Skip to content

Quote of the Day: Bo Porter does not care what relievers think their roles are

Mar 26, 2014, 2:33 PM EDT

Bo Porter AP

Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has a good article up today about the Astros’ bullpen situation. Specifically, who will do what, whether it will be a “closer by committee,” what, exactly, that often-misused term means and comments from the various folks involved in the Astros’ bullpen about it all.

The best comment, by far, comes from manager Bo Porter, who handles the usual objection to closer-by-committee setups — pitchers like to have defined roles and hate to be jerked around — thusly:

“You know what your role is? When your phone rings and your name’s called, go get people out,” Porter said. “That’s your role. That’s why you’re in the bullpen.”

I love Bo Porter.

  1. spudchukar - Mar 26, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    Good for him.

    • moogro - Mar 26, 2014 at 5:31 PM

      Hope this is catches on.

  2. stex52 - Mar 26, 2014 at 2:39 PM

    You tell’m, Bo. I agree 100%. The manager can make his decisions about matchups, etc. He can be right or wrong. But the pitcher’s job is to go get outs when he is put in.

  3. Patrick R. - Mar 26, 2014 at 2:45 PM

    That is awesome. It makes sense. Everyone in life would prefer (and I suppose, more often than not has) defined roles, but frequently we are called upon, at work or in life or whatever, to do things that might be outside of our assigned roles. I see why relievers would prefer to have a set role, but everyone has to be flexible in their work environment.

    • genericcommenter - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:01 PM

      It’s not even really being flexible. Their role is pitching. They pitch. If they are in the pen, they relieve. Unless they are being called on to play SS or something, they aren’t even being asked to do anything outside of their role. You would have much more room to complain in another job when you are asked to do something not in your job duties, because these guys aren’t.

      • Patrick R. - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:23 PM

        True. I was just trying to be as diplomatic as possible and see things a bit from their point of view. However, on the whole, I agree with you.

  4. stlouis1baseball - Mar 26, 2014 at 2:47 PM

    I become a bigger fan of Bo Porter by the day. Run your team Bo. Everyone else? Feed em’ beans.

    • El Bravo - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:31 PM

      He had me at the name Bo.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:03 PM

        *Beau

  5. nymets4ever - Mar 26, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    easy to be fast and loose with your quotes when there are absolutely no expectations surrounding your ballclub.

    • stex52 - Mar 26, 2014 at 2:55 PM

      Applies to every team. Forever.

    • spudchukar - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:35 PM

      It is also easy to be fast and loose with your quotes when there are absolutely no one who expects you make sense, and you continually blither one inanity after another.

    • stlouis1baseball - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:36 PM

      Wow NY. Your glass is no only half empy 100% of the time…the damn thing is broke into hundreds of pieces!

  6. tfbuckfutter - Mar 26, 2014 at 2:59 PM

    Bo is apparently of the opinion that everyone in the bullpen should pitch, and it wouldn’t be fair to designate someone to be the Closer and have him just sit there collecting a paycheck.

  7. anotheryx - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    While the mentality is absolutely correct, it has been shown that relievers perform their best when they are on a regular routine with set expectations.

    • tfbuckfutter - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:15 PM

      “Get the hitters you face out.”

      That’s really not a very confusing set of expectations.

    • Maxa - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:56 PM

      Source?

      • anotheryx - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:51 PM

        Bill James has some comment on this on his site, but it’s behind pay wall. Though I’m sure someone who frequent BP or FG might know.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:13 PM

      link?

      • anotheryx - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:51 PM

        Bill James has some comment on this on his site, but it’s behind pay wall. Though I’m sure someone who frequent BP or FG might know.

    • brazcubas - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:49 PM

      Even if we assume that’s true, what do you mean by regular?

      Relievers don’t know whether they’ll be needed in any particular game, and it’s not often you hear managers putting in relievers because it’s their scheduled day to pitch, unless it’s a blowout.

      That they should have regular throwing regimens outside of games, yeah that’s probably useful, but I don’t see how knowing that you’ll only be used during the seventh inning in games where the score difference is 2 or less would be helpful.

      • anotheryx - Mar 26, 2014 at 5:21 PM

        “I don’t see how knowing that you’ll only be used during the seventh inning in games where the score difference is 2 or less would be helpful.”
        It actually is helpful, though the exact cause is not determined, it’s probably not that hard to understand.
        Just imagine at work, you will need to make an important presentation to big guys upstairs, it will be easier if you know when this presentation is rather than your boss telling you “just be prepared, I will let you know 15 min in advance”, especially you have to do that 162 times a year.

        Here is Bill James explaining the advantage of closer (and sort of related, why managers tend not to use them in a non-closer situation, even if it’s a critical leverage situation):

        The Closer is in a unique position because, more than anyone else, he knows when he will be coming into the game. He can manipulate his adrenaline flow, his heart rate and his metabolism to peak at the moment when he is called on. He can take a nap in the 3rd and 4th innings, stir around in the 5th, play a little light toss in the 6th, stretch in the 7th, do some calisthenics in the 8th, and be ready to fire in the 9th. Nobody else can do that.

        Also, the Closer has a more regular schedule than any other reliever. If he has pitched the last two days in a row, he’s given the third day off (usually). He knows he has the day off; the manager will tell the press that he probably is not available. He won’t usually be asked to pitch three innings because the team needs him to. If he hasn’t worked for a couple of days, he will be given the opportunity to get an inning’s work in even if the team doesn’t need him to.

        Other relievers are given these benefits as the opportunity allows the manager to bestow them, but Closers have priority on them. This makes Closers different.

        Because they are different, some of them are super-effective. Records are broken all the time, but there will never be a miler who runs as fast as Usain Bolt. There are no starting pitchers in history—none—who are effective as Mariano Rivera or Jonathon Papelbon, adjusting for the era and the context. Because they are sprinting only when they are perfectly prepared for a sprint (overstating it a little), those guys reach a level of effectiveness that no starting pitcher is ever going to match, even Verlander or Pedro Martinez. Papelbon’s career strikeout rate, per batter faced, is a whopping 32% higher than Verlander’s.

      • brazcubas - Mar 26, 2014 at 5:58 PM

        “it will be easier if you know when this presentation is rather than your boss telling you “just be prepared, I will let you know 15 min in advance”, especially you have to do that 162 times a year.”

        Except that’s exactly what they do, closers don’t know for sure there’ll be a save situation until the ninth inning. So, aside from the odd days that the manager specifically tells him he’s not available to pitch he has to either be ready to pitch every game, or be able to get ready in a hurry.

        Instead of designating closers teams would be better served using their best relievers to squelch potential rallies wherever they might arise.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 26, 2014 at 6:08 PM

        Here is Bill James explaining the advantage of closer (and sort of related, why managers tend not to use them in a non-closer situation, even if it’s a critical leverage situation):

        Again, link?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 26, 2014 at 6:14 PM

        Note, the reason I’m asking for a link is, if all James does it talk about closer usage, than that’s not a validation of your point. Porter is taking about using his entire bullpen as he pleases, James is talking specifically about closer usage.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Mar 26, 2014 at 5:57 PM

      I think you may have it backward.

      The relievers with the most clearly defined roles are the best relievers, which should skew any such data. I would imagine the most erratically used pitcher in the ‘pen is the mop up guy, who is the mop up guy because he isn’t very good relative to other MLB pitchers. The guys with regular jobs in the 7th 8th and 9th innings are the three best relievers on the team.

  8. chill1184 - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:08 PM

    I just gain a huge load of respect for Bo. Why cant other managers take this approach?

  9. oasiserfede - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:14 PM

    Makes too much sense.

    Imagine some knuckleheaded pitcher with 10 or so saves filing a grievance, because said pitcher was denied the opportunity to maximize his value.

    As we all know; saves = $$$$$

  10. baseballisboring - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:17 PM

    Good for him. I never understood the “defined roles” argument. Is a pitcher’s slider going to bite less if he comes into a game an inning earlier than he might normally expect? What difference does it make?

  11. sylpkt - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    The Astros win the 2014 World Series. Disney gets the movie rights and has Denzel Washington play Bo Porter.

  12. rcali - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:26 PM

    There’s a lot of “mental” involved in baseball. If Bo is trying to set a mental state for his bullpen, then fine, but if he is just being a tough guy who doesn’t take in the phychology of the game, then there’s going to be problems. Outside of Veras, who was traded away mid season, that bullpen was not very good.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Mar 26, 2014 at 5:57 PM

      Would assigned roles have made them any better?

  13. Bob - Mar 26, 2014 at 3:45 PM

    I’m an Astros fan who is not the biggest Bo Porter fan, partly because I think all of the motivational signs and placards belong in high school. I also think he’s in over his head, but he’s cheap managerial filler (kid of like his players) until the day comes (if that day comes) that they’re good again. Then they’ll get somebody better.

    But he gained more respect from me for his comment about roles. He’s 100 percent right. If anything, closers should be leveraged in the seventh or eighth innings if the situation calls for it where you really need an out with men on base and a lead in tenuous position. Your mental state as a pitcher should be to get the batter out and not worry about who he is and in what inning you’re pitching.

  14. zdravit - Mar 26, 2014 at 4:20 PM

    Do you really need to name a closer when you’re projected to win 40 games?

  15. missingdiz - Mar 26, 2014 at 5:34 PM

    I appreciate what Bill James wrote. But there also are, or at least used to be, guys who were just spoiling for a fight. Their attitude was, when a couple of guys got on for the other team, “put me in and I’ll kick their asses!” Goose Gossage comes to mind. Guys who made the other team sag visibly when they’re approaching the mound. The collective mentality shifted in baseball toward division-of-labor by inning, but that’s all it is–what everybody thinks they know–but there’s no science behind this, no real proof it’s a better approach than grooming firefighters.

  16. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Mar 26, 2014 at 5:59 PM

    I would assume Bo is telling his pen that anyone with designs on the 9th inning should make sure they get batters out when called upon. Someone should eventually rise to the top of the pecking order, but that will only be established when someone earns it.

  17. mikhelb - Mar 26, 2014 at 6:37 PM

    That’s the way it should always be, I am tired of constantly reading and hearing non sense like: ooh X pitcher can only be used in the 7th or 8th inning and YY pitcher can only be used in save situations or the game tied and at home.

    You know what? games can be won and lost in the 6th or 7th inning and if my “closer” can get my team out of a big mess early in the game then so be it. I would rather have my closer failing to shut-up an attack in the sixth-seventh than to bring a less “effective” pitcher to blow up the game and not even have a save situation in the 9th for my “closer”. If a bleeding needs to be stoped early then so be it.

  18. likewallmvp - Mar 26, 2014 at 6:38 PM

    Bo knows your role.

  19. lucien7116 - Mar 30, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    I read last year that a study was done of percentage of games won by a team leading going into the 9th inning before the advent of the role of “closer” (sometime in the 60′s) and the percentage of games won by a team leading going into the 9th inning after the role of “closers” was established. I believe that the percentages were so close that the difference was negligible. (Don’t know if it was a Bill James stat or not) I understand the possibility of the psychological factor that help one team a Gossage, or Ekersley, or any HoF caliber pitcher who was a closer, but overall, it’s like Bo says…”go get people out.”

    Sorry that I don’t have a link to the study…I’m sure that someone with more baseball statistical and technological savvy than I will be able to find it if they wish.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

Three legends off to Cooperstown
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. H. Street (3543)
  2. T. Tulowitzki (3357)
  3. C. Headley (2896)
  4. R. Howard (2890)
  5. H. Ramirez (2791)
  1. Y. Puig (2785)
  2. B. Belt (2698)
  3. C. Lee (2534)
  4. M. Trout (2447)
  5. J. Soria (2244)