have the bullpen eventually lose the game. Conversely, Lsv or “losses saved” represents the number of times in which the starting pitcher was in a position to lose the game but his team was able to come back to tie or win the game. None of the pitchers that replaced Burbach in 1970 had a win taken away from them by the bullpen. However, in seven of the 22 starts, 11 of which were Yankee wins, the starter was spared a loss thanks to the Yankees coming back to win the game. John Cumberland was the main benefactor with three losses saved. Given that run support for Cumberland was 3.20, Houk’s utilization of the Yankee bullpen was the main reason as to why Cumberland was spared those losses.

Indeed, Lindy McDaniel threw 4.2 innings pitched without allowing a run and won two of those three games. Jack Aker threw three innings and saved two games without allowing a run. In the overall seven losses saved, McDaniel and Aker combined for 12.2 innings pitched, zero runs allowed, three wins and three saves. However, the Yankee offense also played a role. It averaged 4.80 runs scored per game in those 22 games which was 0.63 runs better than their overall 1970 average of 4.17 runs scored per game.

Table 24 illustrates the rest of the Yankee rotation broken down in a similar way:

Table 24- 1970 Breakdown of Wins for Yankee 1 thru 4 Starters

The top four Yankee starters were able to avert 21 losses in 123 starts 1970. In those “losses saved,” Lindy McDaniel was 2-4 with four saves in 27.1 innings pitched for a 3.29 ERA. Jack Aker threw 11 innings and only gave up one earned run. He was 2-0 with two saves and one hold. Steve Hamilton was 2-1 in 8.2 innings pitched. His ERA was 6.23. Combined McDaniel, Aker and Hamilton were 6-5 with five saves, one hold and an ERA of 3.26 in 47 innings pitched. Those are good numbers but not outstanding.

The four starting pitchers combined had an average run support of 4.1 runs per game. Again, Fritz Peterson benefitted the most from the Yankee offense as he was able to win five games in non-quality starts aka “cheap wins.” Neither Mel Stottlemyre nor Stan Bahnsen was credited with a “cheap win.” Steve Kline had one.

To compare, the same breakdown is provided in Table 25 for the Yankees top four starters in 1969:

Table 25- 1969 Breakdown of Wins for Yankee 1 thru 4 Starters

Interestingly, Houk had gotten away from using the bullpen during a three-week stretch in 1970. Yankee starters completed a total of 35 games that season. Ten of those complete games occurred during a 23-game span that lasted from June 5 to July 2. Mel Stottlemyre completed five of those games. “Our bullpen needed a rest and got it when rest was needed most (38c),” Houk explained to the press after the Yankees had swept the Kansas City Royals in a three-game series in mid-June. However, just two weeks prior, Houk had been concerned over the lack of work Lindy McDaniel had been receiving. “McDaniel just isn’t getting enough work. I like to get him in at least once every three days (38d),” was what Houk had told the media on May 27 after Jack Aker pitched four innings of scoreless relief, replacing Fritz Peterson in a 4-2 win over the Tigers. After two more appearances on May 30 and June 3, Aker would not pitch for 17 days. Aker made only two appearances during those 23 games in which Houk claimed to be resting the bullpen. McDaniel made six appearances and Hamilton made five. The Yankees were 14-9 in those 23 games. They averaged approximately 4.65 runs scored per game.

In 1970 Houk did utilize his bullpen effectively and in doing so, did contribute to the Yankees 10-win improvement that season. The Yankee offense though also played a major role in the Yankee improvement that season which afforded Houk the opportunity to make better use of his bullpen in key situations. Yet another example and perhaps a better example of Houk utilizing his bullpen came in the twilight of Houk’s managerial career when he managed the Boston Red Sox.

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