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Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Rays Are Winning Efficiently, but at What Cost?

They also have done it with an offense that has struck out more times than any team but the Tigers, and with a pitching carousel that has churned through 66 different pitchers—more than half of whom (34) lasted less than 15 appearances. If this is the new model, the players association should be concerned. The Rays are wickedly smart, and, in the business of winning baseball games efficiently, no franchise does it better. But in the business of entertaining, the style does not sell. What should bother the PA is how players, especially pitchers, are being treated as fungible assets.


The churn rate in Tampa Bay is so high that the Rays:

• Used a franchise record 35 pitchers to play the first 110 games this year.

• Made 173 procedural moves with pitchers in the first 144 days of this season.

• Placed a pitcher on the injured list 31 times in the first 21 weeks.

• Used five or more pitchers in a game 50 times this year.

• Have only five pitchers left on the roster from 2019, including only one from the 11 used in the 2019 ALDS on their active roster today (Ryan Yarbrough).

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 29, 2021 at 10:14 PM | 58 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John Northey Posted: August 29, 2021 at 11:02 PM (#6037055)
Other sports tend to watch for when a team starts winning by odd means and then bans it to keep the game from getting boring. MLB needs to figure out how to cut the pens down and reduce the churn rate at the same time. Not an easy thing as those 2 seem at odds with each other. A deader ball would help, but with the AL leader hitting sub 320 (a very rare event) it might be risky making things easier for pitchers. #1 would be to reduce pitch counts, make it so hitters feel a need to swing earlier in the count - the Jays are doing that, reducing K's and scoring a lot, for example. Wonder how the various experiments in the minors are going? From roboumps (easy to adjust the strike zone slightly when needed, a bit bigger if guys aren't swinging, smaller if run scoring is getting too low) to bigger bases and limits on throwing to first (one of the most boring things in baseball) - thus encouraging more stolen bases (fun to watch) as the success rate would be higher. Also if you get rid of the 'pitch framing' then catchers defensive value goes down a bit and you might get more hitting catchers instead of all defense ones (and fewer passed balls).

But back to the Rays and their pitching rotations - increase time pitchers have to be in the minors before getting called back up, increase minimum IL time (was 15 not long ago). Could use it as an abuse watch - first 10 demotions can be called back up after 10 days, next 10 after 15, beyond that 20 days (could be a higher number before penalties - whatever the minimum for MLB was this year as the base). IL, first 10 guys get 10 day minimum, rest 15 day minimum (guys going onto the 60 day right away don't count against it as those are normally obvious real injuries, not 'forgot where the strike zone is' injuries).
   2. The Duke Posted: August 30, 2021 at 09:26 AM (#6037083)
Yeah, this should be an easy fix if it is deemed to be a problem. Redefine option years from being a year to number of times optioned (for example more than three demotions a year trigger loss of a second option, etc. get rid of rapid repromotions. After the third time make it 30 days and make that permanent for his career. There’s no need for cycling the roster like this
   3. I Am Not a Number Posted: August 30, 2021 at 10:18 AM (#6037089)
But in the business of entertaining, the style does not sell.

Is this a fair statement? It does not sell in Tampa, but nothing has ever sold there. A fairer test would be to see this strategy tested in a good baseball market. I can certainly accept the plausibility of high-churn teams being a challenge for a fanbase to connect with, but I wouldn't simply take it as a given that this would be the result, not when the team in question is winning.
   4. Buck Coats Posted: August 30, 2021 at 11:31 AM (#6037113)
What if you could only option guys to the minors on the first of the month? Give exceptions for if somebody's coming off the IL or whatever. But in general, if you want to option a guy to the minors, it can only be done on the first day of each month.
   5. GregD Posted: August 30, 2021 at 11:38 AM (#6037115)
I don’t get why this is a problem? No one goes to games out of love for the back end bullpen and utility guys, and no one stops going because they shuffle like a taxi squad

If other teams don’t want to permit it, it’s easy to stop as noted above.

But I don’t get why it’s a problem, other than for teams that aren’t that creative. (If teams are creative and not doing this because they think it doesn’t work then it’s really not a problem for anyone but the Rays.)
   6. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 30, 2021 at 11:48 AM (#6037117)
increase time pitchers have to be in the minors before getting called back up,


They were going to put it back to 15 days in 2020, but COVID prevented that. I suspect next year it will go back to 15 days.

I will say, I usually simulate the season on Diamond Mind using real transactions (with a few tweaks for my own lineups), but I looked at this year's transaction list and it is just overwhelming.
   7. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 30, 2021 at 12:59 PM (#6037137)
I don’t get why this is a problem? No one goes to games out of love for the back end bullpen and utility guys, and no one stops going because they shuffle like a taxi squad


I have much less interest in watching games when the 5th-8th innings are going to involve 8 anonymous RPs. The taxi-squad strategies enable that. If you had to live with a 7-man pen with no reinforcements coming, they couldn't regularly rely on the pen giving them 5 or more innings.
   8. Jose Has Absurd Goosebump Arms Posted: August 30, 2021 at 01:13 PM (#6037139)
no one stops going because they shuffle like a taxi squad


Maybe not consciously but star power is good for an entertainment business. George Clooney isn't the best actor ever but if he's in a movie people will show up to see it. Likewise people like Shohei Ohtani attract fans and interest. What the Rays are doing is fine...if they win. But no one is going to care about an 83 win Tampa Bay team with no recognizable players.
   9. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: August 30, 2021 at 01:19 PM (#6037140)
I don’t get why this is a problem?

The game is increasingly unwatchable, and the players are having mental health issues due to their perilous hold on a job.

   10. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: August 30, 2021 at 04:16 PM (#6037203)
and no one stops going because they shuffle like a taxi squad


I mean, unless you count me. I haven't been to a game in a long time, and my attention is much less avid now than it used to be, because this style of baseball is garbage and I'd rather watch basketball or read a book most of the time.
   11. John Northey Posted: August 30, 2021 at 04:51 PM (#6037222)
I became a big fan in the 80's and often knew who was in the Jays pen without thinking twice - in '85 it was Henke/Caudill/Lavelle/Acker/Lamp most of the time with a few others mixed in now and then (IL and the like). 36 years later and I still know it without looking it up. Now who is the Jays pen today? Romano/Thornton/Saucedo and 6 more guys. I have to look it up often to know who is there day to day. Oh yeah, a new rookie Overton is there. The churn kills enthusiasm. Limit it to 12 pitchers and things would improve I suspect. More focus on guys who can go 2 innings, and stretching out starters for 7 innings or more instead of 5-6 innings max. Sometimes you need to take toys away from managers so they stop playing with them.
   12. SoSH U at work Posted: August 30, 2021 at 05:16 PM (#6037234)
Let's face it though. High churn just means that you don't know any of the anonymous guys in the bloated bullpen, rather than not knowing most of the anonymous guys in the bloated bullpen.

   13. villageidiom Posted: August 30, 2021 at 05:36 PM (#6037246)
I became a big fan in the 80's and often knew who was in the Jays pen without thinking twice - in '85 it was Henke/Caudill/Lavelle/Acker/Lamp most of the time with a few others mixed in now and then (IL and the like). 36 years later and I still know it without looking it up. Now who is the Jays pen today?
I'm sure this is a product of when we started paying strong attention, and nothing else. For me it would've been Boston in the late 70s: they had Campbell/Burgmeier/Drago/Stanley, and others. I even still remember Burgmeier's uniform number was 16. I don't know how many from 2018 I could name.

The other thing is that bullpens are larger now, so it's harder to keep track. Like, Boston is carrying nine relievers right now. I'd think even a decent Boston fan might not be able to name all nine, unless they read in the Sox Therapy thread where I listed all of them, just today. But, like, I had to look them up to be sure I knew which guys were active and weren't on the IL nor back in the minors.
   14. villageidiom Posted: August 30, 2021 at 05:40 PM (#6037247)
Just to test myself... the 2018 team had Kimbrel, Barnes, Workman... Nope, I'm done.

(Looks it up) I can't believe I forgot Joe Kelly. I can totally believe I forgot everyone else - especially you, "Tyler Thornburg".
   15. Walt Davis Posted: August 30, 2021 at 06:10 PM (#6037259)
Still, the problem for some of you isn't the churn, it's that teams are using relievers for an average of 4 innings a game now. Obviously the two are related -- you can't get effective long outings without churning the back end -- but the back end of the bullpen has always been pretty anonymous. Sure, you remember the 85 Jays pen -- because that was one hell of a pen. Also because Lamp pitched 106 innings, Acker 86, Lavelle and Caudill both around 70 -- 330 innings from those 4 guys, those innings require 6 relievers in today's usage.

But I could have only told you 2 guys in the 85 Cubs pen -- Lee Smith and George Frazier and I could only tell you Frazier because we remember him for how useless he was (and his "Yankees suck" t-shirt). Lary Sorenson (best remembered for the one r Lary) and Warren Brusstar were the other main guys. The 85 Braves' bullpen had lots of memorable names -- Sutter, Gerber, Camp, Forster -- but weren't actually any good. Those 4 guys combined for 374 innings and Jeff Dedmon threw another 86. All told the Braves used up 557 relief innings that year does it really matter that much if today Camp (esp), Sutter, Gerber all threw fewer innings, especially if most of the surrendered innings are in garbage time?

I agree with the general point that SPs out after 4.5-5 innings is a big change that I don't care for (and I'm not sure is effective either) but outside of the top 2-3 relievers, I don't care who pitches the relief innings for the Cubs. The Rays are taking it to an extreme this year -- their pen is on track for nearly 700 innings, currently only 60 IP behind their starters (some of whom might be openers). Half of their starts are less than 80 pitches.

One question is whether the IL'd pitchers are actually hurt. The union is not going to particularly object to Feyereisen or Wisler receiving a 10-day paid vacation but it would clearly be against the spirit and letter of the rules. Close to impossible to enforce which is why MLB briefly put the min pitcher IL back to 15 days. They also briefly set the pitcher roster limit to 13 then dropped it for covid and haven't brought it back.
   16. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: August 30, 2021 at 06:44 PM (#6037269)
Let's face it though. High churn just means that you don't know any of the anonymous guys in the bloated bullpen, rather than not knowing most of the anonymous guys in the bloated bullpen.


Oh, come on. I knew and had opinions about not just Foulke, but Timlin, Embree, and Williamson. Those guys collectively threw more innings than your average starter. Now their roles would be taken up by 15 anonymous dudes who throw 100 miles an hour and go back to Pawtucket every other week.
   17. SoSH U at work Posted: August 30, 2021 at 06:53 PM (#6037275)
Oh, come on. I knew and had opinions about not just Foulke, but Timlin, Embree, and Williamson. Those guys collectively threw more innings than your average starter. Now their roles would be taken up by 15 anonymous dudes who throw 100 miles an hour and go back to Pawtucket every other week.


I'm talking about the difference between the Rays' high-churn philosophy and every other teams' more stable 15-member pen of anonymous guys.
   18. Bhaakon Posted: August 30, 2021 at 07:01 PM (#6037277)
Count the window during which the player can't be recalled as active roster service time with commensurate compensation. If they're going to game the roster rules to hot-swap a a dozen through a couple roster spots based on opponent match-ups, then they should all be treated like major leaguers. It probably won't curtail the practice significantly, but at least no one would be getting screwed. Hell, it might help with service time manipulation as well, marginally.
   19. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: August 30, 2021 at 07:13 PM (#6037281)
I can't believe I forgot Joe Kelly. I can totally believe I forgot everyone else - especially you, "Tyler Thornburg".


Well some of Joe Kelly's outings were utterly forgettable, so there is that. As for Thornburg, all I can say is we finally got Travis Shaw back; woohoo. Over my years of fandom, there are 2 moves this club made/not made that really burns me up.

1) trading Shaw for Thornburg as I am firmly in the "never trade a position player for a reliever" camp.
2) Not signing Beltre long term after his 1 glorious year he was on the team and was just so bloody good and you'd knew he was going to be good for another 4-5 years at least.

As for the Rays philosophy, well if you they don't like it, they should fix it. They are a clever team leveraging resources, it ain't pretty, but it works for them. The product on the field isn't great to watch, but I do admire how they manage to seemingly pull this stuff off year after year...it's darn impressive.
   20. Captain Joe Bivens, Elderly Northeastern Jew Posted: August 30, 2021 at 07:21 PM (#6037283)
Also Brasier, who was pretty good in 2018.
   21. Tony S Posted: August 30, 2021 at 09:00 PM (#6037298)
I was watching the youtube of Game 3 of the Royals-Yankees 1980 ALCS (the one with Brett's dagger homer off Gossage), and one of the things that struck me was how relatively ineffective Dan Quisenberry was in his relief stint. He came in with a one-run lead in the sixth, promptly coughed it up, then allowed the go-ahead run to score. After Brett did his thing, Quiz almost blew it again, loading the bases with no one out in the eighth before being bailed out by a line-drive double play. And yet Frey left him in all the way through, with Quiz even pulling himself together with a smooth ninth to clinch the pennant for KC.

Today, we would sit through six relievers during that span. And not even in a playoff game.

I've never quite figured out why baseball evolved in this direction. The game could have just easily followed the Earl Weaver model -- a ten-man staff and fifteen position players to mix and match with. It's just so much easier to control the matchups from the offensive side -- you don't have to warm up a pinch-hitter, you don't have to worry about his recent usage, you don't have to think about how this impacts his availability tomorrow, and you have the last word on counter-moves. And with the extremely liberal access to triple-A rosters these days, you'd think there'd be less reason than ever to bloat your bullpen like this.
   22. The Honorable Ardo Posted: August 30, 2021 at 09:15 PM (#6037300)
It's just so much easier to control the matchups from the offensive side
Yes, but it's fewer matchups. LOOGYs aside, most relievers are pitching to more than one batter (and they're now forced to face three unless they can secure the third out of an inning). A pinch hitter gets one plate appearance in almost all circumstances.

Weaver, after 1971, went 1-3 in postseason series and had a nasty habit of finishing behind teams featuring Goose Gossage or Rollie Fingers.
   23. Tony S Posted: August 30, 2021 at 09:17 PM (#6037303)
A pinch hitter gets one plate appearance in almost all circumstances.


True, but there's a big difference between having three potential PH's on your roster and having seven.
   24. Rally Posted: August 30, 2021 at 10:20 PM (#6037314)
I'm sure this is a product of when we started paying strong attention, and nothing else.


True that. I can tell you that Brian Downing hit 28 homers in 82, 29 in 87. Grich hit 19 in 82, Reggie 39, DeCinces an even 30. Rod Carew hit .339 in 83. I might have gotten one of those wrong if you look it up, but if so I’m pretty close. I can say this with more certainty than any batting stats for recent Angel seasons. Even Trout. I know he’s had great years, and Pujols the opposite of that, but I’m not as sure of his exact stats in a given year as I am for the team I grew up with.
   25. Rally Posted: August 30, 2021 at 10:22 PM (#6037315)
It goes for some players on teams I didn’t follow that closely. I know the bus number I rode on one year was 85113. Why? Because Harold Baines drove in 113 runs in 85, that’s why.
   26. nick swisher hygiene Posted: August 30, 2021 at 10:40 PM (#6037318)
Relief pitchers don’t even feel like players at this stage, they feel like a commodity.

All the stuff you guys suggest upthread seems insufficiently radical to me: I’d start with a complete, from-the-ground-up review of the bizarrely overcomplicated rostering rules. Hard caps on number of players eligible to appear in a given game and number of players allowed to play for the MLB team in a season. Make sure you save a guy with a rubber arm, cause you might end up needing him. You might even get the return of the knuckleballer!

If fewer pitchers can be used, fewer pitchers will exist.


   27. SoSH U at work Posted: August 30, 2021 at 11:15 PM (#6037323)
Grich hit 19 in 82,


And 22 the previous year, good for a four-way share of the league lead (with Dewey, Armas and one other guy, possibly Murray).

   28. Howie Menckel Posted: August 30, 2021 at 11:33 PM (#6037326)
this is one of those things - like the NHL Devils of old - where the problem is not with the team but with the sport.

can't blame the Rays for taking a mildly advantageous approach to such ridiculous extremes.

several potential solutions listed here already.

I doubt the Rays will be pissed when it's fixed - more likely they'll be glad they got away with it as long as they did.

if they win the WS this year, young fans will be able to regale their children with tales of the robust starting pitching staff of - well, nobody who even qualified for the ERA title (except maybe Yarbrough, and his 85 ERA+).

a guy named Fleming has 101 IP and a 78 ERA+.
No. 3 with 100 innings is someone named McClanahan with a 109 ERA+.
then Rich Hill 95 IP, traded to the Mets a month ago for some green stamps.
also 95 IP is Michael Wacha with a 68 ERA+.
wait, Glasnow has a 147 ERA+ in 88 IP - what's that, his arm fell off? damn.

does this team have ANY good active pitchers?
they do.

RP Kittredge has a 1.32 ERA (not ERA+) in 61 IP, yowza.
sorta closer Diego Castillo has a 2.72 ERA with 14 SV, he's good.

the only other pitcher who is any good (happens to be really good) AND has 50 IP is 34-year-old Colin McHugh, at 1.40 ERA in 51 IP.

I imagine parents of young Rays fans know better than to spend any money on Rays P jerseys (presumably that spending all went to Glasnow gear, alas).

   29. John Northey Posted: August 30, 2021 at 11:47 PM (#6037328)
If you are a Rays fan you should never get a name on a jersey or if you must, then have it be attached with Velcro.
   30. Zach Posted: August 31, 2021 at 12:50 AM (#6037334)
These guys and the Astros give me such a strong feeling of "this is why we can't have nice things".

Want a flexible set of rules that allows for unforeseen circumstances? Too bad!
   31. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: August 31, 2021 at 01:01 AM (#6037335)
If you are a Rays fan you should never get a name on a jersey or if you must, then have it be attached with Velcro.


I see what you are saying, but I don't think you realise how transient most players are. When I do work around the house, I'll be wearing my Mookie Betts Red Sox jersey while I do it....
   32. Ron J Posted: August 31, 2021 at 06:47 AM (#6037346)
Could be worse. I have exactly one named jersey (a hockey jersey) and it's a somewhat polarizing one around here. Mike Hoffman didn't exactly leave on good terms.
   33. bunyon Posted: August 31, 2021 at 08:55 AM (#6037352)
I don’t get why this is a problem?

The game is increasingly unwatchable, and the players are having mental health issues due to their perilous hold on a job


It truly is the American sport.


I don’t have any problem with too many anonymous relievers. The problem is any anonymous relievers. If starters are going to struggle to finish 5 innings, none of us will keep up with who pitches the back end. The fix to this “problem” is figuring out how to get more out of starters and make them better known.

Also, we’re all old. Comparing our knowledge of players today to when we were kids is foolish. The old guys when I was a kid said the same thing - too many unknown players. We might be big fans for our age but no one can compete with an obsessed kid intralled with a new love.
   34. TJ Posted: August 31, 2021 at 09:15 AM (#6037355)
But no one is going to care about an 83 win Tampa Bay team with no recognizable players.


No one would show up to watch any Tampa Bay Rays team even if it had every Hall of Famer from the 1971 All Star Game on their roster during their prime…

I watched the Rays/Red Sox game last night. They were in Tampa, the Rays were playing one of their hated rivals and fellow contenders, and I think there were less fans in the stands than in attendance at the Little League championship game. My favorite part was when the coverage showed a baby peacefully sleeping, since the only noise that you could hear which could possibly have awakened the child was BoSox pitcher Nick Pivetta screaming obscenities after about every other pitch.
   35. Ron J Posted: August 31, 2021 at 09:24 AM (#6037358)
#33 Yup. I can still name basically all of the players from the 1969 Ottawa Rough Riders (I don't recall all of the linemen though I do know some of them. Their kicker was a starting tackle so that helps). I can name every member of the 1969-71 Orioles. I can name every member of the 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs (and I'm not a Leafs fan any longer)
   36. BDC Posted: August 31, 2021 at 09:26 AM (#6037359)
I do think there's a real difference despite my old age, though. I was thinking of the 1980 Phillies, whom I followed pretty desperately and obsessively. Their main relievers were Tug McGraw and Ron Reed, but the next three guys out of the pen – who pitched 170 innings among them! – were Dickie Noles, Kevin Saucier, and Warren Brusstar. Those were just names to me even in 1980. Reed and McGraw were the guys who presented interesting matchups against opposing hitters & appeared in more crucial situations. The others were anonymous; there were just fewer of them.

Likewise, I didn't remember the back end of their rotation well either. Randy Lerch? Nino Espinosa? Even at the time, those names in the morning paper meant "Phillies will probably lose today."

So my impression (based on one example :) ) is that there have always been no-name pitchers, but it really was the case, 40 years ago, that they were offset by stars, by Steve Carlton throwing 300 innings, that sort of thing. If there's a problem now, it's what bunyon and others identify: that the ace starters are on strict five-man rotation and get through about six innings per start. It's as if you invariably had second- and third-string QBs coming in halfway through the third quarter, no matter what the game situation.
   37. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: August 31, 2021 at 09:47 AM (#6037364)
It's as if you invariably had second- and third-string QBs coming in halfway through the third quarter, no matter what the game situation.

I miss the extinction of the marquee pitching matchup. Odds are greater than ever now that you'll see a 16 or 17 strikeout game... it just takes 5 pitchers to get there these days instead of a dominant starting pitcher. Starters get their 100 pitches in regardless of whether they're pitching a gem or slogging through 9 runs in 3-1/3, and then they hit the showers.
   38. Ron J Posted: August 31, 2021 at 09:52 AM (#6037365)
#36 The problem with the third string QB argument is that there is a profound drop off in effectiveness. Like it or not, the parade of relievers is generally pretty effective.

And yes, some teams can't develop a bullpen. And some of those teams will have an elite starter. And some of those elite starters could probably handle a heavier workload. We'll never know.

You're unlikely to convince me that a staff like the Orioles from the 60s wouldn't work today -- if surrounded by a defense as good as the Orioles fielded back then.

Elite defense + pitchers who (largely) keep the ball in the park and in the strike zone is pretty likely to work well but it'll be an untested hypothesis.

Jim Palmer had the stuff to get a lot more strikeouts. If pitching today his career would likely have looked very different.

   39. Nasty Nate Posted: August 31, 2021 at 09:56 AM (#6037368)
does this team have ANY good active pitchers?
they do.

RP Kittredge has a 1.32 ERA (not ERA+) in 61 IP, yowza.
sorta closer Diego Castillo has a 2.72 ERA with 14 SV, he's good.
This proves the point - Castillo has already been traded away!
   40. BDC Posted: August 31, 2021 at 10:06 AM (#6037369)
And the problem is exacerbated in the case of the Rays because they also seem to churn through their starting lineup every three years or so. (The exception is Kevin Kiermaier, mostly well-known for missing tons of playing time.)

Again, hard to know how that would play in another city. And it's likely that some strong teams of the past turned over their position players quicker than we now remember. But the entertainment value can't go up when everybody's new all the time.

Or can it? College sports have that year-to-year churn and are always popular. And the NFL has vast stretches of anonymity on any roster, even to devoted fans.

Ron makes a good point about baseball relievers being effective, though effective "bullpens" of QBs wouldn't really increase the 3rd and 4th QBs' star value ...
   41. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: August 31, 2021 at 10:11 AM (#6037371)
Some of what Tampa is doing is assisted by short-term rules that are a response to COVID - and that will likely be amended or gone by 2022. So I think some of this will take care of itself soon.

But Tampa is so smart, and so unafraid to do whatever they think will work. It's been acknowledged forever that pitchers will eventually lose effectiveness as they go deep into games - but it was always assumed that this was caused largely by fatigue.

But it turns out (I think everybody acknowledges this, pretty much) that it is in large part due to hitters seeing a pitcher multiple times in a game, and that by the third plate appearance, they have a better approach for facing the pitcher. And the more pitches you force a pitcher to throw early in the game, the sooner the lineup gets a look at all their pitches, their patterns, movement, velocity, etc.

So perhaps Tampa is taking this all the way, saying, "If this is true within games and series, why wouldn't it be true for seasons?" If Tampa is facing the Yankees or Red Sox 19 times a year, I would bet that by the 6th, 10th, or 15th game, the hitters have a legitimate gain from having seen the other team's pitchers (potentially) many times, both at home and on the road. I haven't done this research, nor have I seen it done by somebody else, but what if it turns out that the pitchers' team gains a legit advantage from having a much wider array of pitchers over the course of a season, preventing the other teams' offenses from getting this advantage of familiarity and comfort?

One other thing: There are very few failed relievers who become successful starters...but there are many, many failed starters who become effective relievers. (Indeed, this is one of the main arguments against having very many closers in the Hall of Fame.) Isn't it pretty clear the low-budget Rays have determined that a cheap way to win is to focus on a high volume of low-cost relievers, because there are exponentially more relievers in the market than there are starters?

So let's apply that to a specific example from this season. At the trade deadline, the Rays trade one of their best relievers, Diego Castillo, a 27-year-old striking out 12 every 9 innings, making no money, and with a track record of success - but whose FIP has always been higher (sometimes, a lot higher) than his ERA. They are crushing the AL East, most wins in the league...so they trade him to Seattle, for...another reliever, JT Chargois, and a pretty good outfield prospect, Austin Shenton.

Chargois has pitched in 12 games, 12.2 IP, with an ERA of 0.71, and an ERA+ of 564. The minor-leaguer in the deal, Shenton, was ranked this week as the team's #10 prospect, mainly for his hit tool. (He's 23, and in AA.)

Anyway, this is classic Tampa:
1) They see relievers as pretty interchangeable, so if they can flip one guy when he is probably at the peak of his value (look at the saves!) for another reliever who they see as having as good a season, plus they get an outfield prospect who may not be far from being helpful to the big league club, then you make the trade.
2) It is possible that this is another example of continuing to change it up for their opponents. You saw Castillo; now you don't. You haven't see Chargois? Now you will. The day after the trade, Tampa played Boston, who at that point was neck-and-neck for the division lead. Chargois comes into the game in the 7th inning, throws a hitless inning. Now, is that because they hadn't seen him before (they didn't see him while he was in Seattle)? Maybe, maybe not...but the numbers suggest it helps. I think Tampa basically says, the relievers are basically interchangeable - but if we can pick up additional assets by trading them at the right time for more relievers, and then there is a legit advantage to keeping the "newness" working in our favor, then we are going to do that like no team ever has before.
   42. Baldrick Posted: August 31, 2021 at 10:27 AM (#6037374)
Every time you bring in a new pitcher, the other team is awarded one run. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.
   43. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: August 31, 2021 at 11:07 AM (#6037381)
Some of what Tampa is doing is assisted by short-term rules that are a response to COVID - and that will likely be amended or gone by 2022. So I think some of this will take care of itself soon.


This is true, but only to a point, as

They see relievers as pretty interchangeable


and

cheap way to win is to focus on a high volume of low-cost relievers


The reason the relievers are interchangeable and low-cost is they only have to pitch one inning at a time. If one changes the rules so that a one-inning reliever is far less valuable, then the 100 mph, 1-inning-at-a-time, 20-appearances-and-done reliever will disappear - and will also go a long way towards making the game more fun to watch in the later innings.

I know I'm banging the same drum over and over, but if roster rules were changed such that a pitcher is ineligible for the next XX (2?, 3?) games if taken out in the middle of an inning or having pitched less than YY (2?, 3?) innings, a lot of things would change, probably for the better, but the manager would still have flexibility in-game, just there would be consequences in future games. The neat thing about this possible rule change is it doesn't affect in-game play, it merely changes the overall roster strategy and resultant player mix. No more (or at least fewer) Hunter Stricklands.

Maybe then the next underexploited resource the Rays will exploit will be left-handed knuckleballers (and catchers)!
   44. bfan Posted: August 31, 2021 at 12:04 PM (#6037387)
Every time you bring in a new pitcher, the other team is awarded one run. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.


The Braves instituted that policy this season with Will Smith. It is not a pleasant experience.
   45. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 31, 2021 at 12:11 PM (#6037388)
Every time you bring in a new pitcher, the other team is awarded one run. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

I would say: 1) team gets two free pitching changes per 9-inning game, 2) they get one extra in the 10th, and every other extra inning, 3) each pitching change in excess of the limit causes a BB.
   46. bunyon Posted: August 31, 2021 at 01:05 PM (#6037398)
These threads always produce a plethora of cool ideas for rules changes to keep starters in games longer and use fewer relievers. I love proposing them myself.

The problem, though, is that an entire generation of pitchers has been built around the current go as hard as you can for short bursts, don't worry about pitch counts per batter and we'll limit your innings.

It's not clear to me that there is a way to increase innings for starters and use fewer relievers without piling up dead arms. Which then necessitates bringing in anonymous guys to replace them. You have the same problem but more injuries.

Whatever rules you put in place, you have to change the actual mindset and approach of the pitchers and the history of doing that with adult pro athletes is not good.
   47. coppermist72 Posted: August 31, 2021 at 02:08 PM (#6037430)
A solution to prevent this high churn (if one is necessary) is maybe limit reserves to 5 position players and 5 relievers at the start of each series/or game? With another 5 players (any type)allowed if games go to extra innings or injuries. So you would have 9 players and DH. That way you would still have to carry players on the roster but also would not have latitude for constant subs. Reserve roster would count as service time, etc. and teams would declare their rotations prior to a series.
   48. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: August 31, 2021 at 02:49 PM (#6037443)
College sports have that year-to-year churn and are always popular.

For all the talk about pro sports fandom being "cheering for laundry," college sports is next-level cheering for laundry. If minor league football were MiLF (/smirk) instead of NCAA Football and having no allegiance to institutions of higher education, they wouldn't need 100,000 seat stadiums for games.... they may not even need 10,000. Same for basketball. G League attendance seems hard to find, but the clubs I've found tend to average around 2-5 thousand paid attendance per game, much less than top basketball schools, even though G League teams would likely mop the floor with any NCAA team. College sports is all about the opportunity to cheer for the alma mater or local college team. The players are immaterial, except to the extent that they contribute to a winning team and keep those alumni donations flowing in.
   49. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 31, 2021 at 02:58 PM (#6037447)
For all the talk about pro sports fandom being "cheering for laundry," college sports is next-level cheering for laundry. If minor league football were MiLF (/smirk) instead of NCAA Football and having no allegiance to institutions of higher education, they wouldn't need 100,000 seat stadiums for games.... they may not even need 10,000. Same for basketball. G League attendance seems hard to find, but the clubs I've found tend to average around 2-5 thousand paid attendance per game, much less than top basketball schools, even though G League teams would likely mop the floor with any NCAA team. College sports is all about the opportunity to cheer for the alma mater or local college team. The players are immaterial, except to the extent that they contribute to a winning team and keep those alumni donations flowing in.
Plus colleges have a steady influx of a new fan base literally every year.
   50. bunyon Posted: August 31, 2021 at 03:33 PM (#6037460)
Big time college sports fandom has little (possibly very little) to do with rooting for "your" school. Flagship state unis represent the state. There are way, way, way more diehard OU, UNC, FSU, etc. fans than there are alumni of those schools. Even people who go to other colleges but grow up in that state root for them and pay to go to their games. Certainly a lot of people who never go to college root for them. And donate.

I find it bizarre but it's a fact of NCAA sports.
   51. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: August 31, 2021 at 04:59 PM (#6037493)
Big time college sports fandom has little (possibly very little) to do with rooting for "your" school. Flagship state unis represent the state.

Point taken, but whether it's a school you attended or one that represents your state or region or you're just a fan of for whatever reason, I think the point still holds that having star players churning through the roster every season or two obviously does not inhibit the formation of fan loyalty for college teams to nearly the extent it seems to for professional teams. So I'll amend my last sentence to
College sports is all about the opportunity to cheer for the alma mater or local your favorite college team. The players are immaterial, except to the extent that they contribute to a winning team and keep those alumni donations flowing in.
   52. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: August 31, 2021 at 05:07 PM (#6037495)
Flagship state unis represent the state. There are way, way, way more diehard OU, UNC, FSU, etc. fans than there are alumni of those schools. Even people who go to other colleges but grow up in that state root for them and pay to go to their games. Certainly a lot of people who never go to college root for them. And donate.

Similar deal for Notre Dame and Catholics. They'd have even more fans if not for the offensive mascot!
   53. SoSH U at work Posted: August 31, 2021 at 05:23 PM (#6037499)
Similar deal for Notre Dame and Catholics.


There's probably an even stronger connection between BYU and Mormons.

But I agree with the above, and it's one reason I think it leads to people overstating the "market value" of the college athletes. Their value is mostly a product of playing for old State U (Go Dawgs).
   54. Howie Menckel Posted: August 31, 2021 at 06:39 PM (#6037536)
They'd have even more fans if not for the offensive mascot!

to be fair, it only ranks 4th

according to the survey, Florida State's Osceola and Renegade was No. 1 on this "Most Offensive Mascot" list, followed by San Diego State's Aztec Warriors and Hawaii's Vili the Warrior. Notre Dame's Leprechaun placed 4th out of 128 mascots in Offensiveness Above Replacement level.
   55. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: August 31, 2021 at 07:23 PM (#6037541)
Eh, baseball has always been boring to watch. The rays are clever and good. I'm going to appreciate what they're doing and continue to (mostly) not watch baseball.
   56. escabeche Posted: August 31, 2021 at 10:04 PM (#6037569)
The Rays are so unpopular that when they play in Camden Yards you can hear the Orioles fans.
   57. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: September 02, 2021 at 08:56 AM (#6037943)
Big time college sports fandom has little (possibly very little) to do with rooting for "your" school. Flagship state unis represent the state.


I can attest to this. Before I started thinking too hard about college football, I rooted pretty avidly for the Ducks, despite the fact that I went to college in California. As did my brothers, one of whom went to NYU and the other of whom went to Portland State. There's a regional chauvinism aspect to it, especially in a place that's so up its own butt as Oregon.
   58. Bret Sabermatrician Posted: September 02, 2021 at 10:28 AM (#6037960)
Just do rosters like they do in European football. Man UTD has 36 official first team players, but they can only name 18 per game. So just keep the traditional 25 man roster, but you can only name 19 or 20 for each game.

Make the managers use actual strategy. Maybe Max Fried has been pitching well and I think he can go 7, so I only name 3 relievers and have a few more bats on the bench. Maybe you have your 5th starter going so you sacrifice a utility guy for an extra reliever.

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