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Does reliever over-use lead to poor subsequent performance?

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For all you pitching wonks out there, I just read a fascinating (and eye-opening) study regarding relief pitcher overuse--something everyone in Yankeedom has first-hand knowledge of.

Mitchel Lichtman over at The Hardball Times quotes a Nov. 30 article in the Philadelphia Daily News by Paul Hagen. In it Hagen questions Braves senior advisor, former big-league manager, and a former coach of mine Jim Fregosi, asking him what his take was about relievers who have a good year followed by a bad year or vice versa:

Says Fregosi:

The biggest reason is, when they have a good year, they're overused. When they have a bad year, they're not used at all. So then they can come back and have a good year. It's that simple. They just get tired from overuse. If they're in 80 games and they warm up 120 times, that's a lot. The only one [teams] really take care of in the bullpen anymore is the closer. They always bring him in to start the ninth and if he pitches 50, 60 innings, that's where he's at. He's in 60 games where you have a chance to win.

I would have tended to agree with Fregosi, however the study suggests otherwise. That's what I found particularly fascinating.

It's a lengthy read, but I strongly recommend--especially considering we have yet to launch PA's Book of the Month Club.