The U Files Case #22: The Art Howe Review Part II

Mets manager Art Howe will face the challenge of an entirely new team this year. There is evidence that Howe manages his offense well, which I presented in the last U Files on Art Howe. Now I will share my findings regarding Howe's use of his pitching staff. I looked at statistics from to determine the fortunes of pitchers changing managers to Howe. I examined the records of the young pitchers who came up under Howe.

Here are four names that concern us: Darryl Kile, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito. Finally I considered the statistics of Howe's bullpen.

Pitchers changing managers to come under the oversight of Art Howe seem to have suffered in the change. Twelve pitchers have done so in Howe's 12 years of managing who have pitched at least 100 innings before and after the switch. The sample consists of 2204.1 innings in the pitchers' last years before Howe and 2199 innings in their first year under Howe.

As measured by ERA+ (the ratio of ERA to league average ERA), four of the twelve pitchers had a better year under Howe than in their previous year. The remaining eight had worse years. The group collectively had an ERA+ of 105.3 in the first year of the comparison (their ERA was 5.3 percent above average). Under Howe, their ERA+ dropped to 97.4 (2.6 percent below average).

The average age of the pitchers in the first year of the study was 31.17. Three of the twelve were 34 or older. All three dropped off sharply in the following years. Of the remaining nine pitchers, the ERA dropped from 6.4 percent above league average to 4.2 percent above average.

Six of the twelve pitchers pitched 100+ innings in a second year under Howe. The sample is 873.2 innings. The group posted an ERA+ 0f 88.66 (11.44 percent below average). Only one of the six pitchers had a better year than their prior year (Tom Candiotti). Two of the pitchers fared better in a second year under Howe than before they came to Howe: Candiotti and Pete Harnisch.

Of the young pitchers that came up under Art Howe, four are highly regarded pitchers. The rest were low-ceiling players. Darryl Kile came up in 1991 for the Houston Astros. Tim Hudson came up in 1999 for the Oakland Athletics. Mark Mulder and Barry Zito came up in 2000 for the Athletics. All four achieved above average ERA's by their third year. Kile required three years to build up to an above average ERA. Mulder achieved an above average ERA in his second year. Hudson and Zito have never had below average years.

Kile pitched 153.2 innings in 1991 to an ERA or 3.69, which was 5 percent below average. He struck out 100 and walked 84. His strikeout rate rose each of the next two years from 5.86 to 6.46 to 7.39 strikeouts per nine innings. His walk rate fell each of those years from 4.92 to 4.52 to 3.62 walks per nine innings. In his second year, his 3.95 ERA was 15 percent below average. In his third year he posted an ERA of 3.51, which was 11 percent above average.

Hudson came up in 1999 and was above average from his first year on. He posted an ERA of 3.23 in 1999, which was 49 percent above average. His walk rate fell each of the next two years, from 4.09 to 3.65 to 2.72 walks per nine innings. However, his strikeout rate has also fallen. In his first year be struck out 8.71 batters per nine innings. That rate fell to 7.52 in 2000 and 6.93 in 2001. In his second and third years he relied on control and stinginess with the long ball to be above average. He pitched over 200 innings in 2000 and 2001, reaching 235.0 innings in 2001. In 2000 his ERA of 4.14 was 14 percent above average. In 2001 his 3.37 ERA was 29 percent above average.

Mark Mulder came up in 2000, and had a bad year. He struck out just 5.14 batters per nine innings, walked 4.03 batters per nine innings, and his ERA was 5.44. This was 13 percent below average. In the next two years, he improved his strikeout rate to 6.00 in 2001 and 6.90 in 2002. His walk rates fell to 2.00 and 2.39. He also pitched over 200 innings in his second and third years, working 229.1 innings in 2001 and 207.1 in 2002. His ERA was 3.45 in 2001, 26 percent above average. In 2002 he posted an ERA of 3.47, 34 percent above average.

Barry Zito came up in 2000 and has not had a below average year, though he only pitched 92.2 innings in 2000. Like Hudson and Mulder, he posted a walk rate over 4 in his first year (4.37) and lowered it in the following years. He walked 3.36 batters per nine innings in 2001 and 3.06 in 2002. His strikeout rate rose from 7.58 to 8.61 strikeouts per nine innings in 2001, and fell to 7.14 in 2002. He worked 214.1 innings in 2001 and 229.1 in 2002. His ERA in his 92 innings in 2000 was 2.72, 74 percent above average. In 2001 he posted an ERA of 3.49, which was 25 percent above average. In 2002 his ERA was 69 percent above average at 2.75. Though, he did not pitch as well as his ERA indicated in 2002.

Howe's use of his bullpen is hard to analyze since he has managed many years without a consistent starting rotation. The percentage of team innings he has given to his bullpen ranges from 28.1 percent to 42.8 percent. The average is 34.4 percent. I included pitchers who started more than 10 games as starters in those years, and all others as the bullpen. In ten of his twelve years, his bullpen posted a lower ERA than his starting rotation.

If the Mets are planning to introduce Aaron Heilman or Patrick Strange into the starting rotation this year, Howe seems to be a good manager to do it under. For the remaining veterans on the staff, however, the outlook may not be so good if previous patterns hold up. As Howe seems to be a good manager of hitters, the overall effect shouldn't be negative.

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