The Lopes Count

on 08/17/2001

Davey Lopes has a new lease on life with a vote of confidence from Dean Taylor.

Based on comments made by Dean Taylor on August 16, it looks like Davey Lopes will be back to manage the Milwaukee Brewers in 2002. I personally have no strong feelings about this issue, as I feel Davey does some things well and others not so well. I think one of Davey's strongest points is the way he limits the pitch counts of starting pitchers. Earlier this month, Rany Jazayerli wrote a piece for Baseball Prospectus on pitch counts in 2001. BP uses a statistic called Pitcher Abuse Points (PAP) that is based on pitch counts. They use PAP to determine the stress level on a pitching staff. The Brewers have the third lowest stress level in the majors this year. This is extremely important when you are talking about a young pitching staff, and it looks like three of the Brewers' five rotation members next year (Sheets, Quevedo, and Neugebauer) will be 23 or younger. For this reason, I am kind of glad that Davey will be returning. At least there won't be the risk of hiring someone who treats young starting pitchers like Dusty Baker or Tony Muser.

However, the thing about Davey that bothers me the most is his penchant for giving up free baserunners while in the field, and giving up outs while at the plate. I am talking specifically about intentional walks and sacrifice bunts. There is great debate about the usefulness of each of these tactical decisions. While sac bunts usually move a runner into scoring position, it also gives away an out. And anyone who has watched the Brewers this year know that the odds of them getting in a runner from third with less than two outs is about as good as the odds that Gorman Thomas will be manning center field for the Crew in 2002. And while intentional walks may set up a double play or bring the pitcher to the plate, it adds to the opponent's on-base percentage without making them work for it. I don't care what the situation is, in most cases, giving the opposition free baserunners is not a smart decision. Therefore, in honor of our tactical skipper, I have came up with a statistic called the Lopes Count. The Lopes Count is simple to calculate. You just add the sacrifice bunts by your offense to the intentional walks issued by your pitchers. The following list contains the Lopes Count for every National League team in 2001.

St. Louis91
New York90
San Francisco89
Los Angeles70
San Diego55

As could be expected, the Brewers lead the NL in the Lopes Count by a pretty substantial margin. With the way that the Brewers have failed to deliver even after moving runners into scoring position, and with how Brewers' pitchers seem to struggle with walking hitters on their own, I would think the Brewers would be better off if they were closer to the middle of the pack in the Lopes Count. Also, the Lopes Count does not include the times that players tried to sacrifice but failed to do so. Like on August 15, when Devon White lead off the game with a double, and Loretta promptly bunted right back to the pitcher, allowing Devo to get thrown out trying to go to third. Or the next day, with the Brewers clinging to a 1-run lead in the eighth. With runners on first and second with no one out, Lopes ordered Jose Hernandez to bunt with a 3-1 count. He proceeded to pop the bunt up, and the Brewers failed to score. Unless the hitter is the pitcher or Henry Blanco, the Brewers would be better off letting them swing away than giving up an out.

Nonetheless, it looks like we will get at last another year of Davey's sac bunting and intentional walks. On the bright side, at least he will be taking care of the main reason to be excited about the team in the years to come - our young starting pitching.