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MANAGING STARTING PITCHER WORKLOADS rALPH hOUK PART II




Once Houk had been hired by the Boston Red Sox in 1981, he became the fourth and last manager to manage both the Yankees and Red Sox. While in Boston though, Houk did not receive the accolades he had received as manager of the Yankees. Houk managed Boston for four seasons, ’81 thru ’84.


By the time Houk was in his last year with the Red Sox, the team had accumulated a collection of young quality starting pitchers. Boston’s 1984 rotation for the most part was: Bruce Hurst, Bob Ojeda, Oil Can Boyd, Al Nipper and Roger Clemens. Their average age was 24 ½ years old. Nipper and Clemens were considered to be rookies in ‘84 while Boyd had just exceeded his rookie limit the year prior. Both Hurst and Ojeda had exceeded their rookie limits in 1981, Houk’s first year in Boston. Below is each pitcher’s workload under Houk in the years ’81, ’82, ’83 and ’84 as well as the rest of Houk’s starting pitching corps during his years in Boston:



Table 26- Red Sox Starters' PWP '81 thru '84

Much like how Houk increased his starting pitcher workloads from 1961 to 1963 with the Yankees, Houk had done the same in Boston in the years 1981 thru 1984. Houk had relied immensely on his bullpen particularly in ’81 and ’82 as estimated average pitch-count per start for Red Sox starting pitchers was 95 in ’81 and 88 in ’82. In the years ’83 and ’84 estimated average pitch-counts per start for Red Sox starting pitchers jumped to 98 and 102 respectively as Houk allowed his young and talented starters to pitch deeper into games.



Boston Red Sox Starter Mike Torrez

In ’81 veterans Dennis Eckersley, Mike Torrez and Frank Tanana made the most starts for Houk in his first year with the Red Sox. Eckersley and Torrez were with the Red Sox in 1980. Tanana had been acquired by Boston in January of ‘81 from the California Angels. Under Houk, Eckersley’s PWP/start increased from 36 in 1980 to 48 in 1981. Eckersley’s estimated average pitch count per start increased slightly from 100 to 103. Conversely, Torrez’s PWP/start dropped from 55 to 17. Torrez’s estimated average pitch count per start also dropped from 100 to 93. While Eckersley’s ERA was virtually unchanged from 1980 to 1981, Torrez’ ERA had decreased from 5.08 to 3.68 under Houk that season. Moreover, Torrez went from a 9-16 won/loss record in 1980 to a 10-3 record in the strike shortened 1981 season.


The lessened workload placed on Torrez by Houk was apparently by design. Houk’s use of his relievers in Torrez starts had successfully hid Torrez’s limitations. In fact, Houk had quick-hooked Torrez in eight of his 22 starts in 1981. Torrez’s eight quick-hook total was 40% of the Red Sox overall quick-hook total of 20. Reminder- a start is deemed to be a “quick-hook” when the starting pitcher is relieved by his bullpen prior to him completing at least six innings despite allowing three runs or less.


In Torrez’s very first start of the 1981 season, Houk summoned his bullpen after Torrez had pitched only 2.1 innings with Boston leading 4-2. Torrez had only thrown a reported 43 pitches. “That’s why we have a bullpen (39),” was Houk’s reasoning after the game as to why he had removed Torrez so early. Houk then elaborated further by stating that, “Having that many good pitchers out there (in the bullpen) enables us to do a lot of things. We can keep games from getting out of hand, hold onto leads….Torrez’s stuff was OK but he was behind the hitters…I wasn’t going to blow the lead (40).” The Red Sox ended up winning the game 7-2 as reliever Bob Stanley threw 6.1 innings of scoreless relief.


On May 9, again with his team leading 4-2, Houk relieved Torrez after 5.2 innings pitched. Torrez had just given up a run-scoring triple to the Blue Jays’ Danny Ainge. “With the bullpen we have, there’s no need to wait (41),” Houk again explained to the press in his post-game interview as to why he had pulled Torrez. The Red Sox won the game 4-2 thanks to the 3.1 innings of scoreless relief provided by Tom Burgmeier.


Indeed, the Red Sox bullpen, particularly Stanley and Burgmeier, was very effective in ’81. Boston’s ‘pen ranked second in the majors in terms of WPA/pLI – WPA/LI just behind the Oakland A’s bullpen. In 1980 Torrez had bequeathed a total of 35 runners on base upon exiting a game in just over 207 innings pitched. Of those 35, 11 ended up scoring or 31.4%. In the strike-shortened 1981 season under Houk, Torrez had thrown 127 innings but had bequeathed 25 runners, six of which ended up scoring or 24%. The trend continued in 1982. That year Torrez had bequeathed 36 runners in 175.2 innings, only six of which (16.7%) ended up scoring.


Houk’s quick-hooking of Torrez and his use of his bullpen in Torrez starts certainly made a difference in the won/loss columns. The Red Sox were 15-7 in games in which Torrez started in ’81 as opposed to 15-17 in Torrez starts in 1980. In 1982 the Red Sox were 21-10 in Torrez starts despite Torrez’s 5.23 ERA. In games in which Houk quick-hooked Torrez in 1981, Torrez had an ERA of 2.92. The Red Sox won six of the eight games. In 1982, Torrez had an ERA of 4.22 in his seven quick-hook starts. The Red Sox were 6-1 in those games.


Indeed, 1982 was the year in which Houk took quick-hooking to a whole new level. Equipped with one of the best bullpens in baseball, Houk had quick-hooked his starters a total of 38 times in 1982, second in the majors only to Joe Torre’s Atlanta Braves’ total of 39. Prior to ’82, Houk’s highest quick-hook total occurred in 1973, Houk’s last season managing the Yankees. That year Houk had quick-hooked his starters a total of 26 times. Over his managerial career, Houk averaged 18 quick-hooks per season. The Red Sox record in quick-hook games in 1982 was 25-13, good for a .658 winning percentage. The table below lists Red Sox starters’ record in games in which they were quick-hooked in 1982:



Table 27- Red Sox Starter's 1982 Record in Quick-Hook Games



Overall Red Sox starters were 8-6 with a 1.94 ERA in quick-hook starts. With the exception of Chuck Rainey, Red Sox starters had a sub-2.00 ERA in those starts. Boston was ahead in 16 of the 38 games in which Houk quick-hooked his starter, tied in 11 and had come from behind in 11. The Red Sox offense which was ranked sixth in the AL in 1982 in terms of runs scored per game with a mark of 4.65 was only slightly better in games in which Boston starters were quick-hooked. In those games the Red Sox offense averaged 4.92 runs per game. Therefore, it wasn’t necessarily the Red Sox offense bailing out quick-hooked pitchers in 1982 that led to the 25-13 record in those starts, rather it was the Boston bullpen and Houk’s managing of the ‘pen that had made the difference in the win/loss columns. “He’s the best at keeping arms fresh and healthy I’ve ever seen (42),” opined Sox reliever Tom Burgmeier in April of ’82. According to the Boston Globe’s Peter Gammons, Houk was “so conscious of arms that he keeps track of even how many times relievers warm up and approximately how many pitches they’ve thrown (43).”



Red Sox Reliever Bob Stanley

The main cog in the Boston bullpen in ’82 was Bob Stanley. Stanley pitched in 25 of Boston’s 38 quick-hook games. Stanley’s record in those games was 9 wins and 4 losses with 6 saves and 2 holds. He threw 103 innings in quick-hook games, an average of just over four innings per outing, with an ERA of 2.97. Overall Stanley was 12-7 with a 3.10 ERA in 168.1 innings pitched in ’82. Stanley’s importance to the Boston Red Sox was not lost on the media. In fact, in July of 1982 with the Red Sox sitting in first place with a 47-34 record, the aforementioned Peter Gammons penned an article making the case that Bob Stanley was the Red Sox’ MVP up to that point in the season:


“On a team built on defense and the ability to turn over games to the bullpen, and with a starting staff, that apart from Dennis Eckersley has averaged barely five innings an outing, Stanley probably has been the single most valuable performer (44).”


In 1981 Milwaukee Brewers reliever and future Hall of Famer, Rollie Fingers, won both the AL Cy Young Award and the AL MVP Award, accentuating the media’s recognition as to how important the reliever’s role had become in baseball. Houk concurred: “I’d take a great reliever over a 20-game winner anytime (43),” he declared in 1982. Of course by that time Houk had about 35 years of MLB experience as both a player and a manager. As previously mentioned, Houk had come across several outstanding relievers who had dominating seasons similar to Fingers’ 1981 campaign.


For example, Houk was in his rookie season as a Yankee catcher back in 1947, the year in which the Yankees’ original “fireman,” Joe Page won 14 games and saved 17 out of the Yankee bullpen. Page finished fourth in AL MVP voting that season. Houk played a significant role in the aforementioned Ryne Duren’s conversion from failed starter to dominating reliever in ‘58 as well as Luis Arroyo’s emergence in 1961, Houk’s first year as Yankee manager. In 1970 Houk oversaw one of the greatest years ever put up by a reliever, that being Lindy McDaniel. Therefore, it wouldn’t be a stretch to consider Houk somewhat of an innovator when it came to bullpen usage. Indeed, in his first two years in Boston managing the Red Sox, Houk relied on his bullpen, specifically Bob Stanley, more than ever and not just in terms of closing out games as Page, Duren, Arroyo and McDaniel had done back in their day.


In 1982 Houk said the following regarding the importance of middle men and Red Sox reliever Bob Stanley in 1982:


“I think one of the biggest differences in the game now is the emergence of that middle man as a key ingredient to a club…People ask me why I don’t start Stanley. They don’t understand that he’s more important where he is than starting. He can pitch almost any time; he can go short. Maybe years ago, you waited around to let a starter get out of it, but that happens less and less (44).”


Back in 1963, Houk claimed that Jim Bouton was too important to remove from the bullpen; however, Houk later decided to insert Bouton into the rotation where Bouton thrived as a starter. Almost 20 years later, he felt the same way about Bob Stanley but in Stanley’s case, Houk had no intention of removing him from the Boston ‘pen. Under Houk Stanley started just one game in his career, that being September 1, 1981. Although Houk decided to start Stanley in place of an ineffective John Tudor, he was adamant that Stanley would not be joining the Boston rotation, “We’re not making a starter of Stanley again. This is a one-time shot. Every game is so important right now, we have to gamble a bit (45).” At the time, the Sox were in a fight to win the AL East in the second half of the strike-shortened ’81 season.


The Red Sox’ chances of winning the AL East in the second half of ‘81 improved greatly that August. Just as he had with Al Downing and Jim Bouton in 1963 and again in ’76 and ’77 with Mark Fidrych and Dave Rozema respectively, Houk received a boost from a rookie/young starting pitcher, that being left-hander Bob Ojeda. Ojeda had been named the International League’s Pitcher of the Year in 1981. He was called up by the Red Sox on August 12. Previously Ojeda had made seven starts for the Red Sox in 1980 but had struggled. He was 1-1 with a 6.92 ERA that year. In 1981 though, Ojeda was a completely different pitcher.


In his first game after his call-up, Ojeda went the distance tossing a complete game win versus the Chicago White Sox. Ojeda scattered seven hits and gave up just one run as Boston rolled to an 8-1 win. “That’s why we brought up Ojeda….we needed a guy this week who could go out there and give us seven, eight or nine (innings) like he did (46),” Houk explained to the media after Ojeda’s complete game. Ojeda’s estimated pitch-count was 136.


Ojeda threw his second complete game on August 29 versus the Oakland A’s. After eight innings, Ojeda had allowed just one run. At the time the Red Sox were leading 12-1 yet Houk had Ojeda return to pitch the ninth. The A’s had scored four runs in the ninth against Ojeda but Houk still allowed Ojeda to finish the game. “It tasted nice for eight innings but I started to run out of juice. Despite the four runs in the ninth you’ve gotta feel good when you win (47),” was Ojeda’s assessment of his start. In his postgame interview Houk was also pleased, “Ojeda pitched a terrific game. He pitched great, even though the score doesn’t look like it (47).” The Red Sox won the game 12-5. Ojeda threw an estimated 118 pitches.


In Ojeda’s next start versus the Angels on September 2, the young left-hander lasted six innings before Houk summoned for the bullpen. “I felt after six innings he was tired and we had Clear (Boston reliever) ready. That 40-pitch second inning took a lot out of him (48),” Houk remarked in his post-game interview. Game accounts had Ojeda throwing 105 pitches. His estimated pitch-count was 104.


In his September 12 start versus the Yankees in New York, Ojeda had a no-hitter in tact heading into the ninth inning. Yankee pinch-hitter Rick Cerone however broke up the no-no by leading off the inning with a double. The Yankees, who were trailing 2-0 at the time, then had Dave Winfield pinch-hit. Winfield also doubled which scored Cerone. After the Winfield run-scoring double, Houk pulled Ojeda in favor of Mark Clear. Clear was able to preserve the Red Sox win. Ojeda threw an estimated 102 pitches.


Five days later, Ojeda followed up his two-hit gem versus the Yankees with a win over the Tigers on September 17. In that start Ojeda scattered six hits over seven innings. Houk went to his bullpen to begin the eighth inning with the Red Sox up 3-1. “He was struggling the whole ball game (49),” Houk said after the game, “but he showed he can still pitch when he doesn’t have his best stuff (50).” Indeed, Ojeda had walked a season high five batters and struck out only one Tiger hitter but still earned his sixth win in eight starts.


Over those eight starts Ojeda averaged 7 2/3 innings. He accumulated 298 PWP’s or 37 PWP/start and averaged an estimated 113 pitches per start, similar to 1981 AL ROY Dave Righetti’s 34 PWP/start and 109 estimated average pitch-count.


Prior to that September 17 start versus the Tigers, Ojeda had complained of a headache and struggled in the two starts that followed. He failed to go beyond the third inning in both starts and did not register a strikeout in either outing. Originally both Ojeda and the Red Sox believed the lefty was suffering from the flu. However, further tests revealed that Ojeda had been suffering from “some kind of viral blood infection (51).” “There had to be something wrong, (52)” Houk opined after hearing the news. “After the start in New York I figured it was just a letdown but it didn’t get better. Sunday he said he was throwing as hard as he could and it was getting there at 70 miles per hour (53).” Ojeda was shut down for what was left of the ’81 season.


Initially some had speculated that Ojeda may have been overworked in ’81. Between his time in Pawtucket and Boston, Ojeda had thrown close to 240 innings. Houk though addressed those concerns: “People kept asking me if it were the innings pitched but that would have been gradual. This was sudden (54).” Houk was referring to the loss of velocity on Ojeda’s fastball. Ojeda finished the ’81 season with a record of 6-2 and a 3.12 ERA. He finished third in AL ROY voting.


Ojeda was able to make it back to the Red Sox in 1982. He was named the Red Sox number two pitcher to begin the season but struggled out of the gate. According to Ojeda he was “throwing terrible (55),” and “had lost his slider (56).” By mid-June Ojeda was 3-4 with a 5.15 ERA. He then pulled his hamstring in a start versus the Cleveland Indians after just one inning of work. Upon his return to the line-up he was sent to the Boston bullpen. Ojeda’s season was finished in mid-August after he accidentally slipped in his bathtub and injured his shoulder. Ojeda rebounded somewhat in 1983 with a 12-7 record and a 4.04 ERA. He also tossed five complete games, tied for third on the Red Sox behind John Tudor (7) and Bruce Hurst (6).



Oil Can Boyd

Tudor and Hurst were first and second on the Red Sox in terms of total PWP’s at 1,769 and 1,288 in 1983. Tudor averaged an estimated 113 pitches per start while Hurst averaged an estimated 104 pitches per start. Both though trailed Oil Can Boyd in PWP’s/start (refer to Table 26). Boyd who had been called up from the minors twice in 1983, averaged 65 PWP’s/start in his 13 starts. Boyd completed five of those 13 starts. In addition to the five complete games that Boyd had thrown was an 11-inning effort versus the Baltimore Orioles that the Red Sox ultimately lost 7-4 in 12 innings. Boyd threw an estimated 158 pitches. Boyd finished the 1983 season with a 4-8 record but had a 3.28 ERA in 98.2 innings pitched. Boyd’s 3.28 ERA was the best amongst all Red Sox starters with the exception of Al Nipper. Nipper though only started two games that season.


In December of 1983, Houk had planned on a rotation consisting of Bob Ojeda, Bruce Hurst, veteran Dennis Eckersley, Mike Brown and Oil Can Boyd for ‘84. Given his young and talented rotation, the then 64 year-old Houk was extremely optimistic of his team’s chances for the 1984 season. “Ojeda, Hurst, Eckersely, Boyd and Brown is probably the best rotation I’ll have started the season out with; every one of them could win 15 games and I’ve never had a staff like that before (57).


In March of ’84 Houk reiterated his hopes for the Red Sox rotation: “Last year we started the season with all of our young pitchers wondering if they belonged in the big leagues. This year we’re starting with every one of them expecting to win 15 games (58).” In 1983, John Tudor led the Red Sox in wins with 13. The Red Sox traded their wins leader in December of ’83 to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a much-needed left-handed hitter in Mike Easler.


In May of ’84, Boston then traded for another left-handed hitter, Cubs’ first baseman Bill Buckner. In exchange for Buckner, the Red Sox sent Dennis Eckersley Chicago’s way. The Red Sox had been in pursuit of Buckner the entire offseason but were unwilling to part with Bruce Hurst or Bob Ojeda whom the Cubs had demanded in return. Chicago though ultimately settled for Eckersley once their veteran pitcher, Dick Ruthven, landed on the DL just days prior.


The trading of Eckersley had opened up a spot in the rotation for mega pitching prospect Roger Clemens whom Houk declared during spring training, “the best young pitcher that I’ve ever seen and that includes Mark Fidrych (59).” Clemens made his MLB debut on May 15, 1984 in Cleveland versus the Indians.


A Young Rocket Roger Clemens

In that first major league start, Clemens lasted 5 2/3 innings, allowing five runs (four earned), 11 hits and three walks. The Indians, whose scouting report on Clemens included the following note: “quick feet to first but slow to the plate- try to run on him (60),” stole four bases off the rookie phenom. After the game Clemens admitted to having felt “a little of a nervous tightness (61).” Houk’s assessment of Clemens’ first major league start was that his rookie pitcher had, “showed good ability and good stuff but we knew he had that in spring training. We messed up a few times behind him but he stayed in there (62).” The Red Sox committed two errors. Clemens threw an estimated 115 pitches.


Clemens earned his first big league win in his next start against the Minnesota Twins at the Metrodome. Clemens went seven innings, striking out seven and walking just one. He allowed four earned runs and threw an estimated 108 pitches. Despite the rather unspectacular showing, Houk was extremely pleased with Clemens and compared his young flame-thrower to future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver. “His delivery is like Seaver’s; he’s got outstanding stuff and shows a lot of poise on the mound. He’s going to be a good one (63).”


Unlike previous Houk rookies: Al Downing, Mark Fidrych, Dave Rozema and Bob Ojeda, Clemens’ inaugural season began slowly. Following his May 20 start versus the Twins, Clemens was 1-1 with a 7.09 ERA including two starts in which Clemens had allowed six earned runs. His only “quality start” during that span came on June 2 in Milwaukee versus the Brewers. In that game Clemens threw 6 2/3 innings and an estimated 94 pitches. He allowed three runs, all of which were the result of two Robin Yount homeruns. Prior to Yount’s second homerun which was hit in the sixth inning and had cut Boston’s lead to two, Houk admitted to having Bob Stanley ready in the bullpen but decided not to bring him in, “until the tying run came to the plate (64).” According to Houk, “There was nothing wrong with Clemens; he pitched good and had good stuff. I didn’t want to take a chance on him losing after a game like this (65).” After Brewers’ right fielder Dion James doubled in the bottom of the seventh, true to his word, Houk summoned for Stanley with the top of the Brewers’ order due up and the tying run at the plate.


In his follow-up start versus the Brewers on June 7th, Clemens had allowed six earned runs on 13 hits. In his next start versus the Yankees on June 12th, Clemens again allowed six earned runs. After the game Houk revealed that Clemens had been sick with the flu. “He didn’t throw like I’ve seen him throw it. He claimed he was ok but I don’t think he was. He couldn’t throw it by them tonight (66)….”He’s been sick with the flu for three days...you’ve got to give him credit for going out there (67).” In addition to battling the flu, Clemens also took a Don Mattingly liner off his knee yet still remained in the game. He threw an estimated 77 pitches.


Clemens’ bad luck continued on June 17th versus the 40-22 Blue Jays at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium. Clemens had dominated the Jays for four innings by striking out seven Blue Jay batters. The game’s start was delayed by 93 minutes due to rain. It was then delayed another 98 minutes after the fourth inning as the rain returned. Houk did not allow Clemens to return after the second rain delay for fear of a “freak accident” caused by the “rain soaked turf (67).” “The game should have never been played (68),” an angry Houk protested to the media following the contest. “What you saw out there today wasn’t baseball. Conditions were lousy. It had been raining since early morning and the outfield was a lake (69).” The Red Sox ended up losing the game 5-3.


Houk, Clemens and the Red Sox got their revenge on the Jays on June 22nd when the two teams hooked up again at Fenway. Once again Clemens dominated the Blue Jays, this time for nine innings. Clemens struck out nine and walked only one as Boston trounced Toronto 8-1. “He’s the best prospect I’ve ever seen (70),” said a delighted Houk following the game. “You can’t pitch much better than he did tonight. He has all the pitches. He has great poise on the mound. He’s going to be a real good one (71).” Clemens’ estimated pitch-count was 122.


By July 1 Clemens wasn’t the only pitcher that Houk had been impressed with. In fact Houk lauded his entire rotation. “I think we’ve gotten 15 straight good games out of our young pitchers, (72)” Houk had guessed at the time. If by “good games” Houk meant quality starts, he was off by seven as Clemens, Boyd, Hurst, Ojeda and Al Nipper, who was also placed in the rotation after the Eckersley trade, had accumulated eight quality starts in the last 15 games. Clearly though, Houk’s confidence in his pitchers was growing. During that 15-game stretch, Red Sox starters had completed four games and had pitched into the seventh inning 14 times, with the exception being Clemens’ four-inning June 17th start in rainy Toronto. Red Sox starters averaged an estimated pitch-count of 112.


Two of the four complete games during that 15-game span were by Oil Can Boyd who had started off slowly in ’84 but had been able to reduce his ERA by almost two full runs in the month of June. Despite the slow start, Boyd had averaged an estimated pitch-count of 116 and had been slow-hooked by Houk three times up to that point in the season which included a 144 pitch effort versus the Brewers on June 8th; a game the Red Sox had won 11-3.


Houk had slow-hooked Boyd versus California again on July 5th. Boyd lasted 5 2/3 innings versus the Angels despite allowing six earned runs. The Red Sox had built an 11-2 lead before California struck for four runs in the sixth inning thanks to homeruns by Bobby Grich and Doug DeCinces. “Oil Can had a game like that coming. He’d pitched well at least six times previously. But sometimes with a big lead, he has a tendency to be a shade careless (73),” was Houk’s assessment of Boyd’s performance following the game.


Houk was much more complimentary of Boyd after the Oil Can’s complete game six-hitter versus Texas on August 4 as Houk once again invoked the name of Mark Fidrych:


“The hardest thing for a young pitcher to do is finish games….but Boyd has it. He’s very strong. Last year in Kansas City he pitched when it was 104 degrees. His stuff was stronger in the last inning than it was in the first. The only young pitcher I’ve seen who was always great at finishing was Mark Fidrych (74).”


The Kansas City start Houk alluded to was a 109 estimated pitch-count effort complete game 1-0 loss. In Boyd’s start against Texas, he threw an estimated 124 pitches. He struck out eight and walked only one and defeated the Rangers 5-2. In his following start on August 8th, Boyd completed his second consecutive complete game, shutting out the Tigers 8-0. He threw an estimated 126 pitches. Once again Houk praised his young right-hander, “This couldn’t have come at a better time…Oil Can went the distance against a Detroit line-up with seven good left-handed hitters. For him to go out and pitch a game like that is quite an accomplishment…Now our bullpen is rested and we’re back on rotation (75).” Boyd had made the start on just three days’ rest. Boston had played two consecutive doubleheaders before Boyd’s start.


Two days prior, Roger Clemens had started the second game in Boston’s August 6th doubleheader against the first-place Tigers. Clemens fired eight innings and limited the Tigers to just two runs as Boston ripped Detroit 10-2. Clemens’ estimated pitch-count was 124 but according to Houk, Clemens threw 133 pitches: “Clemens threw well out there, but he threw a lot of pitches-133. He was whipped so I had to get him out of there.” Clemens had thrown consecutive complete games prior to his start versus Detroit. His estimated pitch-counts for those starts were 135 and 141 pitches.


Just two weeks prior to those complete games, the Boston media had been asking if perhaps Clemens had been “rushed” to the majors. After Clemens’ dominating performances versus Toronto in June and a 7 1/3 inning losing effort to the Orioles, a start in which Clemens had allowed just two earned runs to end the month, Clemens struggled in his first three starts in July.



Roger Clemens in Action Circa 1984

Clemens began the month of July by allowing six earned runs over seven innings against Oakland. He followed up that start with a 4 1/3 inning effort versus the Angels in which he had allowed four earned runs and nine hits and a 2 2/3 inning effort versus the 42-49 Seattle Mariners. In the Seattle start Clemens had once again allowed four earned runs, this time on eight hits. He struck out only one. The Boston Globe asked the following question after Clemens’ Seattle start: “Was he rushed too fast and can that damage the best Red Sox pitching prospect since Jim Lonborg (76)?” In terms of “damage” the Globe was referring to mental damage, not physical damage per se.


Houk addressed the media’s concerns by stating that, “He (Clemens) threw over 200 innings last year in pressure situations. He has all of the tools. He’s very mature pitching wise, for his age (77). You don’t have to worry about him being hurt (mentally). He’s too mature….We’ll work it out, maybe by the next start. He may win ten in a row before the season’s over (78).”


Several days later Houk announced that Clemens would be sent temporarily to the bullpen in order to take advantage of his team’s scheduled two days’ off that week and to provide Clemens with some rest. Clemens pitched two innings of relief versus Oakland before dominating the White Sox in a four-hit complete game shutout on July 26th. Including his victory versus the White Sox, Clemens won five of his next six starts, four of which were complete games. Clemens’ PWP’s and estimated pitch counts for his starts after his relief appearance are contained in the table below:


Table 28- Clemens Starts July 26 to August 26 1984

In that August 26th start against Cleveland, game reports had Clemens throwing 149 pitches. Regardless, Houk stuck with Clemens for the entire game. “He (Clemens) was getting tired at the end whether he admits it or not (79),” Houk told the press in his postgame interview. “I had men warmed up but I wasn’t taking him out. It was his game. They would have had to tie it for me to make a move (80).”


In the seven starts contained in Table 28, Clemens was 6-0 with a 2.64 ERA. He struck out 62 in 58 innings pitched. Opponents hit just .208. Clemens had indeed “worked it out” as Houk had predicted he would back when Clemens was struggling in July. However, Clemens would not be able to prove Houk correct in terms of winning “10 in a row before the season's over.”


In his start versus the Indians on August 31, Clemens was pulled after 3 2/3 innings. Clemens had struck out seven of the 13 hitters he faced but was removed from the game when Clemens reported tightness in his forearm. “I was throwing great. I didn’t really want to come out. But there was something that didn’t feel right in the nerve area, and I guess it was a god idea to take me out (79),” was Clemens’ explanation for being pulled.


Two weeks later, after Houk had closely watched Clemens throwing on the side, the veteran manager made the decision to end Clemens’ season: “He threw hard but as soon as he started throwing breaking balls, he developed a little cramp, so I asked him to stop. If this was a pennant race, it would be one thing but it isn’t (80).”


Clemens’ 1984 estimated average pitch-count per start was 106 and his PWP per start was 48. Left-hander Bruce Hurst, who had a history of arm trouble prior to ’84, led Red Sox starters in PWP’s with 1,985. His 60 PWP’s/start was just one shy of Oil Can Boyd’s 61. Boyd threw an estimated 114 pitches per start compared to Hurst’s 109 (refer to Table 26).


In his four years in Boston, Houk’s PWP’s/162 went from being one of the lowest in the majors to one of the highest:



Table 29- Breakdown of Houk's Use of Starters in Boston

The 7,867 PWP’s accumulated by Boston starters in 1984 was the second highest in baseball. Moreover three of Houk’s starters: Boyd, Hurst and Ojeda ranked in the top 20 in the majors in terms of PWP’s/start for pitchers with at least 25 games started, more than any other major league team:



Table 30- Top 25 PWP's for Pitchers in 1984

Al Nipper, who started 24 games in ’84, accumulated 1,237 PWP’s. Houk slow-hooked Nipper in five of his 24 starts including Nipper’s next to last start of the season versus the Blue Jays which occurred on September 25. Ironically, prior to that game against Toronto, Houk had announced that he would be retiring at the end of the season. In said start versus the Blue Jays, Nipper tossed a complete game but allowed six earned runs. He walked two, struck out three and threw an estimated 138 pitches. Houk though had Nipper’s pitch-count at 140.


In his following start, which was Boston’s last game of the season and the final game of Houk’s managerial career, Nipper lasted three innings after giving up two earned runs to the Orioles. After the game Houk commented as to why Nipper was pulled after just three innings, “He’d (Nipper) thrown 60 pitches in three innings, 140 pitches in his last start, and there was no way I’d let him go home with arm trouble (81).” Nipper’s 52 PWP’s/start accumulated in 1984 was on par with Detroit Tiger and 19 game-winner Jack Morris’ workload. Nipper averaged an estimated 106 pitches per start, three less than Morris’ 109.



Detroit Tiger Great- Jack Morris

Houk had managed Morris during his days with the Tigers. Jack Morris had come up with the Tigers in 1977 under Houk. He was called up in late July and had replaced Mark Fidrych on the Tigers’ roster. Fidrych was placed on the disabled the day Morris made his big league debut- a four inning relief appearance versus the White Sox on July 26. Morris made his major league starting debut five days later in Texas. Morris threw nine innings in the 100-degree Texas heat. He struck out 11 and walked five Ranger batters, giving up two earned runs in the process. Both runs came in the first inning. Morris had retired the last eight hitters that he faced. He threw an estimated 146 pitches. Morris made a total of six starts in 1977. His average estimated pitch-count per start that season was 115.


The Tigers were forced to shut down Morris days after his August 27 start against the Angels due to a sore shoulder. “He (Morris) might be able to go into a game and work the stiffness out (82),” Houk speculated approximately two weeks after Morris’ last start, “but I’m not taking any chance. He’s too good a prospect to fool around with (83).” Morris did not appear in a game the rest of the season.


The sidelining of Morris in ’77 put Houk and the Tigers in a bind. The Tigers already had Fidrych and Dave Rozema on the shelf due to injury. Fidrych was also suffering from an ailing throwing shoulder. He had been out of the Tiger rotation since July. The Tigers had hoped that the recommended rest by doctors would remedy Fidrych’s shoulder. In fact, three orthopedic doctors had examined Fidrych that summer- Dr. Mitchell of Detroit’s Ford Hospital, Dr. Harvey O’Phelan of Minneapolis and Dr. Frank W. Jobe of Los Angeles. All three were in agreement with the diagnosis of tendinitis of the shoulder and had recommended rest (84). However, even after over two months of rest, Fidrych’s shoulder hadn’t improved.


Houk had commented as to how Fidrych’s injury had impacted the Tigers’ overall pitching in ‘77:


“Being realistic, we probably could have expected 10 wins from him (Fidrych). Our whole pitching staff would have been stronger because Mark is a fellow who finishes a lot of games. If he had been right all along, we probably wouldn’t have brought up a couple of the young fellows (Jack Morris, Milt Wilcox or Bruce Taylor). Our middle relief pitching would have been affected because Mark would have given us more complete games (85).”


A frustrated Houk expressed his concern about his lack of pitching in early September of ’77 as the Tigers were about to embark on a stretch of 13 scheduled games in eight days which included four doubleheaders. “My biggest problem for next week will be that I don’t have much of a bullpen. Most of my relief pitchers will be starting so I can’t use them in relief (86),” Houk had lamented to the press.


At that time the Tigers had a pitching staff of twelve. In the first game of a doubleheader versus the Orioles on September 6, the first of four scheduled doubleheaders that month, Houk used a total of seven pitchers to beat the Orioles 8-7 in 11 innings. Milt Wilcox started the game and lasted 5 2/3 innings; he threw an estimated 105 pitches. Wilcox allowed two earned runs, eight hits, three walks and struck out four.


In the second game of the twin-bill Houk started reliever Steve Grilli, who previously had never made a big league start. Houk slow-hooked Grilli by allowing him to throw eight innings despite giving up five earned runs on 12 hits. Grilli walked four and struck out four. He threw an estimated 147 pitches. The Tigers lost the game 5-0. However, four of those runs were scored in the second inning. Grilli allowed only one run in his next six innings of work. Houk credited Grilli for going the distance and allowing him to save his bullpen:


“The thing that saved my whole day as manager was Grilli. We’ve got eight games in five days and I can’t remember having a period like that before. People think you have pitchers coming out of your ears in the bullpen but you don’t…On the road you can do different things. After he (Grilli) gave up those four runs, if he had gotten rocked in the next inning, I would have had to take him out. I wouldn’t have been able to leave him in there with all of those fans booing. I would have had to bring (Bruce) Taylor in and he could have only have pitched one or two innings at the most (87).”


Despite Houk suggesting that he would have managed his pitching differently had the Tigers been on the road i.e. he may have left Grilli in the game longer had he given up more runs, his career slow-hook numbers do not reflect that sentiment. Below are Houk’s career home/road splits for the three different types of slow-hooks:



Table 31- Home/Road Splits for Houk Slow-Hooks

In terms of blow-out slow-hooks (BO SH) i.e. starts in which the starting pitcher allowed seven or more runs, the home /road split is the same, 32 home games and 32 road games. In slow-hooks that were the result of the starting pitcher’s innings pitched in addition to his runs allowed being greater than or equal to 13 (IP + R >=13) which was the type of slow-hook Grilli had experienced, the split is 82/59 home/road. Therefore, during his managerial career Houk actually slow-hooked his starters in the way he slow-hooked Grilli more times while playing at home than on the road, contrary to what Houk had suggested after the Grilli start. Moreover, Houk’s total number of slow-hooks, regardless of the type of slow-hook, occurred more times at home than on the road- 140/107.


In Detroit’s next game following the Grilli start, again versus the Orioles, Houk slow-hooked his starter Fernando Arroyo. Arroyo went the distance in a 7-2 drubbing at the hands of the O’s. He gave up 13 hits, walked two and struck out six. To Arroyo’s credit, he was roughed up in only one inning, that being the second when Baltimore scored five runs on six hits. After the game Houk commented as to why he allowed Arroyo to go the distance:



“He (Arroyo) knew he’d have to stay in. I told him. I couldn’t make any moves early. Later, after that second inning, anybody that I brought in wouldn’t have pitched any better than he did. I’m not going to wreck my pitching staff just for one game. If we had gotten back in it, then I would have made a move. All I’ve got in the bullpen are four short men- (Bruce) Taylor, (Steve) Foucault, (John) Hiller, and (Vern) Ruhle. All the long men are starting now and (Jack) Morris has the sore shoulder (88).”



By the third week of September the ’77 Tigers rotation consisted of Fernando Arroyo, Milt Wilcox, Jim Crawford, Bob Sykes and Ed Glynn. Vern Ruhle made a spot start for Houk and the Tigers on September 28th. On September 30th, reliever John Hiller was called upon to make a start versus the Yankees in New York as Houk was short one starting pitcher due to Milt Wilcox having to leave the team the previous day to tend to his ailing grandmother.


Detroit Reliever John Hiller

Hiller had started seven games for the Tigers prior to his September 30th start against the Yankees. The usually reliable reliever had struggled out of the bullpen early in ’77. In fact, he had blown five saves in his first 13 appearances. With the Tigers’ need for starting pitching and the emergence of set-up man Steve Foucault, Houk inserted Hiller into the rotation for the better part of May and June. After a start against the Indians on June 26, a game in which he lasted just over two innings, Hiller was sent back to the bullpen.


Just prior to that start against the Yankees, Hiller had revealed that he had been suffering from a liver ailment. According to Hiller, the ailment hadn’t effected his pitching although he did admit to “feeling really tired for the past two or three months (89).” “The operation I had after my heart attack (in 1971) put a strain on my liver,” Hiller explained to the press, “As I understand it, it isn’t anything serious. It can be corrected (90).”


At the time, the Yankees were in first place in the AL East, three games up on both the Red Sox and the Orioles with three games to play. The former Yankee skipper Houk, seemed eager to play spoiler against his one-time employer, “I’d love to do something in New York (91),” Houk said before the start of the series. Matched up against Yankee ace Ron Guidry, Hiller limited New York to just two runs on eight hits. He walked five and struck out seven, going the distance in a 5-2 Tiger victory. Hiller’s estimated pitch-count was 154 pitches, the highest pitch-count of any Tiger starter that season.


The following day, the Tigers defeated the Yankees once again, this time 10-7. Fernando Arroyo made the start for the Tigers but was quickly pulled by Houk after just 1/3 of an inning. Arroyo had given up two doubles to the first three Yankee hitters he had faced. It was the second consecutive start in which Arroyo had been unable to complete at least two innings.


Despite the Tigers’ shortage of pitching that September/October, the estimated average pitch-count for Detroit starters was 95 in that last month including the stretch of four doubleheaders in eight days in early September. The aggregate total of PWP’s for Tiger starters in September and October was 1,320 or approximately 20.20% of the 1977 total of 6,545 PWP. Considering 19.80% of the Tiger schedule was played in September and October, the 20.20% Sept/Oct PWP total was in line with the Tigers' schedule. The 6,545 PWP total was actually just under the major league average of 6,864. More importantly though was the fact that Tiger starters were a combined 5-17 with a 5.83 ERA in September/October of ‘77.


With starting pitchers Fidrych, Rozema and Morris all finishing the 1977 season on the DL, Tiger management made two moves in the offseason and acquired a pair of established major league starters prior to the opening of the 1978 season. The first acquisition was Milwaukee Brewer right-hander Jim Slaton. The Tigers traded outfielder Ben Oglivie in exchange for Slaton and left-handed reliever Rich Folkers. The second acquisition the Tigers made to shore up their starting pitching was 35 year-old right-hander Jack Billingham. The Tigers obtained Billingham in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds for two minor leaguers during spring training in 1978. The Billingham acquisition was made because Jack Morris was still experiencing shoulder pain as late as March ’78.


Tigers GM Bill Campbell considered Slaton a “workhorse (92).” As for Billingham, Houk commented at the time of the acquisition that the veteran right-hander “never had any arm problems (93),” and that Billingham “should be a big plus (94).” Contained in the tables below are Slaton’s and Billingham’s workloads in their previous five major league seasons as well as their 1978 season under manager Houk:



Table 32 - Jim Slaton PWP 1973-1978
Table 33- Jack Billingham PWP 1973-1978

In Slaton’s case both his PWP/start and his average estimated pitch-count per start decreased in 1978 pitching for Houk. As for Billingham, his PWP/start also dropped slightly from 38 to 37 but his estimated average pitch-count per start increased by four from 101 to 105 over 30 starts as opposed to 23 starts the year before. Surprisingly though in 1977 with the Reds under Sparky Anderson, a manager not known to have much patience with his starting pitchers, Billingham was slow-hooked five times in 23 starts. Houk had only slow-hooked Billingham once in ’78.


Indeed, the additions of Slaton and Billingham impacted the overall total for Tiger PWP’s. The two pitcher's combined PWP total of 2,858 made up approximately 32.7% of the overall Detroit total of 8,730 which was the fifth highest in the majors. As reflected in Table 13, Houk’s PWP/162 for Tiger starters in 1978 was 29.7% greater than the MLB average of 6,733. Table 34 provides a breakdown of each Detroit starting pitcher’s workload for the 1978 season:



Table 34- 1978 Tiger Starting Pitcher Breakdown

Milt Wilcox’s PWP total of 2,689 in 1978 was just under Slaton’s and Billingham’s combined total of 2,858. It was also the eighth highest in the majors. Wilcox’s 100 PWP/start was the fifth highest. Table 35 provides a breakdown of baseball’s top 10 pitchers in terms of PWP’s in 1978:



Table 35- Top 10 PWP's for Pitchers in 1978

Wilcox was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the second round of the 1968 MLB draft. The Reds traded Wilcox to the Cleveland Indians in December of ’71. In his Cleveland Indians starting debut Wilcox two-hit the Red Sox in a complete game 1-0 shutout. After his first six starts with Cleveland in ’72, Wilcox was 4-2 with a 0.92 ERA in 48.2 innings pitched. He completed four of those first six starts. Shortly thereafter Wilcox developed soreness in the back of his throwing shoulder which caused him to miss several starts. According to Wilcox, when he returned to the rotation he began to compensate for the sore shoulder by “dropping down” and developed “a sore elbow as a result (95).”


After struggling in his next few starts, Wilcox was in and out of the Cleveland bullpen for the next three years. In February of 1975, Cleveland shipped Wilcox to the Cubs in exchange for outfielder Brock Davis and left-handed reliever Dave LaRoche. Wilcox bounced between the Cubs and the minors that season. He was still pitching in the Cubs minor league system when the Tigers purchased him from Chicago in June of ’76. Ralph Houk had envisioned the newly acquired Wilcox as a long reliever given that Wilcox had made only two big league starts since ’74. Detroit kept Wilcox in the minors for the entire 1976 season.


The Tigers called up Wilcox from the minors in June of 1977. That year Wilcox appeared in 20 games, 13 of which were starts. Wilcox accumulated 227 PWP’s in those 13 starts and averaged an estimated pitch count of 101 and just less than 6.5 innings.


Wilcox began the 1978 season in the Tigers’ bullpen. Detroit had opened the season with a starting rotation of Fidrych, Slaton, Billingham and Rozema with Jack Morris making spot starts. Coming out of spring training, Houk designated Wilcox as the Tigers’ “primary long relief pitcher (96).” Houk thought that as a starter in ‘77, Wilcox had trouble in the later innings. “For five or six innings he was great. Right now I’m thinking of him for long relief (97),” Houk informed the media late into spring training. In fact in early May, Houk had made it clear that he would only, “employ Wilcox as a starter out of desperation (98).”


Prior to the 1978 season, the Tigers inked Wilcox to a new three-year contract but according to Wilcox, the contract was renegotiable after the season:


“I was trying to get a two-year contract but they wanted me for three. If I have a real good year, I can renegotiate. I’ve got an oral agreement with Campbell (Tigers GM). I could become a free agent after this year. Campbell told me I could have a one-year contract if I wanted it…He was concerned because he’ll probably lose Jim Slaton (to free agency) after this year and he doesn’t want to lose two pitchers (99).”



Tiger Starter Milt Wilcox

Given the terms of his contract, naturally Wilcox wanted to start. “I’ve been a starter all my career in the minors and three-fourths in the majors. I still think I can start (100),” is what Wilcox told the press in late March of ’78. Due to Mark Fidrych’s reoccurring shoulder issue Wilcox received his first starting assignment of the 1978 season on April 25 versus the Chicago White Sox. Wilcox lasted 5 2/3 innings and gave up four earned runs, seven hits and two walks. He struck out four and threw an estimated 96 pitches.


Seven days later Wilcox made his next start versus the California Angels. That start was originally assigned to Jack Morris; however, the young right-hander was unable to make it due to a sore shoulder. This time Wilcox went the distance, firing a four-hit complete game victory. Wilcox gave up two runs, walked two and struck out six. He threw an estimated 122 pitches.


Wilcox followed up his complete game versus the Angels with another complete game, this time against the Oakland A’s. Wilcox shut the A’s out 4-0 on five hits and one walk. He struck out seven and once again threw an estimated 122 pitches. “I wanted to show the manager that I was more than a five or six-inning pitcher. I don’t want to be a long relief man for the rest of my career (101),” Wilcox explained after the game. Houk concurred stating that “Wilcox had earned his place in the starting rotation (102).”


Wilcox credited his new found stamina on bowling and running. On the advice of a doctor friend, Wilcox took up bowling as a way to strengthen the muscles in his arm (103). He also made it a habit to stretch his legs during his starts in between innings (104). “He hasn’t surprised me with his ability, but he has a little with his being able to go nine. I hope the reason is that he’s throwing more strikes (105);” was Houk’s assessment of Wilcox’ new-found endurance. In 1978 Wilcox ended up leading the Tigers in complete games with 16. He had just 11 complete games in his previous six plus big league seasons.


With Wilcox firmly set in the rotation, Houk was confident in his starting pitching going forward in ‘78. “We were impressed with our pitching coming out of spring training but when Mark Fidrych and Jack Morris got hurt, Wilcox and Bob Sykes moved in to help us (106),” Houk had commented after Wilcox’s complete game shutout of the A’s. “Now it seems, we have all the starting pitching we need, and you never really have too many (107).”


The aforementioned Bob Sykes started the game before Wilcox’s shutout of the A’s on May 7. Sykes had also shut the A’s out. Sykes allowed only four hits and three walks. He struck out nine and defeated the A’s 6-0. Sykes followed that start with another complete game shutout of Oakland, this time a 15-0 drubbing. He then lasted eight innings in a 7-5 win versus Boston, followed by a complete game loss to the Orioles. In those four starts, Sykes was a combined 3-1 with a 1.32 ERA. His estimated pitch-counts were 132, 143, 143 and 119.


Sykes though struggled in his next four starts. He was 0-3 with a 7.79 ERA. He was demoted to the Tigers’ bullpen in mid-June once Dave Rozema returned to the rotation. However, approximately one month later, Houk and the Tigers would receive help from yet another rookie pitcher, 23 year-old right-hander Kip Young.


Kip Young’s call-up coincided with the placing of John Hiller on the disabled list. Hiller had been nursing a pulled muscle in his side for about a week when the Tigers placed him on the DL on July 19 retroactive to July 13. “He is having trouble raising his leg and we don’t want to take any chances with him (108),” Houk explained to the press the reason for Hiller going on the DL. At the time, Kip Young was 11-3 with a 3.02 ERA in 20 starts at Triple-A Evansville.



Tiger Pitcher Kip Young

After a two-inning relief appearance on July 21, Young made his first big league start on July 24 versus the Oakland A’s. Young twirled a complete game six-hit victory over the A’s, allowing just one earned run. In fact, Young’s first four starts were all complete game victories and he didn’t allow more than one earned run in each start. After four starts, Young had an ERA of 1.00 in 36 innings pitched. He allowed 26 hits and 10 walks and had struck out 16. His estimated pitch counts were 124, 118, 148 and 131.


“He knows what he’s going to do and he goes out and does it (109),” Houk commented after Young fired a four-hitter versus Seattle on July 29. “He’s really poised out there. He comes right at the hitters. He’s got a good curveball an excellent change-up and a sneaky fastball. And he can make all of his pitches move….So many young pitchers have good stuff but they can’t get it over the plate. This kid has got real good control (110).” Kip Young finished the season with seven complete games in just 13 games started. His PWP/start of 60 was second on the team amongst pitchers with at least 10 starts to Milt Wilcox’s 100.


John Hiller returned from the DL on August 12. He had last pitched on July 9. Surprisingly the Tigers went 20-8 in Hiller’s absence and had made up seven games in the AL East standings. During that span, Tiger starters collectively were an impressive 16-5 with a 2.97 ERA and 16 complete games. Houk did not call on his bullpen to save any of the Detroit wins. The 16 complete games during that span were 27% of the 60 complete game Tiger total in 1978. The table below lists how each Tiger starter performed in Hiller’s absence and was worked by Houk:



Table 36- Tiger Starting Pitching Jul 10 to Aug 11 '78

The newly acquired Jim Slaton and Jack Billingham certainly came through for the Tigers during Hiller’s absence as did the surprisingly effective Kip Young. Slaton’s 2.83 ERA in those six starts was more than one run better than his overall 4.12 ERA that season. Billingham’s 2.28 ERA was more than 1.5 runs better than his 3.88 season ERA. Kip Young’s 118 PWP’s/start was a staff best. The 1,783 PWP total accumulated by Detroit starters during that 28 game span was 20.42% of the 8,730 1978 total for Tiger starting pitchers.


The Tigers reached as high as third in the AL East standings by mid-August. They finished the year at 86-76, a 12- win improvement from 1977. It was Houk’s only winning season in Detroit. On September 21, 1978, Houk announced that he would be retiring as the Detroit Tiger’s manager but would remain with the team as a consultant. However, he returned to the dugout three years later to manage the Boston Red Sox.


The 12-win improvement the Tigers experienced in ‘78 was the second highest year over year win improvement of Houk’s managerial career- second only to the 13-win improvement the aforementioned 1970 New York Yankees had experienced. However Houk managed his starting pitchers completely different in those years. As previously mentioned, Houk’s Tiger starters’ workload in 1978 exceeded the major league average by 29.7%. Conversely Houk’s 1970 Yankee starters’ workload was 26.8% below the league average. Houk’s 1978 Tigers and his 1970 Yankees are on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of starting pitcher workloads.


In terms of Houk’s most successful seasons managing as measured by team winning percentage, the 1961 Yankees lead the field. In that year, Houk worked his pitchers at a rate that was 12.9% below the major league average. Houk’s 1963 New York Yankees, the team that Houk proclaimed the greatest Yankee team since ’47 had a starting pitcher workload that was 31.9% greater than the major league average. The year prior, in 1962, the Yankee starting pitcher workload was 28.2% below league average. In other words the Yankee starting pitching workload swung 60 points in just one year. The table below provides the starting pitcher workloads for Houk’s most successful managerial seasons as measured by team winning percentage:



Table 37- Most Successful Ralph Houk Managed Teams

For the most part, Houk’s best teams were nowhere near the MLB average when it came to starting pitcher workloads. In fact in eight of those 10 seasons the plus/minus difference between Houk managed teams and the MLB average was in excess of 20%. In seven of those seasons, Houk had been below the MLB average when it came to starting pitcher workloads, which is consistent with Houk’s statement that, “One outstanding long man and one outstanding short man win pennants- not starters (109).” However, as evidenced by his handling of his 1963 Yankee starting pitching staff, Houk was not bound by a managerial philosophy. When Houk felt he had the horses and perhaps to a lesser extent, not the ideal bullpen, he allowed his starters to pitch deeper into games. Table 38 lists the 20 highest PWP’s/start seasons for Houk managed pitchers with at least 20 started:



Table 38- Highest PWP/St Seasons Under Houk

There are 13 different pitchers on that list. Of the 13, seven had their highest PWP/start season of their careers under Houk. Those pitchers are: Mark Fidrych, Al Downing, Milt Wilcox, Joe Coleman, Stan Williams, Jim Bouton and Dave Rozema. Both Bob Turley’s and Bud Daley’s pre-1960 estimated pitch-counts were not included in this study. Both pitchers started for the Yankees in 1961. Bob Turley’s PWP/start went from 33 in 1960 under Casey Stengel to 65 in 1961 under Houk. Bud Daley, who had been acquired by the Yankees in June of ’61 from the Kansas City Athletics, saw his PWP/start increase from an average of 55 in his first ten starts for KC that season to an average of 72 in his 17 starts under Houk. Daley’s estimated average pitch-count per start increased from 96 to 112.


Conversely, both Oil Can Boyd’s and Bruce Hurst’s highest PWP/start of their careers was achieved after Houk left the Red Sox. Both pitchers’ career highs came in 1985 under John McNamara. Mickey Lolich’s 1974 season under Houk was the third highest PWP/start season of his career. Lolich’s 1971 and 1969 seasons under Billy Martin (143 PWP/start) and Mayo Smith (115 PWP/start) both eclipsed the 103 PWP/start he achieved under Houk. However, Houk slow-hooked Lolich 13 times in 1974. Billy Martin had slow-hooked Lolich 11 times in ’71. Mayo Smith had slow-hooked Lolich just three times in 1969. The same can be said of Oil Can Boyd and Bruce Hurst. Both pitchers were slow-hooked the most during their seasons pitching for Houk.


Houk’s ranking second in starting pitcher managerial workloads is mainly due to how many times he had slow-hooked his starters as outlined in the introduction to this study. His PWP/162 ranks 13th of the 24 managers reviewed. Houk preferred a strong bullpen i.e. “one outstanding long man and outstanding short man” to big name starters; however, he recognized when he had a workhorse among his starting rotation and used that pitcher accordingly. For Houk, winning took precedence over philosophy.




The Major- Ralph Houk















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