Tourtellotte: Did John McGraw have the bullpen edge?

From SABR member Shane Tourtellotte at The Hardball Times on June 20, 2016:

Bill James has written more about baseball—encompassing history, analytics, and opinion—than I will ever get to read. That doesn’t stop me from reading, and often re-reading, his work. One old passage of his I came across recently covered all three elements I just named, and offered a prediction that he didn’t test—but I can.

In The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers, James examined the managerial style of John McGraw, iconic field marshal of the New York Giants in the first third of the 20th century. One main characteristic James observed was that McGraw was more prone to use relief pitchers than the rest of the league, for his entire career. His teams led the National League in saves (figured retroactively) more than half the seasons he managed, decades before the save emerged as a concept.

Due to McGraw’s cutting-edge tactics in this regard, James speculated about what it meant for the Giants’ on-field success:

This was probably worth at least five games a year to his teams. I don’t have statistics to prove this—it hasn’t been studied—but I would bet that a typical team in the early 1920s probably blew 20 to 25 leads in the late innings. McGraw’s teams probably blew 15 to 20.

I love tracking down this kind of esoteric information. I love having good excuses for tracking it, such as fact-checking the biggest name in baseball analytics. I especially love Retrosheet making it possible to track this information just* by downloading a few files.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: June 20, 2016. Last Updated: June 20, 2016.