Bryan Shaw: The Man Who Never Rests

Recently, Indians manager Terry Fracona said something about Bryan Shaw to support his use of the right handed reliever. He supposed that Shaw, who has been used more than any other reliever in the American League at 59 times, pitches better with one or no days of rest between appearances than when he has a more leisurely time between spots. Thanks to sites like baseball-reference.com along with my own meticulous keeping of stats we can actually check to see if this is true.

First, it is important to look and see how successful Shaw has been for the Indians, the reason he has been used 59 times. So far, he is 4-3 with a 2.59 ERA, 47 strike outs and just 16 walks (two have been intentional) in 55.2 innings. His .228 BAA is also pretty impressive, but looking deeper it gets even better. He has held right handed batters to a batting average of just .162 with 32 of his 47 strike outs. In high leverage situations (where there is a bigger chance of losing the game than normal), Shaw has kept batters to a .226 BAA and in late and close games it has been a .237 BAA. Essentially, he has been the best at what he is supposed to be, getting out right handed hitters late in important games. The only question is whether his usage schedule has anything to do with it.

2014 G AB R H XBH HR ER BB SO IP AVG SLG OPS ERA
None 19 66 5 15 5 1 4 4 15 18.2 .227 .333 .607 1.93
One 16 56 8 14 4 2 7 4 17 13.2 .250 .393 .693 4.61
Two 14 51 1 7 4 0 1 3 9 15.2 .137 .235 .435 0.57
Three 4 13 2 4 1 1 2 3 2 3.2 .308 .538 .976 4.91
Four 4 13 2 6 1 0 2 1 3 2.1 .462 .538 1.038 7.71
6 or More 2 7 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 1.2 .143 .143 .393 0.00

The chart above shows Shaw’s numbers depending on days of rest and it may prove Francona right, although it could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Shaw has pitched the most in consecutive games including pitching in three games in a row five times and he has been just about as good as possible in those situations. Those games should be the most trying for Shaw, but he has pitched well then as well, giving up five hits in 3.2 innings, allowing two runs on a home run and striking out two. The low amount of opportunities skews the numbers to look worse than they should as he has come through in three of five chances in the most difficult situation possible.

Another number that may be artificially inflated by a lack of opportunities is Shaw’s terrible ERA when pitching on one days rest. While it is possible that his arm stays looser if he pitches every day and if he gets one day off, he needs at least two to recover, his career numbers do not continue this trend (listed below).

Career G AB R H XBH HR ER BB SO IP AVG SLG OPS ERA
None 56 190 22 44 10 2 19 17 49 54 .232 .305 .615 3.17
One 75 276 23 65 13 2 19 20 62 73 .236 .297 .585 2.34
Two 44 167 23 39 13 4 19 18 38 44.1 .234 .371 .685 3.86
Three 25 92 12 23 9 4 10 11 19 24.1 .250 .446 .782 3.70
Four 12 44 5 17 2 0 5 1 10 10 .386 .432 .857 4.50
Five 5 17 1 4 2 1 1 4 1 5 .235 .471 .852 1.80
6 or More 9 28 2 5 2 1 1 5 6 7.2 .179 .321 .624 1.17

These numbers are more qualified and more of what would generally be expected. Still however, he has truly pitched best either in consecutive games or with one off day between appearances. This goes along with the old strategy of former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone, who would have his relievers pitch side sessions if they didn’t pitch the game before. For some reason, Mazzone’s regimen has not been used by more current pitching coaches, but the man who lead Atlanta’s pitching staff to 14 straight division titles (excluding 1994) from 1992 through 2005 may have known what he was doing.

Francona certainly seems to be accurate in his assessment of Shaw and it isn’t just him. In addition to Shaw, each of the Indians other three most used relievers, Cody Allen, Marc Rzepczynski and Scott Atchison have pitched better this year with one or two days of rest than three or more. If anything, this is an argument for using a smaller bullpen and using pitchers on almost a daily basis. To this point, however, it is hard to complain about Francona’s use of the bullpen, one of the few areas of the Cleveland Indians that has yet to struggle in 2014.

One Day G ERA IP SO AVG WHIP Two Days G ERA IP SO AVG WHIP
 Shaw, B 19 1.93 18.2 15 .227 1.02  Shaw, B 16 4.61 13.2 17 .250 1.32
 Allen, C 18 1.65 16.1 19 .130 0.73  Allen, C 20 0.47 19.1 27 .169 0.98
 Rzepczynski, M 11 2.70 6.2 5 .160 1.20  Rzepczynski, M 25 2.41 18.2 21 .221 1.23
 Atchison, S 15 2.63 13.2 11 .174 0.73  Atchison, S 12 1.38 13 8 .116 0.54
Three Days G ERA IP SO AVG WHIP Four Days G ERA IP SO AVG WHIP
 Shaw, B 14 0.57 15.2 9 .137 0.64  Shaw, B 4 4.91 3.2 2 .308 1.91
 Allen, C 7 5.06 5.1 10 .348 2.25  Allen, C 5 5.40 5 6 .133 0.60
 Rzepczynski, M 8 4.50 6 7 .304 1.17  Rzepczynski, M 6 5.06 5.1 1 .400 2.06
 Atchison, S 14 4.50 14 5 .268 1.07  Atchison, S 5 5.68 6.1 4 .333 1.89
Joseph Coblitz

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of BurningRiverBaseball.com and has been since it's inception in 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona the Spring Training home of the Cleveland Indians.

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