How Nasty were the Boys, really?
From the preview of MLB Network’s special about the 1990 Cincinnati Reds, best-remembered for a) winning the World Series, and b) the “Nasty Boys” bullpen:
Paul O’Neill: In most bullpens, you match up lefties against lefties, and righties against righties. Lefties or righties don’t hit Rob Dibble. Lefties or righties don’t hit Norm Charlton. These guys weren’t matchup pitchers. You really could’ve drawn any one of them out of a hat to be the closer.Article continues below ...
This is one of those things players say all the time – nobody really believes in platoon differentials, because of course we’re not able to see them on the field with any precision at all – but then you actually check and they’re usually wrong.
So let’s check. In 1990,
– Dibble gave up a .181 batting average to right-handed hitters, .185 to lefties;
– Charlton gave up a .233 batting average to right-handed batters, .224 to lefties;
– Myers gave up a .197 batting average to right-handed batters, .181 to lefties.
Yeah, I did cheat a little. Batting average! Dibble did actually have a small differential, with a significantly higher walk rate against lefties. Charlton had a small differential, giving up more power to righties. But yes, this trio was about as platoon-irrelevant as you’ll ever see. Probably because they threw so many fastballs.
Just a couple of other things about this…
I’ve long thought about making a list of bullpens with nicknames that stuck, but now I can’t find enough to write about.
The first might have been the 1988 Indians’ Bullpen from Hell (if that was really a thing), then the Nasty Boys in 1990, and it wasn’t until 2013 that the Pirates’ Shark Tank gained some currency. I know that other bullpens have been nicknamed, but I trolled Google for 30 minutes and couldn’t find another worth mentioning.
For which there’s probably a really good reason: Bullpens are so transitory. Teams generally don’t keep them together, and even when they’re together, their performance isn’t consistent. In 1991, Dibble and Charlton remained quite good but Myers fell off a lot. And Dibble completely lost his control in 1993, never to find it again.