The Three Man Starting Rotation

November 20, 2015
 The Three-Man Starting Rotation

 

            It is entirely possible and entirely practical, in modern baseball, for a team to use a three-man starting rotation.   I realize that this is probably not going to happen, but. . this is how it could work, and this is why it would work.

            Suppose that a team used a three-man starting rotation, but limited each pitcher to 80 pitches a start or five innings.   (This actually would work with 90 pitches a start, but 80 is more conservative, so I’m going to use 80 as a working premise.)  Anyway, a starting pitcher always and absolutely comes out of the game as soon as

            1) He has pitched five innings, or

            2)  He has thrown 80 pitches.

            No exceptions.   Eighty pitches, it’s the fifth inning, you’re ahead 9-0 and you have two outs and two strikes on the hitter. ..tough luck, Sally, you should have thrown more strikes earlier in the game.   

            OK, let’s assume that.   The pitcher pitches no more than 5 innings in any start, and throws no more than 80 pitches.  How much could such a pitcher pitch, in a season?

            In theory, such a pitcher could make as many as 54 starts in a season and pitch as many as 270 innings, but in practice this would never happen.    In order to reach 54 starts the pitcher would have to stay on the three-game schedule all year, and it’s difficult to imagine that happening.    The schedule would have to run perfectly, no rainouts and double headers, no disruptions from days off and the All Star break.   The pitcher would have to be 100% healthy all year, no stitch in the side, no flu or food poisoning, no blisters.   It is hard to imagine all of that happening.

            Since the pitcher will never pitch more than five innings in a start, in order to average 5 innings a start, he has to pitch five innings in every start.   Realistically, that is never going to happen.  Most pitchers are going to have a good many starts or many starts in which they fail to get through five innings in 80 pitchers, and every pitcher is going to have at least some starts like that.   Most pitchers are going to give up 7 runs in the first three innings and get knocked out of the game once or twice a year, certainly given 50-some starts.   Realistically, a pitcher working in a three-man rotation would have an upper boundary of about 52 starts, 245 innings in a season.  

            That’s not a fantastic number, is it, 245 innings?    116 pitchers pitched 245 or more innings in a season in the 1950s, 189 in the 1960s, and 275 in the 1970s.    This went down to 134 (pitchers pitching 245 innings) in the 1980s, 46 in the 1990s, and 14 in the first decade of this century.  

            The thing is, though, that this decrease in pitchers pitching 245 or more innings has not been accompanied by any obvious decrease in starting pitcher injuries.  

            Study here. . .this is a new study; I have done ones like it before.   Not only has this decrease in innings pitched by starting pitchers not led to an obvious improvement in pitchers’ health, but the number of pitchers who are able to stay in rotation from season to season has actually decreased measurably.  

            If you look at the 100 pitchers pitching the most innings in the years 1970 to 1975, those 100 pitchers pitched an average of 297 innings each—what seems to us now like a fantastic workload.   Yet, despite pitching 297 innings each, 96 of those 100 pitchers were still in the starting rotation (pitching 150 or more innings) in the following season, 87 in the second following season, and 76 in the third following season.   68 of the 100 were still in the starting rotation four years later, 61 were still in rotation five years later, 45 were still in rotation six years later, and 37 were still in rotation seven years later.   (The six and seven-year figures are slightly depressed by the 1981 strike, and should be slightly higher, but never mind.)

            If you look at the 100 pitchers pitching the most innings in the years 2000 to 2005, those pitchers pitched an average of only 231 innings—yet the numbers of those pitchers staying in rotation one year later, two years later, three years later, etc. are actually much lower than in the parallel study for 1970-1975:

 

 

 

Still in Rotation X Years Later

Study Group

Workload

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

1970 to 1975

297 innings

96

87

76

68

61

45

37

2000 to 2005

231 innings

82

77

70

68

59

45

32

 

            I understand, of course, that many things have changed in this time period, other than just the workloads of the starting pitchers, but there is no question that there is an increase in mid-career injuries to good starting pitchers in this time period (Dontrelle Willis, Brandon Webb, Mark Mulder, Johan Santana, Carl Pavano) rather than a decrease.   

            The decrease in starting pitcher workloads has occurred in three stages.    First, in the years 1974 to 1985, teams changed from four-man to five-man starting rotations.   (The Cardinals were using a five-man starting rotation in the late 1960s, but this did not start the trend.  The trend started in the mid-1970s). 

            Second, pitch limits were put into place in the mid- and late 1980s, when STATS began counting the number of pitches in every game and putting this in their box scores.   There was a period about 1990 when virtually every box score published in any newspaper came directly or indirectly from STATS (perhaps literally every box score.   We were not aware of any exception.    Some newspapers were purchasing their box scores from other sources, but those sources were getting their information from STATS.  Certainly all of the wire services were getting their data from us.   Some local newspaper may have persisted in creating their own box scores.)  STATS made pitch counts available as a part of their package, and many newspapers published them.  

            Managers would be criticized whenever pitchers had very high pitch counts, and this led to the adoption of pitch limits by starting pitchers.    Craig Wright’s research on pitcher injuries was critical to this process.

            Third, from 1990 to approximately 2008, perhaps continuing to the present day, pitch limits were walked backward to lower and lower numbers.    I don’t have the book in front of me, but my memory is that Craig’s 1987 book, The Diamond Appraised, argued that pitchers younger than 25 years of age should never throw more than 130 pitches in a game.   Other researchers in that era, picking up on Craig’s work, started figuring "pitcher abuse points" for longer starts, and this, along with expanding bullpens, caused the pitch limits to shrink from 130 to essentially 100 pitches.   The outrage of fans after Grady Little allowed an obviously tired Pedro Martinez to blow a lead in the 2003 ALCS also contributed to that process.  

            So three stages:

            1)  Switch from the four-man to five-man rotation (1974 to 1985),

            2)  Imposition of starting pitcher limits (1986 to 1991),

            3)  Pitch limits walked backward (1990 to 2008). 

            All of this was done in an effort to reduce injuries to starting pitchers, and not for any other reason.    Some people will argue NOW that this may not have reduced injuries, but it may have made starting pitchers more effective, but that’s an after-the-fact argument.    Doing these things has not, in fact, reduced starting pitcher injuries—and there is no actual evidence that a pitcher could not pitch 280, 300 innings in modern baseball without any increased risk of injuries.  

            There is evidence, and there is what we choose to believe based on the evidence.   This is what I believe.   I believe that the first stage of this process, the switch from four-man to five-man starting rotations, did nothing at all to reduce injuries, and that there was no reason at all to make that switch.  Managers were reacting to a fear of injuring their pitchers by overworking them, but the first step they took to protect their pitchers had no protective value.   I believe that the second change (putting in place pitch limits) was absolutely necessary and appropriate, and I believe that the third change (reducing the pitch limits) may have been helpful in some cases.   

            And. . .what about the improvements in sports medicine and training that we hear so much about?   If sports medicine and training have improved so much, and pitchers are being handled so much more carefully than they were back in the bad old days of Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan, why then have starting pitcher injuries not decreased?  Doesn’t it seem obvious that they should have?

            Pitcher injuries have not decreased because we’re pursuing a chimera, a shibboleth, a mirage.    The way we use starting pitchers now is NOT, in fact, an effective way to keep them healthy and in rotation.    That is what I believe.

            But I am not arguing here for a return to pitchers pitching 300 innings in a season.   I’m arguing for a change in pattern that would put the top limit at about 245 innings in a season—actually not that far from where it is now.   

            But here’s the thing:  starting pitchers would be pitching a few more innings, but in a pattern that reduces the stress load associated with those pitches.  

            It is universally accepted, I believe, that pitches thrown when a pitcher is tired are more likely to contribute to injury than pitches thrown when a pitcher is less tired.     Which exposes a pitcher to more injury risk:  throwing 600 pitches in four starts (150, 150, 150, 150) or throwing 600 pitches in six starts (100, 100, 100, 100, 100, 100).   Of course we believe that throwing 150 pitches in a start is more than proportionally stressful than throwing 100 pitches in a start, given that the number of pitches is equal.   That assumption is the foundation of the current structure, in which pitchers are taken out of the game at about the 100-pitch limit.

            Does it not follow, then, that a pitcher can pitch more innings in a season if the number of "fatigue pitches" is reduced?    Do you not believe that a pitcher has more fatigue in his arm at 100 pitches (heading into his last ten) than he would at 70 (heading into his last ten)?   If you do not believe that, why would you not believe that?  

            And if you believe that a pitcher has more fatigue at 100 pitches than he does at 70, then does it not follow that a pitcher can pitch more innings in a season if he never throws more than 70-80 pitches in a game, than if he throws 100 to 110 pitches in a game?  

            A pitcher working in a three-man starting rotation can pitch (a few) more innings in a season than pitchers now pitch, with no increase (and probably a decrease) in the risk of injury.  I know that I’m out on an island here all by myself, but this is what I believe. 

            And, I will argue, there are other benefits that would flow to anyone who was bold enough to actually do this, other reasons why it is practical to do this.   First point:  the starting pitchers would come to love it. 

            It has been talked about forever, why not do away with starting pitchers, and just use each pitcher three innings at a time; it has been talked about forever, and actually tried a couple of times.   But one reason it does not work is that starting pitchers feel dispossessed.   The rules require you to pitch five innings to be credited with a win, but you can get a loss facing one batter.   Who wants that burden every time you go to the mound?   You make 70 starts of two innings each, you can finish the season 0-27 with a 2.50 ERA.   

            But in this system, a starting pitcher would have a relatively open pathway to twenty wins—and an outside possibility of winning thirty.   In 1974, when starting pitchers pitched more innings per game, starting pitchers accounted for 75% of pitcher wins; now, it is 70%.   With this structure we have to assume that that number would drop back a little bit further, but starting pitchers would still get the win in about 67% of games.    An average team wins 81 games, so that’s 54 wins for the starting pitchers on an average team.   There are three of them, so that’s 18 wins apiece—on an average team.

            Maybe not quite, but in this system there would be a great many pitchers who would go 16-17, 17-19, and 18-17.   The good pitchers are going to go 20-13, 21-11 and 22-14—records like Warren Spahn had every year.   And a good pitcher on a great team. . .well, the sky’s the limit.  

            Another advantage to this method would be that it structures the bullpen in such a way that one or two spots could be reclaimed for the bench.   In all of baseball history up to 1990 there were only 11 pitchers who pitched 50 or more games and averaged less than one inning per game.  Now there are about 100 such pitchers per season, or three per team.

            This is not ENTIRELY necessary; a few of those pitchers could carry some actual innings.   With a three-man starting rotation, you could structure the staff this way:

            Starting Pitchers (3)

            Closer (1)

            8th Inning guy (1)

            6th-7th nning pitchers (3)

            Left-handers (2)

            That’s an 11-man staff, and I think that’s enough.    If the starting pitchers pitch a little less than five innings per start that be 760 innings per season, which leaves about 700 for the bullpen.  With eight relievers that’s 88 innings per reliever.   That doesn’t strike me as an extraordinary number. 

            One other advantage that I see to this method is that a starting pitcher taking the mound knowing that he has only 80 pitches to work with and that he has to get through five innings is well positioned to understand the importance of attacking the hitter.   You can’t really afford to waste pitches—and I think that having a deeper understanding of that principle would work to the benefit of the game and of many of the individual pitchers. 

            Well. . .this is just my idea.   History is like a river; it chooses a course, and it digs into that pathway until it is so deeply entrenched that it seems impossible to move it.   I’m not expecting to move the river here; I am merely arguing that it could equally well have taken a different path.  

 

 

 
 

COMMENTS (34 Comments, most recent shown first)

llozada
1-) I don't see a big difference between the 1970-1975 group and the 2000-2005 group. It is obvious that the 2000-2005 are pitching fewer innings, but they seem to stay on the rotation at the same rate as the 1970-75 pitchers.

2-) What would extra-inning games do to this dynamic? It seems to me that you are using most your pitchers on every game; wouldn't going deep into extra-innings throw a huge wrench into it?
11:58 AM Dec 3rd
 
shinsplint
OldBackstop, I think the effect of expansion and DH would be somewhat offsetting influences. Expansion would supposedly make it easier for pitchers, as there would be more easy outs, and thus fewer pitches. And the DH would make it harder, of course. On balance, I would say the DH influence would be larger, and I believe a majority of the pitchers in Bill's study group would be in the A.L. as more pitchers in the A.L. had high innings totals. So I think an average inning would have more pitches thrown starting in 1973 (half Bill's study group), although that's just my speculation. And since the innings pitched in the 1970-1975 list averaged 297 (vs. 231 in 2000-2005), the only way I can see that your theory is valid is if pitching more innings a season INCREASES a pitcher's ability to pitch for a longer time. If so, then the DH and expansion lengthened careers (although any effect of expansion in the "still in rotation" years must be lesser as they are getting further from 1969.) Anyway, I don't buy it, and Bill isn't saying that either. It looks like he's saying that those increased innings didn't really hurt the pitchers, not that it necessarily helped them.

8:23 AM Nov 24th
 
OldBackstop
Why am I being ignored??? Hey! Hey !!!

The first period encompassing expansion and the DH...do you all see how they could lead to longer outings and careers....all injury discussions aside, as I don't see injuries separated out from innings.
2:50 AM Nov 24th
 
evanecurb
For those of you who have read my blathering on about Gaylord Perry's durability and are tired of it, please feel free to ignore this post.
When I was looking at Perry's stats during his peak period from 1967-1975, in which he averaged 315 innings per season and pitched at least 290 innings each year, I noticed something: he pitched very well in the late innings. And this was not an anomaly, because he averaged about 8 innings per start and completed about half of his starts. He also pitched very well in August and September - if memory serves, those were his best months. Was he an anomaly?

Perhaps, as Marisfan says, this is not relevant to today's game. But I have noticed that a few of the workhorse starters of the seventies had some critical elements in common:
(1) they didn't have high innings totals when they were young (under 25) (2) they had a a "solid foundation" (read - strong legs and a big butt). Seaver, Ryan, Carlton, and Lolich all seem to fit this pattern, as does Spahn. Blyleven does not, and he was extremely durable. I'm rambling. Good pitchers can throw more innings without losing effectiveness, but they shouldn't do it when they're young. Maybe.
5:43 PM Nov 23rd
 
Guy123
Tango: Fair point. Starters would reduce their pitches thrown by about 21%. However, they would presumably need the same number of pitches warming up pre-game, so total reduction in wear on the pitcher's arm is probably a bit south of 20%. In any case, it's very hard to imagine this would allow pitchers to reduce their rest period by 50% and increase starts by 67%.

Basically, Bill is proposing to increase a starting pitcher's workload by 33% (from 185 to 245 IP), and hoping this would have little or no impact on performance. In judging the plausibility of that scenario, we should consider how well today's starters perform vs. those before the series of usage changes Bill describes. In 1974, starters had a 13.0 K% and 8.4% BB%, for a 4.6 K-BB%. Today they post 19.5%/7.1% for a 12.3% K-BB% -- almost 3x the 1974 rate. Obviously, many things have changed in the game since 1974, but it's very hard to imagine that starters' reduced workload was not a large factor here. In this context, there is little reason to think you could jack up starting pitchers' workload by one-third and not pay a substantial price in reduced performance. So even if Bill is 100% right in speculating that his change wouldn't increase injuries, there is still no chance this change will -- or should -- happen.
3:40 PM Nov 23rd
 
MarisFan61
Regarding how such a thing might ever be instituted:

I would think that if anything, it would be in stages, with the initial steps not much resembling what is described here -- and initially perhaps sort of by accident or out of necessity . I think the kinds of concerns being raised here are likely to be held within organized baseball to an extent that no organization would ever just go full force immediately with such a whole thing.

Perhaps some initial partial version might be done due to injuries or woeful ineffectiveness among some of a team's starters and a paucity of available replacements. Perhaps some mild version might be done according to tendencies being shown during a season by some of a team's pitchers, regarding being very effective for just a certain number of innings and then falling off a cliff, plus their seemingly being able to pitch at certain frequencies. Or some such.

I'd suspect that such a step would probably initially be viewed as a temporary emergency measure rather than a step toward something more, but if it was working extraordinarily well, it might be maintained. Then, after a time, as with most successful new approaches it might be tried by other teams -- I'm still talking about a partial thing, not such a formal whole system. And then maybe some team would take it further toward something like what Bill is describing. And of course at any point along the way, it's possible that problems might be seen, perhaps unanticipatable ones, which could cause backtracking, tweaking, or abandonment of the course.
10:58 AM Nov 23rd
 
greggborgeson
Fascinating discussion. We don't really know what is the optimal number of pitches/days rest for most pitchers. But if one ignores the noise of who gets credit for the win, there are a host of possibilities. For example, if 70 pitches per appearance turns out to be optimal, a team could have six 70-pitch pitchers, three pairs that rotate. The average game requires 145 pitches, the team could employ two mop-up relievers, and two closer-types to finish things off or cover extra innings when needed. Ten pitchers total.
9:49 AM Nov 23rd
 
78sman
Bill,
This is a creative idea that is worth considering. I think that teams would need to try it out to see if it would work. I also think that it might work with some pitchers and not with others. I would think that each pitcher is different; a rotation method that would work with one group of pitchers would not necessarily work with others.
9:30 AM Nov 23rd
 
tangotiger
Guy:

The point you make is a fair one. However, I'll just update your numbers slightly. Yes, 93 pitches per start was the average in 2015, but it was 95.6 in 2014, as high as 97.0 in 2010. In 2002-2015, the average was 95.0, so let's use that figure as the base.

And Bill noted that it would be a maximum of 80 pitches or 5 innings, whichever came first. Since you could reach 5 innings on say 65 or 70 pitches, the average pitches per start would likely be closer to 75, maybe a bit lower.

So, that would mean dropping pitches per start from 95 down to 75, a drop of 21%.

Your main point however still stands.


8:25 AM Nov 23rd
 
MarisFan61
.....which I think brings us back to the point about whether long-ago seasonal numbers of innings pitched are relevant to today. It seems (right?) that Bill is using the fact of old-time pitchers having frequently done 250-300 innings a year as a basic support for the notion that this would work. It does support it and perhaps trump all or most else if those long-ago totals and long-ago days are relevant to today. I noted why they might not be and why I pretty much figure they aren't.

I think that's a major crux on this.
8:28 PM Nov 22nd
 
Guy123
The evidence we have strongly suggests that today's starters are less effective with three days rest than four. And I think we can all agree that most starters would see a catastrophic loss of effectiveness if asked to pitch regularly on two days rest. So the question Bill raises here is, would reducing starters' average pitch count by 13 pitches radically change that equation (last year starting pitchers averaged 93 pitches per start)?

Stated another way, the notion here is that if you reduce starters' pitch count by 14%, you can increase their frequency of starts by about 65% -- with no loss of effectiveness. I'm sorry, but that just seems wildly improbable. Could starters go on three days rest if subject to Bill's inning/pitch limit? That seems at least within the realm of possibility.

Then there's the notion that you could ask the bullpen to throw an additional 200 innings, while adding zero or one extra reliever -- presumably with no decline in performance. Again, this just seems like magical thinking. But perhaps I'm missing something.....

5:24 PM Nov 22nd
 
evanecurb
I think the biggest questions in this scheme are:

1. How many days between starts does a starting pitcher need if he's throwing 80 pitches or 5 innings? Are two off days (sometimes 3) enough?
2. If the bullpen is pitching 4 or more innings every single game, how many relievers do you need? It seems like it would be 2 times the number of innings covered by the bullpen per game if they need an average of 1 day off, fewer if they need fewer days off. Let's assume that the bullpen covers five innings per game, on average. That means you need ten relief pitchers, I think.
3. One observation: this system could be tinkered with; you could bring back the idea of the swing man - starts once a week, available for long relief between starts, so that you have a 3 1/2 man rotation.
4. It's worth trying. Especially for teams that have a good bullpen and three (or less) good starting pitchers, such as the Orioles.
4:19 PM Nov 22nd
 
jemanji
I'll bet the Rybka chess program could win 100 games in a Strat-O league by using those kind of RP/SP permutations... :- )


10:49 PM Nov 21st
 
tangotiger
cderosa: Kershaw is as likely to be preceded by a 2-inning reliever who gives up 3 runs as to be followed by a 2-inning reliever who gives up 3 runs.

If anything, given that you know you won't (can't) use Kershaw for more than 5 innings, then you might even want to start with 2 relievers each going 2 innings each. Then when it's time to bring in Kershaw, if it's already lopsided, you can save him for the next day. (But you can't continually push him off.)

Basically, if you start the game with Kershaw, you are starting the game with a Leverage Index of 0.9. But, if you hold him to enter the third inning, he can come in with an LI of 0.7 or 0.9 or 1.4. Could be anything.

And if you have the choice to enter him today, or be forced to bring in him tomorrow, then he can enter the game in, overall, a higher leverage situation.

(At a cost of upsetting the structure a little.)
4:52 PM Nov 21st
 
MarisFan61
True, "no hitters" and "perfect games" would not only be obsolete, I think they'd soon be thought of as quaint, and would require 'quotes' around them because hardly anyone would remember those phrases.

But on the other hand, there could be a resurrection of 30-win seasons, maybe 40-win, and people might shake their heads in pity over the generations that hardly had them any more.
12:44 PM Nov 21st
 
sprox
an exception for no-hitters and perfect games?

I'd hate to see that come to an end
9:31 AM Nov 21st
 
cderosa
I love three-man rotation schemes and I've really glad Bill revisited and fleshed out the idea here.

I don't think it would work to use a short man first, and then the five-inning man second. The guy you want to throw five innings is one of your three best pitchers, but those three guys are not likely to be equally good pitchers. If you let a 2-inning man start the game, and he gives up a few runs, and it is Clayton Kershaw's turn to the be the five-inning guy, you've either got to blow the Claw on a game in in which you are already in the hole, or mess up your rotation.

I think there is good reason for the guys from whom you think you can get the most quality in bulk to start the games.

Chris
7:13 AM Nov 21st
 
guidedogjapan
In Japan's pro leagues in the 1960s and 1970s, when strikeouts were fairly rare (and box scores reported pitch counts), (I recall) 70 percent of complete games required less than 90 pitches.

Since the 1990s, 70 percent of complete games are 130+ pitches.
3:51 AM Nov 21st
 
jemanji
Tom - great idea, and it goes back to the "Ted Power" idea of crossing up the opponent when they don't know who's going to be pitching the first inning. And/or flipping the platoon advantage on them after they set their lineup. You stack the lineup with righties against David Price, boom, the first six batters go down relatively easily to the surprise sidearm RH slider guy.

20-30 years ago Bill pointed this out in some Abstract ("Is this legit, to flip the platoon on lineups, or is it kind of chickenfeathers?" and IIRC he couldn't come up with a reason not to do it other than "it would even out and it would increase the workload for everybody." IIRC.

If it were politically feasible I'd use James'/your idea in a heartbeat.
1:53 AM Nov 21st
 
Bucky
3+1+1+3+2...isn't that a 10-man staff instead of an 11?
12:14 AM Nov 21st
 
MarisFan61
.....including (especially for A.L. pitchers) because of the DH.

I think three of us have expressed this same thing, from different directions: Perhaps your average inning is more strenuous now than it was in the days when 250-300 inning seasons were common. We can't assume that when comparing stuff across history, an inning is an inning is an inning.
10:30 PM Nov 20th
 
flyingfish
Very interesting as always from Bill. I'm wondering where average velocity fits in here. More pitchers are throwing harder than ever before, and it seems to me--but I'm less confident about this part--that there are fewer easy outs in teams' lineups than ever before. Not many defensive wizards who can't hit much. So even if starting pitchers are throwing fewer innings and fewer pitches than pitchers did 40 years ago, they are throwing harder and having fewer respites than the older pitchers. Maybe that's why pitcher injuries haven't decreased?
10:27 PM Nov 20th
 
chuck
I think this is a brilliant idea, along with Tom's suggestion to have a reliever start the game for about 2 innings. The real starter- now long guy- can come in facing the bottom of the order, maybe starting with the #8 hitters. He could go 5 innings and not have to face the best hitters that 3rd time through the order. The reliever-starter could be matched up to the top of the opposition's lineup. It has the additional benefit that both the reliever guy and the long-relief starter would know when and how they were going to come into the game. The long guy would be warming up maybe in the 1st inning, and if the relief-starter gets into trouble, the change could still be made when it gets to, say, the #8 hitter.

8:27 PM Nov 20th
 
OldBackstop
HeyBill, I'm curious why you started in 1970. Looking beyond injuries, I would think that the expansion made longer pitching careers a bit easier in that five year stretch. And starting in 1973 in the AL's DH would extend pitcher's outings due to the lack of pinch hitting for them, no?
8:21 PM Nov 20th
 
rgregory1956

Aren't some of the low minors doing something like this? One sees at Low-A pitchers with 20 starts and 80 innings all over the place. For Bill's idea to take hold, that's where it would have to start, but maybe trying it first with 4 starters pitching 4 innings or 70 pitches (instead of 80), which ever comes first. I do know that in the Arizona Fall League, starters rarely (if ever) go 5 innings.


8:12 PM Nov 20th
 
sansho1
I'm for just about anything that would increase the number of bench position players on a team at the expense of a reliever or two. A return to the days when a team could carry a pinch-hitting specialist and/or a designated fast guy would warm my heart.
6:18 PM Nov 20th
 
MarisFan61
(ooops, I meant doesn't make much sense....)
6:07 PM Nov 20th
 
MarisFan61
Yes -- that's a good example of why it does make much sense to say (not that anyone here says stuff like this) "there will never be another 30-win season," or nobody will ever again win 20 games again and again.

What those kinds of things always mean is, ".....so long as the game stays just as it is right now."

I think it may have been Bill who wrote that things that are commonly said to be beyond reach have an uncanny way of actually happening pretty soon.
6:07 PM Nov 20th
 
tangotiger
With respect to the W/L, you can start the game with a reliever pitching 2 innings.

Then bring in your "long man" for 5 innings / 80 pitches. He'll now be eligible for the W and L in all 54 of his games. Indeed, since the "starting pitcher" can't get any W in his 2 inning start, but can get the L, then our "long man" will get a hugely disproportionate share of W relative to L.

In any game in which he comes in with a lead, and the team never loses that lead, essentially the only pitcher who will get a W is this long man.

2:58 PM Nov 20th
 
MarisFan61
.....bad final analogy I made there.
Forget "marathon" for what it was like in how those long-ago pitchers were exerting themselves. Let's call it the 800-meter.
2:50 PM Nov 20th
 
MarisFan61
About the "stress" of a given pitch or inning:

I wonder if something is missing in the comparisons to those past eras when starters pitched so many more innings. I don't know if this is so, but I've pretty much assumed it -- and I'd love to hear, from Bill or others who might be in a position to know, whether this would seem to be so.

I've thought that in those older days, starters paced themselves more. I think we know that there are differences on this between some kinds of classes of pitchers. Like, it's clearer (or seems clearer) that starters have long paced themselves more than short relievers. It sure seems that way even just from their demeanors -- not all of them; Mariano Rivera didn't look particularly different out there than starters do, but I'm thinking Dick Radatz, Goose Gossage, and most others: It's like they're sprinters out there, while starters look more like they're running the 400 meter. So, there are differences in the degree to which different kinds of pitchers are exerting themselves. Are there also differences for starting pitchers from different eras?

The reason I've almost assumed that the long-ago pitchers exerted themselves less -- maybe more like running a marathon, whereas now the starters are maybe like running the 400 meter......well I guess it's circular: I've figured that's why starters pitch fewer innings than they used to. Of course there are other reasons in there too, but I've figured it's likely that this is part of it.

If so, then we can't use long-ago numbers of innings-pitched as a support for the idea that this proposed system would be tenable. I'm not saying it isn't tenable, just more of an "I don't know" and that those past-era innings totals aren't necessarily a support argument. I do agree that in such a proposed system, there would very likely be fewer high-stress/high-risk pitches, because the pitch count in a given game would never get up toward the higher numbers. But I don't know if we can be sure about that, because maybe the higher overall total of innings per season would be an extra stress factor -- more than such innings totals were in past eras.
1:54 PM Nov 20th
 
steve161
The only question I have is recovery time. Is two days' rest enough time for a starter to regenerate after throwing 80 pitches?

Some might argue that this proposal would probably increase the effectiveness of pitching overall, which in this offensively-challenged age would make the game less attractive. Not me: I love a well-pitched game more than a slugfest.

As you say, probably ain't gonna happen. Pity.
1:47 PM Nov 20th
 
raincheck
I like that those 6th/7th inning guys would come from the current pool of 4th and 5th starters, and throwing just a couple of innings they should be more effective.

Question: when the starter gets hammered in the 1st inning, who relieves him? A 6/7 guy?
11:48 AM Nov 20th
 
matt_okeefe
First of all, I'd love to see what you're proposing here. You'd be able to name the starting rotation of every team in the league, and when was the last time you could do that? Second, and this is not quite to your point, but is it possible that the recent decrease in pitchers staying in the rotation, despite efforts to the contrary, has something to do with changes in the nature of the pitches being thrown, the stresses they put on the arm, etc.?
11:33 AM Nov 20th
 
 
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