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Wednesday, July 06, 2022

The decline of the starting pitcher—and what it means for baseball’s future [$]

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“Fans have indicated through survey data and anecdotally that they really like when the starting pitcher is a protagonist in the game,” Epstein says. “The starting pitcher is the one player on the field enough over the course of the game that you can really get to know. You can follow his ups and downs, his triumphs and frustrations. You see the outcome of every pitch on his face—how he reacts and grows and suffers and overcomes. The starting pitcher is the main character. You can buy your tickets on the day he’s pitching and know he’s gonna be out there for a couple hours and experience that performance. Now, if you blink, there’s someone up in the pen in the fifth inning because you’re getting close to third time through.”

The tenuous balance between efficiency and entertainment is the story of modern sports, and striking it takes immense rigor. Baseball has tilted too far toward pure dopamine hits: strikeouts, home runs, velocity, spin. A few palate-cleansing groundballs to second base surely would make the sugar bombs taste better—and make the game move faster.

There’s an elegant solution to fix it, one that Epstein espouses to anyone in the commissioner’s office, ownership circles and front offices who will listen: limit pitchers on the active roster to 11. The upshot is clear. Starters would be duty-bound to go deeper into games. Organizations would require starters to throw more pitches in the minors, and even nonstarters would be pushed to throw multiple innings or else find themselves out of luck in a bullpen where it’s obligatory. The max-effort credo would fade away because only the most skilled can marry it with extended outings. Less max-effort pitching would mean easier-to-hit pitches—not to mention a newfound desire to induce contact from pitchers—and that would lead to quicker outs, more balls in play, a better pace and increased action.

Couple an 11-man staff with other rules and it gets even better. Introduce the double hook—when a team removes its starting pitcher, it loses the designated hitter—and it would preclude teams from rostering an array of nine-out pitchers and using three per night. Limit pickoff attempts, as the minor leagues currently do, and stolen-base attempts would jump, prompting teams to use those extra roster spots for speedsters whose late-inning arrival would return some of the strategy lost to a game consumed by home runs, walks and strikeouts. There are more radical ideas percolating—limit the number of pitching changes per game, start relief pitchers with a 1-0 count to disincentivize their use—but they’re not vital with pitcher limits.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 06, 2022 at 09:32 AM | 49 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: starting pitching

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   1. I Am Not a Number Posted: July 06, 2022 at 10:25 AM (#6085723)
Baseball has tilted too far toward pure dopamine hits: strikeouts, home runs, velocity, spin.

Is this a fair characterization? This would suggest that the TTO form of baseball is motivated by thrills, which I think is the exact wrong take. It is motivated by cold, sober backroom analysis. Old school front offices manned by retired players were eventually going to give ground to the quants, and this is their assessment on how to most efficiently play the game. One-run strategies like bunting and stealing, that did introduce movement in the game, were (rightfully) squeezed off the menu of options once properly assessed. What we're left with is ruthless efficiency (and an almost fanatical devotion to the pope). No dopamine at all. Who gets excited any more by homeruns or 100 MPH fastballs?

   2. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: July 06, 2022 at 12:17 PM (#6085737)
ruthless efficiency


Ruthless efficiency, both in playing the game given the rules (and lack of enforcement of the rules, e.g. the time between pitches, stepping out of the box, etc.), but also economically, since fungible flame-throwers are just that, fungible, so they can be paid less, and in fact might not last long enough to become free agents.

Less max-effort pitching would mean easier-to-hit pitches—not to mention a newfound desire to induce contact from pitchers—and that would lead to quicker outs, more balls in play, a better pace and increased action.


Exactly what is needed (along with enforcing the time-between-pitches). But would the 11-pitcher limit really do that? "Back in the day" folks had fewer pitchers than that, 9, 10 at most is what I remember. Most importantly, the yo-yo to the minors would need to be regulated, because otherwise the limit is not enforceable, just send players back and forth to the minors.

   3. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: July 06, 2022 at 12:36 PM (#6085740)
THe whole thing about the starting pitcher being the centerpiece is 100% true. One of the challenges with marketing baseball in the modern era is that, unlike most other sports, the biggest stars of the sport are generally not part of the action. How many minutes in a 3+ hours game will you see Mike Trout actually doing something in the average game? Less than 10? So if you bring your kid to see Mookie Betts play, your kid will actually "seeing" Betts doing something for a handful of minutes. For half the game, he'll be standing all alone in right field, watching the other team strike out 10 times, hit some grounders, and some pop ups and flyouts to people other than Mookie Betts.

So the two guys you actually come to "see" are the starting pitchers. The story of the game is how the starting pitchers do.

They are to baseball what the quarterback is to the NFL. What the 35-40-minute-a-game stars in the NBA are.

Also: I'd suggest that teams lose their DH when the third pitcher of the game comes in. Basically, you get one reliever a game without losing your DH.
   4. Rally Posted: July 06, 2022 at 12:54 PM (#6085744)
since fungible flame-throwers are just that, fungible, so they can be paid less, and in fact might not last long enough to become free agents.


The archetype of a 2022 reliever is a guy 28-32 years old. Drafted as a starter, had a mediocre minor league career. May or may not have a few stints in the big leagues, but not much success there. He was just the extra arm when the team needed one. Now in the bullpen, he’s throwing 3-4 mph faster than when he was drafted. Learned a new pitch, or stopped throwing his worst pitches. Has very little in the way of big league service time, but all of a sudden he’s throwing 98, throwing enough strikes, and dominating for an inning at a time. By the time he gets to 3 years MLB service, he’ll either be injured, or age will have taken its toll and reduced his effectiveness. He’ll never make more than slightly above the league minimum. Tampa Bay has about 30 guys that fit this general description at any point in time, but every team has a few of them.
   5. Ron J Posted: July 06, 2022 at 12:59 PM (#6085746)
#3 I'd go harder. Tie the DH to the starting pitcher.


I'm honestly fine with the type of baseball being played. I enjoy hard hit balls and overpowering pitchers. But I'd be happy if there's a price to be paid for using openers and a bonus for an inning eating starter.
   6. Howie Menckel Posted: July 06, 2022 at 01:12 PM (#6085747)
“Fans have indicated through survey data and anecdotally that they really like when the starting pitcher is a protagonist in the game,” Epstein says. “The starting pitcher is the one player on the field enough over the course of the game that you can really get to know. You can follow his ups and downs, his triumphs and frustrations. You see the outcome of every pitch on his face—how he reacts and grows and suffers and overcomes. The starting pitcher is the main character. You can buy your tickets on the day he’s pitching and know he’s gonna be out there for a couple hours and experience that performance.


from your lips to God's ears !

Scherzer last night tossed 6 scoreless, 2 H, 0 BB, 11 K after missing almost 2 months - and he wanted to continue. it was exactly as described - a legendary figure shaking off rust and rising to the occasion. Fock the quants
   7. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 06, 2022 at 01:12 PM (#6085748)
Yes to all of this. 11 pitchers, lose the DH with the SP, pitch clock, no leaving the box, and pace Doug Jones, if you farm out a player, he has to stay down 21 days unless someone is DLed.
   8. filihok Posted: July 06, 2022 at 01:19 PM (#6085749)
Let teams deploy pitchers in interesting ways

But let the offense respond.

Kill the lineup. Let the offense decide who bats when. Make Mike Trout's (or Mookie Betts', or whatever example player you want) plate appearances more meaningful. The manager designates 9 (or 8 or 7, that's negotiable) hitters. Then they call on them to bat per the situation. Leading off an inning, get your onbase hitter up. Runners on, now is the time for Trout. The caveat being no batter can bat n+1 times until all the other designated batters have hit n times.
   9. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 06, 2022 at 01:56 PM (#6085756)
The archetype of a 2022 reliever is a guy 28-32 years old. Drafted as a starter, had a mediocre minor league career. May or may not have a few stints in the big leagues, but not much success there. He was just the extra arm when the team needed one. Now in the bullpen, he’s throwing 3-4 mph faster than when he was drafted. Learned a new pitch, or stopped throwing his worst pitches. Has very little in the way of big league service time, but all of a sudden he’s throwing 98, throwing enough strikes, and dominating for an inning at a time. By the time he gets to 3 years MLB service, he’ll either be injured, or age will have taken its toll and reduced his effectiveness.


The Rockies have a guy, Tyler Kinley, who suits this definition almost to a T. He looked like he was turning a corner this year at age 31, putting up a 0.75 ERA in his first 25 games, when he blew out his elbow and is out for the year.

That's one of the things about these fungible relievers, they don't last very long at this level. The best of them are Jeremy Jeffress or Blake Treinen or Corey Knebel, guys who can mix in an occasional season with an ERA in the 1's with ordinary or even poor seasons.
   10. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 06, 2022 at 02:01 PM (#6085758)
Most importantly, the yo-yo to the minors would need to be regulated, because otherwise the limit is not enforceable, just send players back and forth to the minors.


They changed it so that pitchers have to be down 15 days before being recalled and they can only be optioned five times per year now.
   11. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 06, 2022 at 02:49 PM (#6085766)
They changed it so that pitchers have to be down 15 days before being recalled and they can only be optioned five times per year now.

That's good, but 5 times is too many. 2 or maybe 3 is all I'd give.
   12. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: July 06, 2022 at 03:01 PM (#6085768)
now in the bullpen, he’s throwing 3-4 mph faster than when he was drafted


I know I'm stating the obvious here, but he's throwing 3-4 mph faster because A) he knows he only needs to last 1 inning, and B) he can take 25 or 30 seconds between pitches if he has to.

Some of these changes (losing the DH, for example) will incentivize starting pitchers throwing more innings, but I am not sure you wouldn't still end up with a starting pitcher throwing 6 innings and 3 relievers throwing 1 inning each. That's still not ideal, and still will result in a lot of fungible flame throwers.

That's good, but 5 times is too many. 2 or maybe 3 is all I'd give.


yes.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: July 06, 2022 at 04:44 PM (#6085788)
Losing the DH ... pretty much meaningless. If we're limiting teams to 11 pitchers, that's 15 position players (you really want to start the fight with MLBPA over the 26th roster spot?). "Losing the DH" just means using pinch-hitters instead ... you know how the NL has been playing the last 5 years except giving them two more available PHs. Most teams are already just rotating guys through the DH slot. All this does is get Nelson Cruz paid less and maybe even him losing a roster spot.

Cuz nothing says excitement than more pinch-hitters and the occasional pitcher batting.

Scherzer last night tossed 6 scoreless, 2 H, 0 BB, 11 K after missing almost 2 months - and he wanted to continue. it was exactly as described - a legendary figure shaking off rust and rising to the occasion.

Paolo Epina (3.2, 4R), Spencer Howard (4, 4R), Jeffrey Springs (4, 3R), Nick Pivetta (5.2, 7R), Cal Quantrill (4, 6R), Andre Pallante (3.2, 7R), Michael Kopech (4.2, 6R), Zack Greinke (5, 6R), Luis Garcia (6.1, 5R) and Jason Alexander (5.1, 7R) clearly should have had to go another 2-4 innings on July 5.

Fans have indicated through survey data and anecdotally that they really like when the starting pitcher is a protagonist in the game,” Epstein says. “The starting pitcher is the one player on the field enough over the course of the game that you can really get to know. You can follow his ups and downs, his triumphs and frustrations. You see the outcome of every pitch on his face—how he reacts and grows and suffers and overcomes. The starting pitcher is the main character. You can buy your tickets on the day he’s pitching and know he’s gonna be out there for a couple hours and experience that performance. Now, if you blink, there’s someone up in the pen in the fifth inning because you’re getting close to third time through.

Quoted for whoever it was the other day complaining about how broadcasts are nothing but close-ups of the pitcher's face. This is why.

Nobody seems worked up about ...

# qualified batters
2021 133
2019 136
2018 142
2017 145
2016 147
...
2011 146
2006 163
2001 158

So that's a loss of one "full-time" position player per team over the last 15 years, half of that in the last 5, despite pitchers eating up more of the roster. Folks want to make that worse by expanding the position player roster? I assume it will tick up slightly this year with the universal DH but probably start declining again.

I mean don't worry, as long as your kid's favorite player is Trout or Betts, they'll still start 95% of the time they're healthy ... let's hope not too many kids adopt Keston Hiura as their favorite player.

   14. Rally Posted: July 06, 2022 at 05:47 PM (#6085806)
We have some experience with what happens when the DH leaves the game with the starting pitcher. Ohtani’s 2021 season. It only became a big issue if 1) he got knocked out early or 2) the game went extra innings.

If the starter can give you 6, in most games you’ll just need one pinch hitter.
   15. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 06, 2022 at 05:58 PM (#6085810)
We have some experience with what happens when the DH leaves the game with the starting pitcher. Ohtani’s 2021 season. It only became a big issue if 1) he got knocked out early or 2) the game went extra innings.

If the starter can give you 6, in most games you’ll just need one pinch hitter.


It's a big disincentive for having an elite bat DH. Yankees are going to play Stanton in LF, as the Astros will do with Alvarez. The stars are going to be pushed to play the field, which is good.
   16. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: July 06, 2022 at 06:01 PM (#6085811)
despite pitchers eating up more of the roster.


My understanding is this is the result of pitchers taking up more of the roster. There are fewer qualified position players, because there are fewer position players, period, since given the current dynamics teams have to have more pitchers on the roster. With 13-man pitching staffs, right now a lot of teams have 3 position players on the bench, one of them being the backup catcher, whom they won't use unless it's an emergency: 10+13+3 = 26.

The truth of the matter is that rule changes have to be balanced. Currently, fungible flame-throwers are utilized instead of, say, a starting pitcher the third time through the order, because batters have gotten so good, through advanced training tactics, video study, use of advanced statistics and scouting, and simply recognizing that a 'take and rake' strategy is (currently) more advantageous than any other, that a pitcher from "back in the day" would get murdered by modern day hitters. Rick Reuschel wouldn't have a chance.

So that means, IMHO that you cannot just do something to benefit the batters (e.g. all the possible limitations on pitcher usage above) without also doing something to help the pitchers out. What that is I am not sure. I have thought perhaps: a ball with more drag, lower seams, less bounce, heavier bats, expanded strike zone (e.g. higher and/or lower).

The bigger point is that Rob Manfred and friends should be trying many things out now, all across the minor leagues, instead of waiting for attendance and ratings to completely collapse, so far it is down 5%, but watching MLB.TV I would say a lot of those attendance figures include seats that are actually filled by bodies, e.g. season-ticket holders that aren't showing up.
   17. Rally Posted: July 06, 2022 at 06:08 PM (#6085813)
My understanding is this is the result of pitchers taking up more of the roster. There are fewer qualified position players, because there are fewer position players, period, since given the current dynamics teams have to have more pitchers on the roster. With 13-man pitching staffs, right now a lot of teams have 3 position players on the bench, one of them being the backup catcher, whom they won't use unless it's an emergency: 10+13+3 = 26.


I would think bigger pitching staffs should mean fewer hitters, but more qualified hitters. You’ve still got 6200 PA to cover each year. Dividing them among 12 or 13 hitters should mean more regulars than dividing them among 15-16 players, where it would be more feasible to platoon.
   18. John Northey Posted: July 06, 2022 at 06:53 PM (#6085819)
I suspect this year will be the start of the adjustments with many more to come. 13 pitcher limit does affect things - as a Jays fan I've seen it already. A need for starters to go deeper, even if they don't have it that day. A need for relievers to get 2 innings now and then. Much better imo, even if it hurts my favorite team right now. They left poor Thomas Hatch in for 4 2/3 allowing 10 runs just because they needed a few innings. Signed a second sidearmer (Romo) as the first (Cimber) has done well and can eat 2 innings (as he did today) and still be good the next day if needed. Maybe this will lead to MLB getting more variety in pitchers - lets see the return of the sidearm pitcher, the knuckleballer, the submariner (ala Dan Quisenberry who used to scrape his knuckles on the ground, or so it seemed). The odd flame thrower is fine, but the pen should've be 8 guys who all throw 99 mph, that should be the exception - a guy who can throw 99 and hit the strike zone and go 2 innings now and then.

A reduction to 12 in a year or two (I doubt it would happen before 2024), then to 11 a couple years after that would be great. Allow hitters to pitch when needed, but only after 3 or more innings have been thrown by 'real' relievers unless it is a blowout or extra innings (a safety measure to keep teams from acting really dumb as far as fans are concerned). A deeper bench means more pinch running which is fun (stolen bases are great to see), and more defensive replacements (again, you are upping the quality of play - I don't want to see a catcher playing LF anymore than needed to get his bat in the game). I certainly get why teams like to have 8+ man pens and small benches (more relievers means you can reduce the stress on your best ones and any flamethrower can go a couple of batters before losing it) but for fans the opposite is needed.

We might see more platoons, more mix/match of defensive specialists and offensive ones on rosters, more speed demons, etc. Plus fewer pitching changes is always good (very dull waiting for the guy to warm up who already was warm in the bullpen - could reduce the pitches allowed or time allowed once the change is made - hmm... only 2 minutes [or something similar] from the time the call is made until the first pitch must be thrown might be a good idea - fast guys get more pitches to warm up, slow ones get only 1 or 2 throws).
   19. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: July 06, 2022 at 07:25 PM (#6085821)
There’s an elegant solution to fix it, one that Epstein espouses to anyone in the commissioner’s office, ownership circles and front offices who will listen: limit pitchers on the active roster to 11.


I've been saying this here for years! I'm basically Theo Epstein.
   20. Walt Davis Posted: July 06, 2022 at 07:53 PM (#6085824)
Hmmm ... no paywall for me. The article is as much about Alek Manoah as about starter usage. So myth vs. reality ...

Manoah was born in 1998. He "grew up during the last vestiges of the starting pitcher's heyday, when 200 innings in a season was expectation, not anomaly. He marveled at Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez and Mike Mussina."

He was 11 in Pedro's last season. He was 7 in Pedro's last great season. Pedro topped 200 IP 7 times, 220 twice. Manoah is quoted "If you told Pedro Martinez 15 years ago that they're gonna pull him because he might give up a run next time around? Good luck with that." Pedro pitched 28 innings in 2007.

He was 10 in Mussina's last season; 10 for Maddux's last season, 4 in his last great season; 11 for Unit's last season, 6 for his last great; 9 for Clemens' last. I'm not suggesting he didn't watch those guys but I'm thinking an 8-year-old is not a keen observer of the game ... and probably not a fan of the oldest pitchers in the game although, to be fair, George Blanda and Hoyt Wilhelm were childhood faves of mine. Manoah would have turned 8 in 2006 and, since then, one pitcher has reached double figures in complete games in a season -- the immortal James Shields in 2011. In that time, only 3 times has a pitcher made it to 250 innings, none since 2011. 200 innings was certainly the expectation for a "top" starter but not for a standard starter.

There has been a tremendous change in starter usage over the last 5 years. But let's not pretend that the shift from 6 IP/start to 5 represents a loss of True American Manhood (tm) (Canadians other than Fergie need not apply). There hasn't been a True Man on the mound since the last time Jack Morris pitched to the score, it's why he's in the HoF.

Away from Manoah now, discussing the recognition of 3rd-time effects: Over the previous 40 years, hitters gained an average of 27 on-base-plus-slugging points between their first and second plate appearances against a starter and 24 more between the second and third. Baseball people felt it -- the sixth inning and third time through the order regularly coincide.

No they don't. The 6th inning is usually the END of the third time through. By the end of the 5th, the starter has usually faced the top of the opp's order 3 times. If he's suffering through 3rd-time effects, he's out of the game in the 5th. If he's made it through 5 intact, he's probably due to face #5-7 -- that might still be a bad idea but for the most part at least those OPS points are being added to weaker hitters. If you were willing to trust him in the 5th (granted, these days they often aren't) then you might as well trust him in the 6th unless the pitch count is getting up there.

Manoah does though demonstrate the questionable nature of 3rd-time effects. His OPS by "times through" goes 508/596/689 -- that's pretty dramatic. But the ML average first time through is 697 so he's still that good 3rd time through (smallish sample of course). The average reliever in their first time through is 687 ... and that includes the dominant 8th-9th guys so your typical 5th/6th inning reliever is doing substantially worse than that. Manoah the third time through is probably as good or better a pitcher for the 6th inning than anybody but the guys lined up for the 7th-9th inning relief slots. You don't actually have a better option -- unless he gets into trouble, he's your guy for the first 3 times through.

But I doubt it's just him. Sure, the average starter is giving up a 772 OPS 3rd time, about 11% worse than first-time; the average reliever at 687 first time, gaining back that 11%. But that's still the average reliever. But that's not really the number we want. What I want is the average performance of your 5th-6th-inning reliever (in close games ideally).

Fangraphs lets you do this (if I did it right) and I've learned something. It's pretty good, about a 705 OPS across the 4th-6th; it goes down around 680 in the 7th-8th and 660 in the 9th. So don't yank Manoah, you probably do want to yank your #3 guy, and almost always yank your #5. And it's those 3-5 guy that, to me, make sense to use an opener. You still want about 22 batters from your back-end starters, better that PAs 19-22 come against batters #5-8 than #1-4. The article talks about openers still being a thing but I haven't noticed it much at all this year. I've been watching a fair bit of baseball this year and I've seen bullpen games but I'm not sure I've seen a genuine "opener" game, certainly not 20% of the time.
   21. Walt Davis Posted: July 06, 2022 at 08:06 PM (#6085825)
By the way, 3rd-time effects seem to be getting worse. For 2022, 2021 and 2019 they are on the order of 10% relative to 1st-time; checking the other years ending in 2 going back to 1972, they were on the order of 7-8%. One does wonder about the unintended consequences of telling your starters that they usually suck the 3rd-time through.

I doubt it but I wonder if, controlling for general quality of performance, do those 4th-6th inning relievers give up more IR than expected.
   22. sunday silence (again) Posted: July 06, 2022 at 08:44 PM (#6085829)
...better that PAs 19-22 come against batters #5-8 than #1-4.


This may be a dumb question: Isnt PA no. 19 always against the top of the order? I.e. the leadoff batter. Im probably missing something obvious...
   23. Howie Menckel Posted: July 06, 2022 at 08:51 PM (#6085832)
it is if someone is pitching a perfect game. or quite possibly I'm the dummy
   24. SoSH U at work Posted: July 06, 2022 at 09:59 PM (#6085846)
You are, Howie. It doesn’t matter how well the pitcher is doing, PA 19 is always the lead off spot’s third time up.
   25. Srul Itza Posted: July 06, 2022 at 10:06 PM (#6085847)
I think Howie is counting outs instead of batters.
   26. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: July 06, 2022 at 10:43 PM (#6085850)
I absolutely want starters pitching longer and fewer anonymous relievers at big moments of the game. But apropos of 21, that probably has to be tied with some change in what batters are allowed to do in game. I do think that, in the aggregate, they gain an advantage by being able to study pitches and pitch sequences of previous ABs during the game. I don’t know how to effectively combat that though. Just ban technology in the dugout and clubhouse during the game? Besides being difficult to enforce, I don’t know that it’s realistic to expect a game to keep thriving 10, 25, 100 years from now by relying on a compelled Luddism.
   27. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: July 06, 2022 at 11:27 PM (#6085854)
I would think bigger pitching staffs should mean fewer hitters, but more qualified hitters. You’ve still got 6200 PA to cover each year. Dividing them among 12 or 13 hitters should mean more regulars than dividing them among 15-16 players, where it would be more feasible to platoon.


I think we are discounting the risk-aversion of managers. With a 13-man pitching staff and a DH, you have 3 players on the bench. But one of those players is your backup catcher, so he won't play that day. So that means you have 2 players on the bench. But one of those players is probably your injury replacement for infielders, and the other is your injury replacement for outfielders, and so you don't really have anyone who might go in as a pinch-hitter or late inning platoon/defensive replacement and get some at-bats even when they are getting a day off otherwise. Now, effectively most teams are playing with just 10 players each day. That means (and the empirical evidence bears this out) that at-bats are getting spread out among fewer batters. With 15 or 16 non-position-players on the roster, the manager may still keep Rafael Landestoy and Joe Lefebvre on the bench for emergencies, but that frees 2 or 3 others to go in and get some at-bats. This is a subtle effect, however. The 2019 Oakland A's, LA Angels of A, and LA Dodgers all have about 5 qualifiers, but the same is true of the 1980 Oakland A's, CA Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers. What I really suspect is happening is that, given roster limitations and service-time concerns, position players are being held down in the minors until the last possible moment, and there are fewer Candy Maldonado's or Ruppert Jones' hanging out on the bench, suddenly finding themselves playing 130+ games at age 32.
   28. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: July 07, 2022 at 08:17 AM (#6085868)
I think we are discounting the risk-aversion of managers.


This. Managers and pitching coaches are going to toe the line on pitcher usage, because if they do something different and it doesn't work out, they get fired. (And the difference between working a high-level baseball job and working some office job is hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.)
   29. Commissioner Bud Black Beltre Hillman Fred Posted: July 07, 2022 at 08:47 AM (#6085872)
The "risk-aversion of managers" thing would be more compelling if we weren't discussing how MLB should respond to unprecedented changes in how rosters are managed and deployed.
   30. bookbook Posted: July 07, 2022 at 09:20 AM (#6085874)
Two thoughts:
1. The reaction to 13-man limits on staffs has been to have many more position players pitching. Which sucks once it ceases being a rare novelty.

2. The reaction to 11-man staffs might be to put 2 long men in the pen, which would be reasonable. But I bet a rash of injuries to starters would create some serious backlash (e.g. it takes Logan Gilbert 100 pitches to get through 6, because the hitters are better than they were 30 years ago. If you want him to go 8 regularly, you’re looking at 130 pitches per start. Etc.)
   31. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: July 07, 2022 at 09:50 AM (#6085876)
I bet a rash of injuries to starters would create some serious backlash

How would that be different than the annual rash of injuries to starters as it is now?
   32. TJ Posted: July 07, 2022 at 10:33 AM (#6085881)
I've long advocated for lowering the limit of pitchers allowed on the roster (in fact I favor limiting the number of pitchers that can be used in a game), but am intrigued by the idea of pitching changes affecting the DH. What if when the starting pitcher is removed the team has to either A. remove their DH or B. move the DH onto the field to replace someone else?

Could this lead to more in-game strategy? Say my beloved Detroit Tigers have a freak of nature occur and their starting pitcher goes six innings. The Tigers want to go to the pen, but do they pull Miguel Cabrera out of the lineup or move him to first base to keep his bat available? If they are winning, they probably pull Miggy and keep the better defender out there. If they are losing, maybe they hope to get a couple of innings of Miggy at first not costing you runs in order to keep his bat in the lineup. (The question becomes moot if Spencer Torkelson ever starts hitting).

And I do like the idea of anything that adds more strategy to the game, and pinch-hitting is a strategy. Less pitchers on a roster means more bats which means more opportunities to pinch-hit and platoon...
   33. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: July 07, 2022 at 10:34 AM (#6085882)
pitch sequences of previous ABs during the game. I don’t know how to effectively combat that though.


because the hitters are better than they were 30 years ago


All the changes in pitcher usage have been driven (at least partially) in reaction to the advances hitters have made over the past 30+ years. No doubt that if pitchers are disadvantaged by changes of one sort or another, hitters will have to be as well or the game will get unbalanced. Deader or draggier balls, heavier bats, vertically expanded strike zone might be some things that could be tried. Simply having to stay in the box might do some of the job as well.
   34. Ron J Posted: July 07, 2022 at 11:21 AM (#6085886)
#33 What they've specifically learned how to do is hit low pitches hard.

It's something of an arms race. Pitchers were taught to keep the ball down but the practical upshot it that this has turned out to help TTO style hitting by narrowing the zone the batter has to focus on.
   35. villageidiom Posted: July 07, 2022 at 11:23 AM (#6085887)
Let each team have as many DHs as they'd like, to bat for as many defensive positions as they'd like. Teams would then need to decide if it's better to have that one extra bullpen flamethrower who's a specialist against left-handed hitting werewolves on Tuesdays and Fridays, or an every-inning defensive upgrade on one of their mashers, or an every-PA offensive upgrade on one of their glove wizards.
   36. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 07, 2022 at 11:42 AM (#6085889)
If we're going to deal with a succession of one inning pitchers, let's just ditch pitching as a specialty. Rotate pitching like volleyball does with serving. Every player in the lineup must pitch one inning. At least it would encourage well rounded players.
   37. Eudoxus Posted: July 07, 2022 at 11:48 AM (#6085890)
How crazy is it simply to get rid of relief pitchers? You get one pitcher for the game; if he can't go any farther, you lose. I think I'd be willing to trade a drop to standard seven-inning games for the elimination of relief pitchers, if that lower demand on the pitcher made it more realistic.

(I tried a bit to think of a system that would really reward pitchers able to go distance. Seven innings standard, and then either team can continue to demand additional innings so long as their pitcher was still able to go? But that won't work -- whichever team is losing will obviously just demand an additional inning just to go from 0% to epsilon% chance of victory, no matter what shape their pitcher is in.)
   38. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 07, 2022 at 12:00 PM (#6085892)
How crazy is it simply to get rid of relief pitchers? You get one pitcher for the game; if he can't go any farther, you lose. I think I'd be willing to trade a drop to standard seven-inning games for the elimination of relief pitchers, if that lower demand on the pitcher made it more realistic.


How about just set a max of two relievers. That'll get us what we want.
   39. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: July 07, 2022 at 12:54 PM (#6085894)
#33 What they've specifically learned how to do is hit low pitches hard.


I think another thing is a much better understanding of the strike zone, the value of a walk, and the general 'take and rake' strategy, which among other things tires out pitchers faster.

How about just set a max of two relievers. That'll get us what we want.


That might work. If the game goes into extras you get one additional pitcher every 3 innings.
   40. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: July 07, 2022 at 01:11 PM (#6085897)
Pitchers were taught to keep the ball down but the practical upshot it that this has turned out to help TTO style hitting by narrowing the zone the batter has to focus on.

Not only that, but it's easier to generate launch angle with an upward swing plane rather than a flat one. Not as easy to golf pitches into the bleachers on pitches above the belt (Yankee Stadium notwithstanding).
   41. Captain Joe Bivens, Pointless and Wonderful Posted: July 07, 2022 at 02:37 PM (#6085902)
More contact leads to more outs? There are 54 outs a game (51 if the home team wins). More contact leads to more hits, more runs, more pitches, more time.

edit...TA says "quicker outs". I doubt it. Some games, maybe, but most games guys would get rocked and ERAs would be over 5 for just about everyone.

Less effort. Ha. Good luck with that.
   42. The Yankee Clapper Posted: July 07, 2022 at 02:44 PM (#6085903)
All the changes in pitcher usage have been driven (at least partially) in reaction to the advances hitters have made over the past 30+ years.
Technology seems to have been more beneficial to hitters than pitchers. Pitching machines can now mimic various breaking balls & speed variations far better than years ago. Have a problem with the slider low & away on the corner? You can see 200 a day in the batting cage, and at least better recognize when it is in the strike zone even if you still have some difficulty hitting it. Video lets you repeatedly see a pitcher delivering a specific pitch, helping the batter’s pitch recognition, and sometimes allowing the batter or a coach to pick up a tell that may tip the pitch.

Pitchers benefit from technology, too, but is increased self-awareness of your spin rate or amount of break as helpful? Pitching may just be harder today, and IMHO that makes those who do it really well more valuable.
   43. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: July 07, 2022 at 05:00 PM (#6085909)
Not as easy to golf pitches into the bleachers on pitches above the belt (Yankee Stadium notwithstanding)


Or Fenway. Could not resist:

Kingman and Canseco hit consecutive home runs off Clemens

Less effort. Ha. Good luck with that.


Again, something would have to be done to incentivize the pitchers to throw max effort, by making it necessary to throw multiple innings, and something would have to be done to allow that to happen, perhaps by something done to the ball, the bat, or the strike zone.
   44. Captain Joe Bivens, Pointless and Wonderful Posted: July 07, 2022 at 05:13 PM (#6085911)
something would have to be done to allow that to happen, perhaps by something done to the ball, the bat, or the strike zone.


Sounds reasonable. So, it won't happen.

People have been complaining about pace of play/length of game for a long time, and they, like the goggles, do nothing.
   45. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: July 07, 2022 at 08:17 PM (#6085930)
Sounds reasonable. So, it won't happen.

People have been complaining about pace of play/length of game for a long time, and they, like the goggles, do nothing.


"Back in the day" some smart folks in front offices used to lurk here. I hope some still do, and the ideas discussed here, as well as the urgency of the situation, will percolate somewhere important and get consideration. At this point it's a faint hope.
   46. Baldrick Posted: July 09, 2022 at 02:24 AM (#6086070)
First time you bring in a relief pitcher, your opponent is awarded one run. Second time, two runs. Third time, three runs. And so on.

Thank you for subscribing to my Substack.
   47. TJ Posted: July 09, 2022 at 07:09 PM (#6086112)
Fans can opine, suggest, complain, and beef to their collective hearts content about the usage of pitchers today. MLB won’t change a thing unless their new gambling overlords say that it is decreasing the number of bets being laid on baseball, at which point Rob Manfred will pull both hamstrings in his haste to implement new rules to “protect the integrity of the game”…
   48. John Northey Posted: July 09, 2022 at 07:38 PM (#6086118)
Hmm... Interesting idea Baldrick but could be tweaked - switch pitchers with runners on and it is a balk (one base each), if no one on the last out goes to first base (phantom runner ala extra innings). Might do an exception for guys starting an inning or for extra innings, or when a guy gets over 100 pitches.
   49. John Northey Posted: July 09, 2022 at 07:48 PM (#6086120)
For the strike zone you could always lower it - making it harder to hit home runs - my daughter had a softball game with an ump who only called it from the knees to the ankles - it was weird. Patient hitters just took walk after walk as the pitchers weren't used to throwing that low, less patient ones drove the ball into the dirt - which can work at that level (fielder errors are super common in teenage house league games). In the majors you'd see a lot more ground balls with a lower strike zone and more use of sliders/changeups/split finger and other non-fastballs which would be a good thing imo.

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