Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Clubhouse Confidential: High Heat - Four-man rotations

MLB Network examines the benefits of pitcher specialization, four-man rotations and strict innings limits for starters.

It might not happen for twenty years, but anybody have any suggestions to keep games from happening where each team uses nine pitchers in a routine 5-4 game?

OsunaSakata Posted: January 19, 2013 at 07:07 AM | 20 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: pitching, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. base ball chick Posted: January 19, 2013 at 11:29 AM (#4350512)
yes we all know that pitchers pitch best when they face only a few batters at most.

changing pitchers every hitter or every few hitters is BORING. i don't care WHAT the stats say. it is bad enough we have a pinch hitter playing loke a position player. but expanding rosters - which is what would have to be done - to have umpty pitchers on it - would be the end of baseball

if you have a 4 man rotation, you gotta find SOMEones to pitch the 5th man's innings (not to mention retraining all those guys to pitch every 4th day) and all the relievers on the roster now aren't going to be able to fill in for ALL of those. and pitchers 1-4 are not gonna be able to add all those extra innings to the 200 they ALERADY pitch
   2. BDC Posted: January 19, 2013 at 11:58 AM (#4350533)
suggestions to keep games from happening where each team uses nine pitchers

In a non-DH league (I know there's only one left :) it would strain the current roster size to pinch-hit for the pitcher's slot every time through the order and carry enough pitchers to allow this strategy. Because really, if you've got a new pitcher next inning, what's the point of ever letting the old one hit, barring a first-inning bataround or something.

So, keep roster size small. Also, I wonder if the inevitable trend really is toward "all-reliever" games. At some point you really are being massively inefficient with guys like Halladay or Verlander, who can throw 120 pitches better than six or seven relievers can. Pitching talent is distributed unevenly. Even if any pitcher is better throwing one inning than nine, it remains that there are a few who can throw nine better than anybody else can throw one, and a fair number who can throw six at least as well as other guys can throw one.
   3. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: January 19, 2013 at 12:01 PM (#4350539)
suggestions to keep games from happening where each team uses nine pitchers


Put him in the Hall and Jack Morris will come out of retirement and go 8 for you every second night.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: January 19, 2013 at 04:08 PM (#4350649)
#2 -- sure, but that just suggests letting your top 2-3 starters go 6-8 innings and use rotating relievers on the other days.

I suspect that a continuing trend towards more pitchers would "force" the NL to adopt the DH. That will not only bring about the end of baseball, it will bring about the end of the world!
   5. GregD Posted: January 19, 2013 at 04:20 PM (#4350657)
#2 -- sure, but that just suggests letting your top 2-3 starters go 6-8 innings and use rotating relievers on the other days.
That seems like a potential future path. Pay boatloads for aces and let them pitch, run everybody else through the grinder for 2-3 innings at a time. Wonder where the cutoff line would be? When would it make sense to dump the starting pitcher plan and salary scale for a bunch of relievers? 95 ERA+? 90 ERA+?
   6. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: January 19, 2013 at 06:57 PM (#4350693)
suggestions to keep games from happening where each team uses nine pitchers


I don't care if baseball teams want to run a bunch a pitchers out there - provided they're making between-inning changes rather than mid-inning changes. If the latter type of pitching changes become even more common, start requiring pitchers who get called in to face two or more batters (or three or more) before they can exit. And if they try any injury funny business, then that pitcher is not eligible to pitch for at least three games, which should be the rule now anyway.

But they can make all the between-inning changes they want. They don't do anything to substantially slow the game down, and you can take steps to ensure they don't do anything to slow the game down at all.


   7. BDC Posted: January 19, 2013 at 08:28 PM (#4350722)
provided they're making between-inning changes rather than mid-inning changes

QFT. There are commercials and warm-up throws in any event; a new pitcher to start an inning never kills the pace of the modern game. I'm for no mid-inning substitutions at all, barring injury. Sure, that could mean some fun with platoon pinch-hitters. I enjoy fun :)
   8. Walt Davis Posted: January 19, 2013 at 10:06 PM (#4350769)
Wonder where the cutoff line would be?

It's more a matter of roster spots than anything. Also there's no evidence that pitchers can withstand throwing 2+ innings every 2-3 days -- the number of repeat reliever seasons over 100 IP is pretty short. Unless we're going to have 20-man pitching staffs, you can't go 2-2-2-1-1-1 every day. Every team would still have to carry 2-3 guys whose job is to go at least 5-6 innings in their starts. If you don't have 2-3 actually good SP, you might rotate 4-5 mediocre guys through those 2-3 slots, trying to get matchups in some starts and using them in the bullpen otherwise.

A key challenge in shifting to any reliever-heavy model is that today's relievers don't often go more than 60-70 innings in a season. They are already pitching about 480-500 innings (depending on offense level), using up the full seven slots. If you take away an average of an inning per start from the SP, then you've added 160 innings to your reliever load, requiring 2 more roster spots.

There is really very little that teams can do under current usage without adding a roster spot. Given the new TV money and everybody good locked into long-term contracts, maybe that's just what we'll see. But, barring that, any major shift from current usage to shorter starter stints is going to require longer reliever stints and I'm not convinced that's possible.
   9. Downtown Bookie Posted: January 20, 2013 at 07:20 AM (#4350840)
I don't care if baseball teams want to run a bunch a pitchers out there - provided they're making between-inning changes rather than mid-inning changes. If the latter type of pitching changes become even more common, start requiring pitchers who get called in to face two or more batters (or three or more) before they can exit. And if they try any injury funny business, then that pitcher is not eligible to pitch for at least three games, which should be the rule now anyway.

But they can make all the between-inning changes they want. They don't do anything to substantially slow the game down, and you can take steps to ensure they don't do anything to slow the game down at all.


I'll sign on to this.

In addition, you could eliminate the warm-up throws that a reliever makes from the mound when entering a game mid-inning; after all, he should be sufficiently warmed up from throwing in the bullpen.

But be forewarned that The Powers That Be actually like pausing the game. Breaks in the action allow for more commercials for TV viewers and more concession sales for attendees. Indeed, if the goal was to speed up the game, one of the best ways to do so would be to simply cut back the amount of time taken between innings to what it was just a few decades ago. But, again, speeding up the game isn't high on TPTB's agenda.

DB
   10. Bob Meta-Meusel Posted: January 20, 2013 at 10:20 AM (#4350872)
It's actually really easy. All you have to do is add a little rule that no more than 10, or maybe 11 spots on the 25 man roster can be used by pitchers. They'll never do it, but that's all it would take.

As for the best way to speed up games: Stop letting batters step out of the box between every pitch. Make them stay in there, and let the pitcher pitch.
   11. willcarrolldoesnotsuk Posted: January 20, 2013 at 12:11 PM (#4350927)
It's actually really easy. All you have to do is add a little rule that no more than 10, or maybe 11 spots on the 25 man roster can be used by pitchers.
Currently, anyone on the roster can be used at any position. Are you proposing that that rule changes as well, so that there really is a rules-defined thing as a "pitcher" besides "the person who is pitching"? That is, there are 10 or 11 people who are allowed to pitch, and the other 14 or 15 are not?

Otherwise, what's to stop teams from saying "Here is the list of our 11 pitchers. Also on our roster are these other 14 people, including this Yovani Gallardo guy, who is not a pitcher."

Just "I know it when I see it"? That is, the Commissioner steps in and says "Stop ####### around, Gallardo's a pitcher"?

If something besides "I know it when I see it", how do you deal with situations where the team actually does run out of "pitchers"? Forfeit?

Or perhaps the non-"pitchers" are allowed to pitch, but only if all "pitchers" have pitched? So in a super-duper extra innings game, instead of seeing Chris Davis come in, they burn through the other starters for one batter each (or one pitch, or whatever the defined minimum is) and then you see Chris Davis?

Or maybe something similar to that, but "pitchers" are exempt from this if they've pitched (say) five innings in the past four days? So you could (if you wanted to) skip over other starters (and maybe some relievers) and go straight to Chris Davis?

The "Stop ####### around, Gallardo's a pitcher" thing seems like it would probably work out OK to me, despite its vagueness, and probably better than the "non-pitchers can't pitch until all pitchers have" rule. But still, in the "Stop ####### around" case, what about people like Rick Ankiel? Or Babe Ruth? Do they count towards the limit of "pitchers"? Or does the Commissioner let them slide, with the looming threat of "Stop ####### around" if the team starts really using them "too much"?
   12. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 20, 2013 at 12:49 PM (#4350943)
It's more a matter of roster spots than anything. Also there's no evidence that pitchers can withstand throwing 2+ innings every 2-3 days -- the number of repeat reliever seasons over 100 IP is pretty short. Unless we're going to have 20-man pitching staffs, you can't go 2-2-2-1-1-1 every day. Every team would still have to carry 2-3 guys whose job is to go at least 5-6 innings in their starts. If you don't have 2-3 actually good SP, you might rotate 4-5 mediocre guys through those 2-3 slots, trying to get matchups in some starts and using them in the bullpen otherwise.


But there's plenty of evidence that pitchers can withstand throwing one inning two or three days in a row, and four days out of five. It seems to me that a lot of teams currently only have 2-3 guys who can give them 5-6 high quality innings every fifth day. So I think the real question becomes how pitchers would do throwing 2-3 innings every 2-3 days. If that kind of usage proved feasible, then I'm not sure that you'd really need to carry any more pitchers on your roster at any given time with a 3 SP, 9-10 RP staff instead of a 5 SP, 7-8 RP staff.
   13. OsunaSakata Posted: January 20, 2013 at 01:19 PM (#4350963)
It seems to me that a lot of teams currently only have 2-3 guys who can give them 5-6 high quality innings every fifth day.


That might be true, but according to Bill James in TFV, teams are emphasizing regular work over effectiveness. While in the past, in might have taken 4 runs to take a pitcher out before the fifth inning, now it might take eight runs.

Is there evidence non-closers are ineffective after three batters, but before ten? I'd rather have the set-up men pitch one turn around the order, rather than just one inning. Or have co-closers and have the other relievers go one turn around the batting order. There seem to be one inning relievers who could probably go longer.
   14. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 20, 2013 at 01:37 PM (#4350973)
That might be true, but according to Bill James in TFV, teams are emphasizing regular work over effectiveness.


I think there's a lot to be said for regular work, but I don't like it being taken to the extreme of forcing every pitcher into one of two usage patterns (ie, either 5+ innings every 5 days or 1 inning at a time up to three days in a row). Surely there must be some pitchers who could thrive in a one time through the order every third or fourth day role.
   15. puck Posted: January 20, 2013 at 02:06 PM (#4350981)
Surely there must be some pitchers who could thrive in a one time through the order every third or fourth day role.

Look at what the Rockies were doing in the 2nd half last season when they were fiddling with 75 pitch limits for their starters. They basically ran out Adam Ottavino, Josh Roenicke, and Carlos Torres in a rotation after the starters came out, and they'd usually pitch a couple innings. I don't know that they would have survived the entire season or multiple seasons in the role (Roenicke seemed to be wearing down at the end) but they seemed to do okay in the 2nd half.

They weren't great, but these guys aren't great pitchers, and were better than the starting pitchers. (Which is not saying much, but still.)
   16. cardsfanboy Posted: January 20, 2013 at 02:47 PM (#4351002)
suggestions to keep games from happening where each team uses nine pitchers


Teams may only have one warmup session during an inning. You can bring in multiple pitchers if you want, but you are only allowed time out for one of them to warmup. (Heck, it's arguable that there could be no warmup, that is what the bullpen is for)

Edit: I should have read the thread before commenting...

Currently, anyone on the roster can be used at any position. Are you proposing that that rule changes as well, so that there really is a rules-defined thing as a "pitcher" besides "the person who is pitching"? That is, there are 10 or 11 people who are allowed to pitch, and the other 14 or 15 are not?


I've always proposed that a players official position would be based upon whether he has more of either batters faced(pitcher) or plate appearances(in the previous 12 months, including minor league stats)... fairly straight forward.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: January 20, 2013 at 04:15 PM (#4351035)
But there's plenty of evidence that pitchers can withstand throwing one inning two or three days in a row, and four days out of five

No there isn't. Nobody has ever worked a schedule even remotely like that. There is evidence they can do this on occasion. But even there, it's actually pretty dicey.

Do you know how many relievers have pitched even 210 innings over the last 3 years? Nine. How about 180 innings? Now we're up to 45.

# of 180 IP relievers (95% relief):

2010-12: 45
2000-02: 58
1990-92: 54
1980-82: 38
1970-72: 30

Very few pitchers survive for long, even as 1-inning relievers. There is no evidence that pitchers (as a class) can handle a regular relief load in excess of 70-80 innings. This is not to say it's impossible -- if pitchers can hold up going 6 innings every 5th-6th day maybe they can handle 5 innings every 4th day or 4 innings every 3rd day. But we have no evidence this can be done.

It's something of a miracle that teams manage it at all. Like I said, relievers throw about 490 innings in a season as is, yet almost no relievers throw even 70 innings in a year (just 34 in 2012). With seven bullpen slots and 1-2 actually throwing their share, how do they get there? By recycling guys in and out from the minors, on and off the DL and on and off the waiver wire.

It's a complete churn fest. The 2012 Giants got 160 starts from their 5-man rotation and they averaged over 6 innings a start. And they still used 17 guys in relief and their top reliever pitched only 63 innings. A crap team like the Cubs used 20 guys (about 17 before Sept) and that was with the benefit of two guys at 69+.

No matter how you slice it, you've got to throw 1440-1450 innings a year. If you're talking about, say, two starters at 200 IP and two at 120, that leaves you with 800 relief innings. At an absolute minimum, you'd need 10 bullpen slots to pull that off, more likely 11-12, and you're probably going to have to churn through something like 20 relievers. Or you need more flexible roster rules so you can pitch a guy 2-3 innings in a game or an inning a game for 4 straight days then move him off the roster for 3 days then put him back on. And in all likelihood, at the end of that year, a ton of those guys are going to be hurt, even moreso than currently.

So, either an expansion of the roster (to, say, 28), the elimination of all bench spots other than backup C and backup SS or every bullpen slot has to throw 100 innings a year. There's zero evidence the latter is sustainable.

Or you can experiment and either be a genius or a fool watching his staff decimated by injuries.
   18. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 20, 2013 at 04:36 PM (#4351068)
There is evidence they can do this on occasion.


That's what I meant, and that should be enough. I should have been clearer that I didn't intend to suggest that there was evidence that anyone could throw an inning four days out of five for six months.
   19. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 20, 2013 at 04:41 PM (#4351074)
It's something of a miracle that teams manage it at all. Like I said, relievers throw about 490 innings in a season as is, yet almost no relievers throw even 70 innings in a year (just 34 in 2012). With seven bullpen slots and 1-2 actually throwing their share, how do they get there? By recycling guys in and out from the minors, on and off the DL and on and off the waiver wire.


And presumably this would still be how they managed it if they were carrying 3 starters and 9 relievers at any given time, instead of 5 starters and 7 relievers.
   20. Mendo Posted: January 20, 2013 at 06:57 PM (#4351330)
Very few pitchers survive for long, even as 1-inning relievers. There is no evidence that pitchers (as a class) can handle a regular relief load in excess of 70-80 innings. This is not to say it's impossible -- if pitchers can hold up going 6 innings every 5th-6th day maybe they can handle 5 innings every 4th day or 4 innings every 3rd day. But we have no evidence this can be done.


Very true, but we don't have evidence for lots of conceivable usage patterns. The only constant seems to be that pitchers get injured a lot no matter what their usage pattern is. At any given point in history, there is a conventional wisdom and most teams follow it until something that seems more effective comes along and supplants it. But given the history of baseball, I wouldn't assume that a given usage pattern is optimal just because it is widely used.

I would say the current CW puts an emphasis on flexibility -- maximizing the number of relievers who can give you an inning on any given day. But it could be that fewer but longer appearances would give better long term results (more innings to better pitchers and/or fewer injuries) at the expense of in-game flexibility. I suppose that is the pre-LaRussa model.

I don't know whether this is correct, but I've read that injuries to starters are down over the last generation, perhaps due to pitch counts and/or more regular pitching schedules. Maybe injuries to relievers would go down as well if they were on a more regular schedule that sacrificed flexibility for consistency of usage.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
A triple short of the cycle
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

Page rendered in 0.3196 seconds
48 querie(s) executed