Baseball Primer Newsblog
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Tuesday, January 29, 2013
do you think it would be realistic for a team to use a 4-man starting rotation…?
... Between 1975 and 1988, baseball went through two separate transitions, both intended to accomplish the same thing, which was the reduction of injuries/protection of arms. The first transition was from a four-man to a five-man rotation… The… idea… was that it would be OK for [a pitcher] to… face 35 or 40 batters per start, thus throwing 130 to 170 pitches per start (and sometimes more)... as [long as] he got an extra day between starts. That really didn’t work. There was no chance that it would work. If you damage a pitcher’s arm by asking him to do something marginally crazy, you can’t UN-damage it by giving him an extra day to recover.
But what COULD have been done, instead, was this. Many pitchers threw 280 to 300 innings in a season from 1965 to 1975, and many of them did so with no evidence of damage to their arms. At 17 pitches per inning, 16.5 pitches per inning, that’s 5,000 pitches in a season, more or less. Suppose that pitchers had been asked instead to pitch in a THREE-man rotation—but with strict limits of 90 pitches per start, and less than that for very young pitchers. That’s 54 starts a season, 90 pitches per start MAXIMUM. . ..you’re actually REDUCING the number of pitches thrown in a season from about 5,000 to about 4,600 (assuming that the pitcher NEVER throws 91 pitches in a season and occasionally exits after 70 or 80.)
More significant than that, you’re also reducing the stress per pitch, for an obvious reason. The most stressful pitches are those thrown when the pitcher is tired. I would postulate that the strain on a pitcher’s arm is probably proportional to the SQUARE of pitches thrown. . ..in other words, throwing 100 pitches in an outing is four times as stressful to a pitcher as throwing 50, and throwing 150 is nine times as stressful as throwing 50. .. .assuming simply that the stress increases as the pitcher becomes fatigued.
Using that assumption. . .that the stress is proportional to the SQUARE of pitches thrown….a pitcher who makes 37 starts in a season but throws 120, 130, 140, 150 or 160 pitches in each start has a total stress load of 724,000 “points” over the season. The pitcher who makes 54 starts but throws 85, 88, 89, 90 pitches every start has a total stress load of a 431,000 points. . . dramatically lower.
For this reason, I believe that if baseball had switched not from a four-man rotation to five, but from a four-man rotation to three, but with a strict 90-pitch limit, it would have worked better than what was actually done. That’s my opinion.
I also think that pitchers would have liked it. A pitcher making 54 starts for a good team would have had a fair chance to “win” 30 games, and a hell of a chance to win 20.
[The questioner is referring to electing Marvin Miller to the Hall of Fame over his stated objection - TDA]
Because the Hall of Fame is a museum and has a duty to history.
Words. That’s not an argument; that’s just a bumper sticker. A museum has a duty to history, a duty to its community, a duty to the economy, a duty to integrity, a duty to doody. . ..so what? That’s no more an argument in re Marvin Miller than it is in re Shoeless Joe, Spike Eckert or Lefty O’Doul.
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