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Monday, June 20, 2022

MLB moving forward with long-delayed 13-pitcher limit

Come Monday, there is going to be a little more room in big league bullpens, from Seattle to Tampa Bay, and plenty of places in between.
Major League Baseball is moving forward with its oft-delayed plan for a 13-pitcher limit on active rosters. The move could affect the game in a variety of ways, from more position players taking the mound to a few more trips to the minors for pitchers with options.

“I don’t know that I understand it. And it is OK because we follow the rules,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “But it’s just one of those where it is a little hard when they’re telling you how to compete. I feel like sometimes, especially with our doubleheaders coming up, I think it can put teams at a disadvantage.”

The 13-pitcher limit originally was announced by MLB before the 2020 season, one of several changes that included expanding active rosters by one to 26 and requiring pitchers to face at least three batters or finish a half-inning. But the limit has been pushed back repeatedly because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
MLB and the union said March 31 that a 13-pitcher limit would be enforced starting May 2, then on April 16 announced the date had been pushed back to May 30. They said last month that the change would go into effect June 20, and MLB sent out a reminder last week.
It’s happening.

 

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 20, 2022 at 01:40 PM | 35 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: roster limits

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   1. The Duke Posted: June 20, 2022 at 02:51 PM (#6082911)
Ridiculous that teams can't manage with a 13 man staff and still have to resort to position players.
   2. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: June 20, 2022 at 03:35 PM (#6082918)
Hmph! Back in my day, we didn't have 13 pitchers on a team! Hell, we didn't have any pitchers! Coach would just send us out to the mound at random and say, "Don't give 'em nothin' good to hit, but don't walk 'im!" I 'member once, back in ought-four, when I hadda pitch with the bases loaded in the ninth! I was so nervous, my first pitch sailed over the backstop! All four runners scored, and we lost 4-3! Coach was so mad he nuked the entire town from orbit, just to make sure! Yessir, we had real men in them days...!
   3. nick swisher hygiene Posted: June 20, 2022 at 03:51 PM (#6082922)
"They're telling you how to compete"--like, I mean, WTF? These ####### need to see some REAL rule changes....

I wonder if you could get around the union roster size thing by having a smaller game-day roster, the way you dress certain players for a soccer game, etc.

Gameday roster = say, 18 guys. Allow for limited changes between games / between series. Kill the shuttle.

   4. Walt Davis Posted: June 20, 2022 at 04:42 PM (#6082930)
How am I gonna start this article? The topic is dull and kinda technical. I really need something to add some color. Got it!

Come Monday, there is going to be a little more room in big league bullpens, from Seattle to Tampa Bay, and plenty of places in between.
   5. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: June 20, 2022 at 05:14 PM (#6082937)
Hopefully this is just one step on the way down to an 11-pitcher limit. But I'm not holding my breath.
   6. Walt Davis Posted: June 20, 2022 at 05:36 PM (#6082943)
#3 ... as long as everybody on the 26-man gets paid and credited with a service day, there's no particular reason the union will care about game-roster limits under 26. You'd see the starting lineup, a backup C, maybe another position player and 7 pitchers.

This idea comes up a lot (I've probably proposed it myself) but teams are pretty much already doing this and, with the universal DH removing the need for PHs, I'm not sure the average number of position players per game is even 10. And yeah, they use too many relievers but rarely more than 5. It's easier to run an in-game position platoon now than it used to be but presumably we want to encourage that sort of thing. As to the bullpen, the manager starts the day with a list of guys who are rested and, even if just mentally, easily splits thme into higher- and lower-leverage.

A game-roster limit rule would almost certainly allow for using additional players in extras. It probably would bring an end to bullpen games.

Francona has something of a point around double-headers but (a) you can make roster moves between the games or (b) fine, slip in that the roster expands to 27 or 28 for a double-header (possibly with a game-roster limit of 26). There was a stretch earlier this year where the Cubs played 11 games in 9 days, I think with DHs on the Mon and Sat -- it's not unreasonable to allow teams in a situation like that some roster flexibility. But all these DHs the last few years are just temporary due to covid and the lockout. If they go forward with the "everybody plays everybody" schedule, there will be more "we play a DH tomorrow or we never make up today's game" situations than in the past but not enough to matter.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: June 20, 2022 at 05:53 PM (#6082948)
Avg "lineup" players per game: I think I figured out how to do it using some info buried in the MLB splits tables. I get 10.2 per game so far this year. That would include any pitchers who got in due to a lost DH, whether they batted or not I believe, but there can't be many of those. Across all MLB in 2019, it was 12.6 but that would include all the NL pitchers plus the PH. In the AL 2019, it was 10.5 but pretty sure that would include their pitchers in NL parks. But it was 10.7 in AL 1996 which was the last year without interleague. It was 14.2 in the NL that year but figure 3-4 pitchers per game and that's about the same as the AL.
   8. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 20, 2022 at 06:28 PM (#6082954)
#3 ... as long as everybody on the 26-man gets paid and credited with a service day, there's no particular reason the union will care about game-roster limits under 26
They’ll hate it because it’s a change. That’s what they do. And because the owners would want it, and thus it must be used for maximum leverage.
   9. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: June 20, 2022 at 06:51 PM (#6082961)
And because the owners would want it, and thus it must be used for maximum leverage.


Yep, owners win because they now get to pay THESE 26 guys instead of THOSE 26 guys!
   10. The Yankee Clapper Posted: June 20, 2022 at 07:36 PM (#6082968)
How will Manfred live with the carnage?
   11. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 20, 2022 at 07:45 PM (#6082969)
Yep, owners win because they now get to pay THESE 26 guys instead of THOSE 26 guys!
Well, the owners are (almost?) always the ones who at least say they favor the changes to make the game more watchable.
   12. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: June 20, 2022 at 09:39 PM (#6082991)
The union's imperative is to protect the interests of its current members. It does not give a damn about future members, as none of its current members give a damn about future members (witness: its total lack of interest in the plight of minor league players). Though limiting the number of pitchers on a roster doesn't affect the overall number of jobs or amount of money the players get in total, it effectively boots a significant percentage of its current members (about 60-70 of them) out of their major league jobs in favor of position players previously in the minors. It is no surprise the Players Union would vehemently resist such a thing.
   13. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 20, 2022 at 10:21 PM (#6083005)
“The long-term health of our industry isn’t our problem, Jack” hasn’t exactly worked out well for unions thus far. But we’ve been through this before.
   14. Walt Davis Posted: June 20, 2022 at 10:39 PM (#6083009)
Well, the owners are (almost?) always the ones who at least say they favor the changes to make the game more watchable.

How does a 18-man game roster make the game more watchable?

It is no surprise the Players Union would vehemently resist such a thing.

But they didn't vehemently oppose the 13-pitcher limit.
   15. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 20, 2022 at 10:50 PM (#6083013)
How does a 18-man game roster make the game more watchable?
A 7-man bullpen would be one fewer than with the 13-pitcher limit, at least for teams that don’t use a 6-man rotation. So it would be a (yes, small) step in the right direction for reducing the Bullpen Droids.
   16. nick swisher hygiene Posted: June 20, 2022 at 11:17 PM (#6083017)
How does a 18-man game roster make the game more watchable?


####, Walt, if it doesn't let's go to 16!
   17. Howie Menckel Posted: June 20, 2022 at 11:31 PM (#6083019)
“I don’t know that I understand it. And it is OK because we follow the rules,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “But it’s just one of those where it is a little hard when they’re telling you how to compete. I feel like sometimes, especially with our doubleheaders coming up, I think it can put teams at a disadvantage.”


Francona played on the Expos 40 years ago, when in the entire season only 10 pitchers appeared in more than 7 games (including 42-year-old Woodie Fryman but not including one last cup of coffee from rebel with/without a cause Bill Lee).

that included David Palmer, who made one start in late May and a dozen from mid-June to mid-August before packing it in (an elbow injury cost him all of 1981 and 1983).

#doubleedgedsword

   18. John Northey Posted: June 20, 2022 at 11:37 PM (#6083020)
For fun I checked the AL East teams history.... last time with 13 pitchers used all season or less...
Red Sox: 1987, 1983 for 12.
Jays: 1984 (13 on the nose, also in 1982 and that is it, never sub 13)
Orioles: 1982, 1979 for 12
Yankees: 1980, 1975 for 12 used (Catfish Hunter their ace)
Rays: fewest was 17 in 2010.

So for AL East teams you don't see 13 man staffs since 1987. A few random teams known for pitching...
Dodgers: 1984 for 13, 1976 for 12, 1933 for 11, 1928 for 9, go back to 1885 and you get 5 pitchers.
Cardinals: 1968 for 13, 1947 for 12... just 3 in 1885 (112 game schedule with 2 guys doing the bulk over 400 IP each, 3rd guy was lazy, just 112 innings).
Reds: 1981 for 13, 1975 for 12, 1882 for 3 with a really crazy IP spread - 480, 219, 21 (by a regular OF who had a 101 OPS+).

1880 Cincinnati Stars (or Reds) used just 2 pitchers (one over 500 IP), but he was a wimp vs the 1877 Louisville Grays ace and only pitcher Jim Devlin (559 IP over 61 straight starts, all complete games of course), the year before he threw 68 starts/complete with 622 IP. Guess it would surprise no one that 1877 was his final season. Gave up just 7 HR in his 3 season career over 1405 IP. That was the only time I could find a single pitcher, but there were probably others.

Fun to look up.
   19. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: June 21, 2022 at 01:12 AM (#6083024)
there's no particular reason the union will care about game-roster limits under 26.

They should when an oversized percentage of the active roster are mere placeholders making the minimum salary and shuttled down to the minors anytime the club needs more fresh meat that's also making the minimum.
   20. Walt Davis Posted: June 21, 2022 at 01:26 AM (#6083027)
#16 ... the problem as some see it is the number of relievers per game. With 14 pitchers available so far in 2022, teams have average 3.4 relievers per game. I don't know how frequently they get to 6 relievers but it's not going to be very often. Sure limiting to 13 pitchers will reduce that likelihood a smidgen because the workload per slot goes up a bit so they'll need to manage it more efficiently ... though in practice it probably just increases activity on the AAA shuttle and the use of position players in blowouts.

In 2002, it was 2.6 relievers/game; in 2012, 2.99. It's a lot of sturm und drang over .4 to .8 relievers/game.

On any given day, a team will have used 3-4 relievers the day before. The other 4 starters will only be used in an emergency; they would generally prefer not to use those 3-4 guys. So basically they were "limited" to 5-6 guys already.

If you want to limit the number of pitchers in a game, limit the number of pitchers in a game -- then it won't matter how many pitchers they put on the roster. Who cares if guys get hurt, who cares if some poor slob has to stay in to throw 70 pitches and give up 9 runs and make a mockery of the game?

In terms of time, the only issue is mid-inning reliever changes -- don't know if anybody's updated the work done a few years ago, but these have never been all that plentiful nor had they increased dramatically. Mid-inning relief changes simply weren't a problem although, sure, you'd encounter the occasional game where it got out of hand. Nevertheless the 3-batter rule was introduced with no evidence it would have an effect and I suspect its effect on mid-inning changes has been trivial -- certainly seems like I regularly see 3 batters, one of them reaches, pitching change.

Look I'm all for the 13-pitcher limit. It can't hurt -- it won't really help but it can't hurt.

Now I'm not sure anybody's noticed that something similar is going on with position players. Last year there were 133; 136 in 2019. In 2014, 2009 and 2004 it was 148, 156 and 162 respectively. So we're concerned about an increase of 2.6 to 3.4 relievers/game but, over the same period, don't care about a drop from 5.5 to 4.5 qualified players per team. (And that's despite shortened benches.) The total number of batters (incl pitchers) used in 2004 was 1,247; in 2021 it was 1,508, about a 20% increase. Anonymous relievers bad, anonymous middle infielders meh.

(So far this year, there are 157 qualified batters -- some will drop off the pace, a few will get on pace, the total will be much lower but the universal DH may increase the final count.)
   21. sunday silence (again) Posted: June 21, 2022 at 02:18 AM (#6083028)
what does that mean "133 position players?" Those are total substitutions for the season?
   22. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: June 21, 2022 at 07:07 AM (#6083030)
Guess it would surprise no one that 1877 was (Devlin's) final season.

It wasn't the workload; Devlin had other problems.
   23. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: June 21, 2022 at 08:36 AM (#6083032)
If one of the primary goals of MLB is to increase the amount of actual game action - batted balls being fielded, runners actually, you know, running, bats actually swinging - then you need teams to get away from the "max effort" pitching approach. One of the best ways to do that is to slowly bring down the number of pitchers on the roster:

Francona was wondering how Cleveland will be able to get through a doubleheader with only 13 pitchers? Really? How about setting an expectation that your two starters will average six innings each? Or that if a game is a blowout, one of your relievers might pitch 2-3 innings in one of the games?

This reminds me of when one of my teenaged daughters is chronically running late for school in the morning, and we ask her why she is always late. She's like, "It takes me an hour to get ready, and if I sleep until 6:45, I can't be ready by 7:30...so I'm always late." And we're like, "I'm not a trained mathematician, but it strikes me that if you wake up 15 minutes earlier, or speed up getting ready by 15 minutes, you can solve this problem." And she's like, "That's impossible."

Getting detention every day for being late is the school's way of eventually getting my daughter to change her behavior. So is us taking away her car until she stops being late.

Slowly reducing the number of pitchers allowed is the equivalent of taking the car away for Francona. There are plenty of solutions to this "problem"; teams just have to start employing those solutions.
   24. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 21, 2022 at 08:46 AM (#6083034)
They should when an oversized percentage of the active roster are mere placeholders making the minimum salary and shuttled down to the minors anytime the club needs more fresh meat that's also making the minimum.

You mean like today? That describes modern bullpens to a tee.
   25. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: June 21, 2022 at 08:54 AM (#6083036)
Getting detention every day for being late is the school's way of eventually getting my daughter to change her behavior. So is us taking away her car until she stops being late.


Meanest parents ever. All the other kids' parents let them sleep until 11.

Look I'm all for the 13-pitcher limit. It can't hurt -- it won't really help but it can't hurt.

Now I'm not sure anybody's noticed that something similar is going on with position players. Last year there were 133; 136 in 2019. In 2014, 2009 and 2004 it was 148, 156 and 162 respectively. So we're concerned about an increase of 2.6 to 3.4 relievers/game but, over the same period, don't care about a drop from 5.5 to 4.5 qualified players per team. (And that's despite shortened benches.) The total number of batters (incl pitchers) used in 2004 was 1,247; in 2021 it was 1,508, about a 20% increase. Anonymous relievers bad, anonymous middle infielders meh.


My problem with the anonymous middle relivers vs. anonymous middle infielders is that the guy standing on the pitcher's mound is by some distance the most important player in a baseball game. For me from an aesthetic standpoint I find it unappealing that a guy who starts the game not only has zero chance of finishing the game but it likely to be out of there by the 5th inning.
   26. Charles S. is pretty fast for an old guy Posted: June 21, 2022 at 09:56 AM (#6083039)
If one of the primary goals of MLB is to increase the amount of actual game action - batted balls being fielded, runners actually, you know, running, bats actually swinging -


Just popping in to remind MLB or whoever else has forgotten that pitches are "game action", and that a 6-pitch walk or K is significantly more interesting and exciting than a 1-pitch pop up. Now back to the roster size discussion.
   27. SoSH U at work Posted: June 21, 2022 at 09:58 AM (#6083040)
Just popping in to remind MLB or whoever else has forgotten that pitches are "game action", and that a 6-pitch walk or K is significantly more interesting and exciting than a 1-pitch pop up.


And a one-pitch popup is the only option.
   28. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 21, 2022 at 10:49 AM (#6083044)
Just popping in to remind MLB or whoever else has forgotten that pitches are "game action", and that a 6-pitch walk or K is significantly more interesting and exciting than a 1-pitch pop up. Now back to the roster size discussion.

If the pitcher is taking 45 seconds between pitches like Kikuchi was this weekend, I'll take the pop-up please.
   29. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: June 21, 2022 at 01:29 PM (#6083067)
I know I am repeating myself, but I still haven't been able to find a good argument against the following proposal. I think what baseball really wants to do is decrease drastically the prevalence of 1-inning relievers and mid-inning pitching changes, for all sorts of reasons, but at the same time not restrict in-game options for the manager. The 13-pitcher limitation really could simply result in more 1-inning relievers, who simply pitch more often, and get shuttled back-and-forth to AAA.

How about instead, an "ineligible list". A pitcher goes on the ineligible list for the next N games (N=3 is my thought, but it should be studied) if they satisfy one of 2 criteria: A) The pitcher comes out of the game in the middle of an inning. B) The pitcher pitches less than M innings (M=3 is my thought, but it should be studies) and does not finish the game. If the pitcher is on the ineligible list they count against a roster spot, and cannot be sent down, DFA'd, or put on the IL.

This would naturally self-select for starting pitchers and relievers that can go more than once through the order. It will seriously penalize LOOGY's and Hunter Strickland's and the like. However, if you really want to keep, say, Mariano Rivera on your roster as a closer, you can still do it. Just make sure he/she can pitch M innings every once in a while in case you go to extras, or be prepared to let Mariano sit for a bit. At the same time, taking a pitcher out mid-inning will also be highly penalized (maybe that should be penalized more, say N+1 or something), which will cut down on that but at the same time give the manager the flexibility in case of injury or simple strategic calculation.

Of course, it may be that management thinks that, well, replacing valuable starting pitchers with fungible relievers is financially advantageous, so they don't really "want" to do it. But of course you could simply replace valuable starting pitchers with a whole bunch of George Frazier's - your mileage may vary.
   30. Karl from NY Posted: June 21, 2022 at 03:18 PM (#6083097)
But of course you could simply replace valuable starting pitchers with a whole bunch of George Frazier's

This is what optimal usage patterns should converge to. Cricket has several bowlers accounting for about-equal workloads in the same game, and has forever. Baseball will inevitably converge on that too and we should stop wasting effort trying to fight it.

The only thing stopping it is that pitchers revolt if they won't be getting their Win stats. Just come up with stats that capture it well enough and get ESPN to display it and Elias to use it for contracts and arbitration.

The stat itself needs to be a counting stat to capture total value, not ERA which takes a little too much effort to evaluate with playing time. Something on the order of linear weights or game score but simpler.
   31. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: June 21, 2022 at 04:01 PM (#6083117)
Cricket has several bowlers accounting for about-equal workloads in the same game, and has forever. Baseball will inevitably converge on that too and we should stop wasting effort trying to fight it.

How often do top cricket bowlers get injured? Need surgery and miss a year+ in rehab? (Not a "gotcha" question. I have no idea.)

MLB can't keep 1-inning pitchers healthy. I don't see how 3 pitchers pitching 3 innings every 3rd game or something similar to that (Wasn't that a short-lived LaRussa strategy with some bad A's staffs in the mid 90's?) will ever keep enough pitchers healthy and effective either. I guess alternate strategies would be 9 pitchers who pitch one inning almost every game with enough slackjawed gawkers cooling their heels in the bullpen to pick up an inning when someone on the A list needs a day off, games with fewer innings, and/or the mercy rule.
   32. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: June 21, 2022 at 05:03 PM (#6083135)
MLB can't keep 1-inning pitchers healthy. I don't see how 3 pitchers pitching 3 innings every 3rd game or something similar to that (Wasn't that a short-lived LaRussa strategy with some bad A's staffs in the mid 90's?) will ever keep enough pitchers healthy and effective either.


The point is, pitcher "effort strategies" would have to change. Pitchers wouldn't be able to pitch max-effort all the time anymore. That's why I said "George Fraziers" (whoops, shouldn't have had the apostrophe in there the first time I wrote his name) because George Frazier would typically pitch more than one inning in his relief appearances, at least when he was any good.

A change to favor such pitchers would be one component towards reducing TTO-ball, as this should reduce one of the components (strikeouts). It would be noted that such a change, if implemented in a vacuum, would harm pitchers too much. Such a change should be combined with other change(s) to reduce home runs, and therefore keep offense and defense in balance. One cannot do one without the other, I think.

   33. The Honorable Ardo Posted: June 22, 2022 at 02:11 AM (#6083209)
I continue to suggest a phased reduction (perhaps even elimination) of the mound. If lowering it from 15'' to 10'' ended 1960s dead ball and heralded the workhorse starters of the 1970s, why not lower it from 10'' to 5''?
   34. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: June 22, 2022 at 12:16 PM (#6083245)
phased reduction (perhaps even elimination) of the mound.


I agree this is something to consider, but I wonder if it would do anything to lessen the parade of 1-inning fungible flame throwers, in my mind it could go either way.
   35. Cris E Posted: June 23, 2022 at 04:22 PM (#6083480)
Agree with the mound height argument. It's worked before and will get in the heads of the launch angle community.

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