View Full Version : Larry Rothschild and Strikeouts

06-11-2010, 12:38 PM
Via fangraphs (http://www.fangraphs.com/community/index.php/larry-rothschild-and-strikeouts/):

The legend of Dave Duncan is well known. Pitcher A stinks and is released by his current team. The Cardinals sign Pitcher A and he miraculously becomes a good pitcher. Dave Duncanís effect on these pitchers can be seen in the groundball rates. Another NL Central pitching coach has a similar effect on pitchersí strikeout rates. Every year from 2001-2008, Cubsí pitchers led all teams in strikeouts. In 2009 they finished tied for second. The northside pitching staff has seen plenty of turnover throughout those years, but the one thing that hasnít changed is Larry Rothschild. He has been the Cub pitching coach since 2002.

So does Rothschild really have an impact on his pitchersí strikeouts. To find out I compiled a list of all pitchers the Cubs acquired from outside the organization between 2002 and 2010. According to the Sabremetric Library, K/PA becomes reliable after 150 batters faced. After limiting my list to only pitchers who faced 150 batters as a Cub, I found their K% before they joined the team and during their time with Rothschild. Here is the list.

Pitcher K% Before K% After Difference
Matt Clement 17.60% 23.20% 5.60%
Antonio Alfonseca 14.70% 17.90% 3.20%
Shawn Estes 17.90% 14.70% -3.20%
Mike Remlinger 22.30% 24.80% 2.50%
Greg Maddux 17.20% 15.50% -1.70%
Glendon Rusch 16.70% 17.20% 0.50%
Latroy Hawkins 14.70% 19.90% 5.20%
Kent Mercker 15.60% 22.90% 7.30%
Ryan Dempster 18.00% 21.10% 3.10%
Jerome Williams 14.70% 12.30% -2.40%
Bob Howry 20.30% 21.00% 0.70%
Scott Eyre 17.00% 23.60% 6.60%
Ted Lilly 19.60% 20.60% 1.00%
Jason Marquis 13.90% 12.60% -1.30%
Neal Cotts 19.90% 22.70% 2.80%
Rich Harden 23.30% 29.10% 5.80%
Aaron Heilman 20.40% 20.80% 0.40%
Kevin Gregg 20.80% 23.80% 3.00%
Tom Gorzelanny 14.80% 23.70% 8.90%
John Grabow 20.50% 15.30% -5.20%
Carlos Silva 9.80% 17.30% 7.50%

Only 5 out of the twenty-one pitchers in the list saw their K% decrease under Rothschild. I assume Maddux didnít learn anything he didnít already know. Clement, Gorzelanny, and Silva are the big ones. Clementís three best years were with the Cubs, and Gorzelanny and Silva were borderline major leaguers when they arrived in Chicago. Even though he had Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, and Carlos Zambrano during the strikeout streak, we need to give Larry Rothschild credit for his influence on the high strikeout totals.

06-11-2010, 12:43 PM
Doogolas just mentioned this to me the other day. Its pretty sad how underrated Larry Rothschild is. Everyones too busy sucking up to Dave Duncan.

Jilly Bohnson
06-11-2010, 01:03 PM
Doogolas just mentioned this to me the other day. Its pretty sad how underrated Larry Rothschild is. Everyones too busy sucking up to Dave Duncan.

Dave Duncan deserves every word of praise he gets.

It's just that Rothschild deserves a lot more than he gets. He got way too much flack for Prior and Wood and I think that's why he doesn't get enough respect IMO.

Max Power
06-11-2010, 01:14 PM
I always find it amusing when people call for Rothschild to get fired when the bullpen struggles, or something like that.

And if Silva was having the year he's having for the Cardinals instead of the Cubs, the Duncan hype would be ridiculous. They'd be adding an extension in Cooperstown.

06-12-2010, 03:03 AM
Ha! I've been talking about this to everyone that will listen the last few weeks. It's awesome someone looked into it for me.

Guny Highway
06-14-2010, 12:51 AM
Great thread. I could not agree more. Larry is a big reason why this decade has been the best decade for the Cubs in a long time.

Prior and Wood were beyond his control IMHO.

06-14-2010, 01:34 AM
i blame dusty not larry for prior and wood

06-14-2010, 03:45 AM
i blame dusty not larry for prior and wood
I'll blame genetics and bad mechanics, more.

06-15-2010, 04:31 AM
This leads to lots and lots of walks and starters not going very deep into games. I bet we've had 10-20 CG in that same timespan.

06-15-2010, 10:45 AM
This leads to lots and lots of walks and starters not going very deep into games. I bet we've had 10-20 CG in that same timespan.

You're absolutely wrong on both accounts. Under Rothschild, qualified Cubs pitchers, on average, improved both their K/PA by 2.17% and their BB/PA by 1.33%, and pitched 41 complete games during his tenure. Pay attention to the last two columns in the charts below; those are the differences. Only four qualified Cubs pitchers have seen their BB/PA increase under Rothschild -- Rich Harden, Glendon Rusch, Shawn Estes, and Antonio Alfonseca. Here's the study (http://www.anothercubsblog.net/2010-articles/june/larry-rothschild-and-walks.html):

...Unlike K/PA, BB/PA becomes reliable at 550 PA, but I stuck with the same list anyway. I obviously used only unintentional walks. I'll mark the ones who do not have 550 batters faced. Below is the list of players and their K/PA and BB/PA before Rothschild as well as with him.

{Table showing those pitchers with sample sizes not large enough to qualify}

The players in red did not, or do not have 550 batters faced so while their change in strikeout rate is significant, the change in their walk rate is not yet.

The group as a whole [including unqualified pitchers] struck out 17.12% and walked 7.90% of the batters they faced before Rothschild. With Rothschild, the group struckout 19.67% and walked 7.72%. That's a considerable increase in strikeouts and the walks even decreased, which actually surprised me. More strikeouts and fewer walks are a good thing since those are two of the few things a pitcher can control. That's no small sample either. There were over 73,000 plate appearances before and over 21,000 with Rothschild. 11 of the 21 improved their walk rate. LaTroy Hawkins, Bob Howry and Ted Lilly improved their walk rates the most.

[Table featuring qualified pitchers with adequate sample sizes]:

R. Harden 2243 23.32% 9.94% 893 29.12% 10.19% 5.80% 0.25%
J. Marquis 3960 13.94% 8.51% 1584 12.63% 8.46% -1.31% -0.05%
T. Lilly 4080 19.58% 8.97% 2685 20.56% 6.15% 0.98% -2.83%
S. Eyre 2141 17.05% 10.65% 559 23.61% 10.55% 6.57% -0.09%
B. Howry 1924 20.32% 7.59% 992 20.56% 3.93% 0.24% -3.66%
R. Dempster 4326 17.98% 11.14% 3180 21.07% 8.77% 3.08% -2.37%
G. Rusch 4543 16.73% 6.71% 1511 17.21% 7.15% 0.48% 0.43%
G. Maddux 16117 17.16% 4.24% 2380 15.46% 3.40% -1.69% -0.84%
M. Remlinger 3063 22.27% 10.51% 598 24.75% 9.70% 2.48% -0.81%
S. Estes 5040 17.94% 11.39% 699 14.74% 11.73% -3.20% 0.34%
A. Alfonseca 1343 14.74% 6.48% 626 17.89% 9.11% 3.15% 2.63%
M. Clement 2565 17.62% 11.46% 2484 23.19% 9.18% 5.57% -2.28%
Overall 51345 17.86% 7.88% 18191 19.71% 7.59% 1.85% -0.29%

If you remove those [unqualified] players, there is a slight improvement in the walk rate. Those pitchers who have a reliable sample with Rothschild have had better control. Greg Maddux makes up such a large portion of the before Rothschild group and Maddux's control wasn't as spectacular as we remember early in his career. I've removed him from the group and below is the average of all the others.

Overall 35228 18.18% 9.55% 15811 20.35% 8.22% 2.17% -1.33%

Removing Maddux's large sample was kind of throwing off the group just a bit. As you can see now, the pitchers who have worked with Rothschild and faced at least 550 PA have improved their control quite a bit. Once again, this was surprising to find. There's over 35,000 plate appearances in the before group and nearly 16,000 in the during group. It appears that Rothschild may have a direct impact on not only increasing the strikeouts, but also decreasing [walks]. That's a considerable finding in my opinion. I wouldn't say this is proof he improves their control by any means. We'd really need to compare the pitchers Rothschild has had to their projections prior to joining the team to figure that out, but based on what players had done in their careers prior to working with Rothschild, their control improved.

Although HR/PA and HR/FB do not become realiable within 750 PA, I am going to take a look at that tomorrow. BB, K and HR are the 3 biggest factors in fielding independent pitching (FIP). Rothschild improves pitchers in 2 of those areas.

06-15-2010, 03:37 PM

Statistical Smackdown!

Thanks Yagyu, I never really understood the untouchable status that Rothschild seems to enjoy, but this explains a lot of it. Glad he's on our side.