The Untold Story of La Russa’s Bullpen Management

From SABR member Wendy Thurm at FanGraphs on October 20, 2011:

One of narratives leading up to Game 1 of the World Series emphasized the Cardinals’ and the Rangers’ heavy use of their bullpens in the Division and League Championship Series. We were told to expect pitching changes early and often, especially from Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, who has a reputation for micromanaging his pitching staff to get just the right match-up.


In the NLCS, Cardinals starting pitchers were on the mound for only 24.1 innings to the bullpen’s 21.2 innings, a ratio of 53% to 47% over the six games played. LaRussa made an average of 4.67 pitching changes per game.

Despite LaRussa’s reputation, his bullpen management in the NLCS is the exception, not the rule, of his reign as the Cardinals skipper.

Let me explain.

LaRussa’s first year as Cardinals manager was 1996. In 12 of his 16 seasons in St. Louis, LaRussa’s bullpen pitched fewer innings than average for all National League teams. Only in 1998, 1999, 2002 and 2007 did the Cardinals relievers throw more innings than the National League team average.

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Originally published: October 20, 2011. Last Updated: October 20, 2011.