A More Radical Pitching Staff Proposal

Yesterday, we talked about the four man rotation experiment that the Rockies are trying out, and while I expressed some skepticism that it is going to work in their specific situation, I do applaud the effort to try something new. What we know about the relative of performance of starters and relievers suggests that teams could theoretically get better run prevention by getting more innings to their relievers — or at least pitchers working in a role that looks something like a reliever.

So, is there a way to create a pitching staff where this effect is taken advantage of more thoroughly? In looking at the requirements that a pitching staff faces over the course of a season, I think there just might be.

A major league pitching staff is asked to throw about 1,450 innings per season. Last year, it took an average major league team 6,175 batters to get through those innings during the course of the year — or, essentially, 38 batters per game. Because each plate appearance takes about 3.8 pitches, each team threw about 145 pitches each time they took the field, broken down by about 97 for the starters and 48 for the bullpen. An average relief performance involves 17 pitches thrown, so in a standard MLB game, it takes three relievers to finish off the day’s work after the starter leaves. The average MLB game right now involves four pitchers, with one doing two-thirds of the work and the other three splitting the remaining one-third.

What if we kept that four-pitcher framework, but redistributed the amount of pitches they threw within a single game? If we made it completely equal — with each pitcher essentially doing one-fourth of the day’s work — we’d need them each to throw 36 pitches. Given that it takes about 3.8 pitches per batter faced, that’s essentially nine batters per pitcher — or one time through the line-up for each pitcher.

Based on what we know about a pitcher’s performance against the same batter multiple times within a single game, that could be exactly the kind of break down we should be looking for. I showed this data in yesterday’s post too, but it’s worth repeating here:

First PA vs SP: .247/.310/.393
Second PA vs SP: .260/.321/.417
Third PA vs SP: .271/.332/.444

The first time through the order, opposing batters put up a .704 OPS against starting pitchers, but that jumps to .738 the second time through and .776 the third time through. Most of the gap in starter/reliever performance comes from the fact that starting pitchers have to face hitters several times per game. Even with the fact that starters have to pace themselves for longer outings and have to face line-ups built to counteract their own platoon splits, the gap between OPS versus starters (.704) on the first match-up and OPS versus relievers on the first match-up (.691) is only 13 points. This data suggest that a significant part of the advantage of being a reliever is the one-and-done nature of the match-ups.

So asking four pitchers to go through the line-up one time each would get you 36 batters faced — or 95% of the way toward a complete game — based on normal standards under the current system. To make sure those last several batters are covered — and to give yourself a little more flexibility for extra-inning affairs — let’s be safe and say that each pitcher will be asked to face 10 batters per game, which translates to about 38 pitches apiece.

With 12 roster spots allocated for pitchers on most teams these days, that would leave you with three groups of four pitchers. Essentially, each pitcher would be given two days off between outings. Over the course of the season, each pitcher would have 54 expected outings and would have to throw about 2,000 pitches, or about one-third less than a standard starting pitcher.

From an overall workload standpoint, this is something like the role Alfredo Aceves filled for the Boston Red Sox last year. He pitched in 55 games (four of those being starts), faced 474 batters and threw 1,757 pitches. They didn’t deploy him in 35-pitch outings every three days, but over the season, his workload approximated what we’d be asking from every pitcher on our staff under this proposal. It would certainly require an adjustment, but it isn’t so strenuous that it couldn’t be done.

If we accept that it’s an acceptable work/rest balance that wouldn’t shred arms and ask pitchers to do things of which they weren’t capable, then the question is simply whether we could expect this system to be an improvement over the current setup.

The times-through-the-order bonus would essentially transfer 15 plate appearances from a second or third look to a first look, so dealing with league averages again, you’d be swapping out 15 plate appearances with an expected .753 OPS for 15 PAs with a (roughly) expected .704 OPS. That’s 15 plate appearances in each game, or 2,430 plate appearances over an entire season. That’s a significant difference, and a potentially large advantage in favor of the face-everyone-once strategy.

The cost of this system is the lack of ability to mix-and-match based on platoon situations and based on leverage. By rigidly asking each pitcher to face nine to 10 batters per outing — regardless of who those batters were or what the score was — you couldn’t reallocate the more important innings to the better pitchers. You’d also have to do away with the notions of getting selective platoon advantages through frequent pitching changes.

The leverage thing is a real negative, as this rigid structure would mean that you’d be forced into using the same pitchers regardless of the score, so you couldn’t ensure that your best pitchers were regularly on the mound in the situations where preventing a run was more likely to impact the outcome of the game. Pitchers would have their set days of pitching and rest, and whether it was 1-0 or 15-0, you’d have to stick to the plan. However, the hope would be that this system would allow each pitcher to perform well enough that you wouldn’t hate having any of them on the mound in a close game. Still, there’s no question that the lack of ability to give better pitchers the more important innings is a drawback to this kind of structure.

The platoon advantage isn’t quite as big of a loss, I don’t think, and not because platoon advantages don’t matter, but because this system would essentially trade off when those platoon match-ups happened. Ideally, you’d want two right-handed pitchers and two left-handed pitchers with your four daily pitchers, which would make setting the line-up for the opposing manager a bit of a headache. If you’re starting a right-handed pitcher but everyone knows he’s only going to face nine batters, do you bother stacking the line-up with lefties? Probably not. At that point, knowing that the late game chess match has essentially been canceled, he might as well just start his nine best players regardless of what side of the plate they bat from. And while that means that you’re not getting those late game left-on-left match-ups, you’re also going to be facing fewer opposite-handed hitters earlier in the game. You’d almost certainly want to mix up the order in which the pitchers appeared so that a manager couldn’t save a few pinch-hitters knowing that LHP Pitcher X always works the last nine batters, but overall, I wouldn’t expect that you’d see a drastic change in the amount of times the team faced a platoon disadvantage.

The other significant negative associated with this strategy is the need for a 13th pitcher. As we’ve outlined, this strategy gets you through nine or maybe 10 innings, but has no real plan for anything in innings 11 and beyond. In reality, there will be games that go beyond 10 batters, and unless you’re just willing to blow up the last pitcher’s arm by forcing him to keep pitching until the game ends, you need another guy on the roster who can take the mound in extra innings. However, a 13 man pitching staff also creates problems for position players, as three reserves just isn’t enough.

So, my solution? Any team trying this should acquire Micah Owings, or someone of that ilk. The two-way position player could be essentially used as an emergency pitcher for extra innings games, throwing enough on the side to be ready in case they are called upon but also serving as a pinch-hitter/defensive replacement and general backup at the positions they can play in the field. The Brewers used Brooks Kieschnick in this way in 2003 and 2004, when he combined for 144 plate appearances and 97 innings pitched. There are a good number of players who both hit and pitch in college, so finding one could fill this 25th man supersub role shouldn’t be impossible — though you’re accepting a lower quality performer on both sides in order to get the flexibility. In reality, you’d probably lose more of your extra inning games than you would under a standard system, since innings 11-plus would essentially be taken up by a part-time pitcher who is probably not up to MLB standards as a normal pitcher.

Would those trade-offs negate the gains from allowing pitchers to only face a batter once through the order, amplify their stuff in shorter outings, and see a reduction in total pitches thrown by the best pitchers? For a team setup to function under the current system, perhaps. If you already have Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and Cole Hamels, this system doesn’t make any sense. You don’t really want those guys pitching less than they do now, since they can perform at an elite level for longer stints.

If a team were going to try this plan, though, not having to pay premium dollars for high-end starting pitching would actually be part of the appeal. By utilizing some decent-but-not-great starters in this way, the hope would be that a team could get higher-level production without having to pay the current market rates for starters who can hold batters to a .700 OPS over six-plus innings. If you built a pitching staff with lower-cost arms who carried equal amounts the workload, you could then allocate more of your overall budget to the position players, and hopefully build out an offense and defense that were better than you could afford if you were also trying to buy market value starting pitchers.

Of course, a team would have to essentially create their own financial compensation structure, since wins and saves would no longer be targeted rewards that a pitcher could strive for and use in arbitration hearings. And this would have to be something that the organization bought into across the board, as you’d need guys on this kind of schedule in the minors in order to come up and fill in when a pitcher hit the disabled list. It would essentially require a wholesale rejection of the current five-man-rotation system, and a long-term plan that required committing to this kind of experiment for more than a few weeks. The media scrutiny would be extremely high, especially whenever a pitcher was removed while pitching well and replaced by a guy who instantly imploded.

It’s not a plan without costs, but it is also a plan that I think could allow a team to improve their run prevention simply through better controlling usage patterns, and would come with the side benefit of allowing them to spend more money on position players rather than pursuing highly coveted pitchers (who would have no interest in pitching for your team anyway). Is anyone crazy enough to try it? Probably not, especially given how well pitchers are doing under the current system. We might need to see a shift back toward expanding offensive prowess before anyone tries something this different, as the “don’t fix what isn’t broken” mindset has a powerful hold. However, the Rockies abandonment of the five-man rotation shows that MLB teams are thinking about new ways in which to use their pitchers, and perhaps we’ll see a team try some variation of this before we die.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


142 Responses to “A More Radical Pitching Staff Proposal”

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  1. Brandon says:

    I think the best team would be an NL team, as they could pinch-hit for the pitcher almost every time through. I also think that what I would do is run my four starters on normal rest, then on the 5th day have ‘bullpen day’. This eliminates the weakest starter in your rotation – simply ask him to throw 2-3 innings in a start, presumably at a higher per-inning quality. The comes the long guy for another 2-3 and then onto the relievers.

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    • suicide squeeze says:

      The only problem with all the pinch hitting is that you’ll run out of position players, especially if you only have three subs. Also, the pitcher spot is probably going to come up an inning early/late at least once a game. You’d have to be pretty conservative with it, which could cancel out some of the advantage of the pitching plan.

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      • Ian R. says:

        Not necessarily. Since pitchers would have fairly rigid off-days, there’d be nothing to stop you from using pitchers to pinch-hit from other pitchers. Put one of your decent hitting pitchers in each four-man crew, and have the two that aren’t scheduled to pitch pinch hit in the early innings.

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    • Baltar says:

      I have modelled taking an NL team and pinch-hitting for the pitcher every time one is due to come up. I based the results on actual performances from MLB Game Day.
      On paper, it worked really well. I had to make some assumptions about how many days rest a pitcher required for a given number of batters faced (pitches might have been better, but it was burdensome to count them).
      The more radical form of this strategy is to make a double-switch to wait longer before having to replace the pitcher, rather than always sticking the pitcher in the #9 spot.This has the disadvantage that the #3, #2 and #1 batters (in that order) played fewer innings. In order to keep the best batters in the game longer, they had to bat #4 or lower, and sometimes players had to play a little out of position (nothing radical like having a non-catcher catch (I had to carry 3), but maybe a 1B playing 3B).
      The killers, of course, were extra inning-games and double-headers. The best solution I had was to have a 13th pitcher whom I saved to finish extra-inning games who’s experience was as a guy who could pitch a lot of innings but not necessarily very well and abandon pinch-hitting in those late innings. For doubleheaders, I had to scrap the strategy altogether unless there was a day off on the day before or after, in which case a slightly modified strategy could be used.
      I have no idea how this would work out in reality, of course, but it was a lot of fun to model it.
      Something more like Brandon suggests would probably work well, but I doubt if any GM and manager would ever have the guts to try it.

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    • Nate says:

      I had the same thought. Additionally you could try the opposite and have 1 (maybe 2) ace type starter try to pitch most of the game with 1 guy finishing if needed. This could save arms for the bullpen day or extra innings.

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  2. John says:

    Isn’t another drawback here that you’d be sacrificing quality innings by your better starters and having to let guys of more marginal ability pitch more on average? Justin Verlander shouldn’t be pitching the same number of innings if you want to maximize wins as, say, Luis Marte. It’s not just leverage, it’s also diminishing the team’s ability to get production from their best players, and artificially increasing their dependence on not so good players.

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    • Well-Beered Englishman says:

      See my comment below, but the gist is that if your team is going to experiment with this, your team probably doesn’t have Justin Verlander.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      A team that tried this wouldn’t have Justin Verlander. As I mentioned, a key benefit to this plan is to be able to acquire lower cost pitchers that aren’t as in demand (Aceves is a great example of the type of pitcher you’d want to target) and then allocate more of your payroll to the position players. Essentially, the idea is that you could replicate the performance of a high quality starting pitcher without actually having to have one.

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    • Aaron (UK) says:

      Agreed.

      My preference would be for a “rotation” consisting of your best 2 (or 3, if you have the quality available) pitchers used much as now, and the 4th/5th starts used in a similar fashion to what Dave is suggesting above.

      The advantage to NL teams of trying this is obvious (as Brandon says) – in fact rather than strictly rationing their batters you should probably just go on when they come up to bat (unless 2 out nobody on, perhaps).

      Doubleheaders will also be a potential big problem with Dave’s scheme – you need to reschedule them all for September if you can!

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      • BillWallace says:

        Agreed. Similar to what I proposed at the end of the other thread. A hybrid approach. 2-3 ‘real’ starters. 5-7 ‘longmen’, and 2-4 short/matchup relievers.

        You put your starters on the current 4 days of rest rotation.

        Your longmen are typically expected to face 9-18 batters and two or three of them will cover games 4-5 as well as relieve the starters on occasion and handle extra innings.

        Your shortmen are used for 2-6 batters for matchup/fireman duty.

        Here’s an example. You’re winning 5-0 until the 6th, when your starter tires, loading the bases with one run in and one out. You bring in your best shortman matchup to get out of the jam and move on to the 7th still up 5-1. In the 7th you bring in a longman chosen by rest status first, matchup status second and plan for him to finish the game.

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      • Sam says:

        That’s what I think would be the best option. If you fully implement this plan, you’d have to have some decent two-way players as Dave said, and while you don’t have to pay for any premium pitching, you’d have to have a top-to-bottom quality pitching staff. Teams like the Phillies can get away with some weak spots since players like Halladay or Hamels can eat up their innings, so they only come in in low-stress situations. Having a strategy like this would require all of your pitchers to be able to deal with high-pressure situations, which requires a lot more work to make sure EVERY pitcher is a quality player.

        However, if you went with some sort of hybrid, I think this could be a fantastic strategy. Still paying for premium talent, you’d have on your team 2 or maybe 3 decent pitchers who can consistently give you 6-7 innings, and then implement this plan for the 4 and 5 spots in the rotation. The team I think is currently set up best for this kind of plan right now is the Red Sox, actually. They could keep Lester/Beckett/Buchholz/Doubront as full starters, with your specialist arms closing out their games, and then let Morales/Atchison/Padilla take game five. Albers is the weak link here, and would be replaced by Aceves once Bailey returns. It’s still basically a traditional setup, but the bullpen day for a 5th starter may be the best option for a team like Boston that has so many quality long men in their bullpen. All of those guys could make it through one lineup with quality work, and Albers would be mop-up if anything went bad. Aceves could switch places with one of those guys as well once Bailey returned.

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    • byron says:

      Am I crazy, or does this make MORE sense for a team with a Justin Verlander? Having a guy who can soak up more than his share of innings would take the pressure off every other pitcher. Maybe he accounts for 3 of the 4 sets every 5th day. Maybe he can do 2 of the 4 every 3rd or 4th day. There’s no reason to assume that 100-130 pitches every 5th day is the ideal way to use an ace, and this system would give you flexibility to find something better.

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      • JKB says:

        Exactly. You would want your long men like Verlander to be your “Enders”, chosen for their ability to go an extra inning or two if the game goes into extra innings. It would also keep fans in the ballpark longer. Imagine Verlander as an Ender at Dodger Stadium, fans might actually still be there after the 7th inning stretch…

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      • baty says:

        it would be interesting to see a team adapt this system and watch how it effects the long term pitching personnel they build with. You would need nearly an entire system of high level MILB arms strong enough to pitch 4 inning “starts” in order to cover a 3-4 year span of doing this at the MLB level, if and when injury/ineffectiveness sets in from player to player. If you do build a MILB system geared around this approach, would it be tough to reverse the ship if need be, to get those top arms back up to being capable of throwing 7 innings per start.

        I can’t help but think that you’d need to radically restructure the way you prepare these guys with pitching, beginning in the MILB ranks… As stupid as this might sound, “Micah Owings types” might not grow on trees, so you’ll need to train plenty of 2 pitch 1 inning type guys to test the transition as well.

        In other words, what are the long term ramifications of adapting… Is this a system that can spontaneously work? or does preparation need to be embedded within player development. So what happens when you realize you’ve drafted a couple of “Justin Verlanders”… can you switch out of the radical approach? What happens if you loose 1 or two of those “Justin Verlanders”… can you switch back in?

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    • Josh says:

      I have been running this similar internal monologue for a few years after watching crappy Brewer pitching in the early 2000’s. The general idea is to give each pitcher 3 innings, and then replace them. This is something that should be done throughout the country to help limit the number of youth tommy john surgeries, and also get more people used to throwing off the mound. By getting a good pitch, instead of using him on 5-6 days rest, and not always in the highest leverage situations, with a number of pitchers that is not a multiple of three, you could have, say Roy Halladay come in in the seventh inning of a game and have him finish it off. He could come back a couple days later and throw three innings to start and so on. This should add room for bench players, and make pitchers not worry about individual achievements, and worry more about how the team is doing. Yes, it would invalidate a season like Justin Verlander had last year, but it would also stop teams from throwing out a sub-replacement level player on a regular basis.

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  3. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    This actually sounds like a reasonable set-up for a certain kind of team: one with a large group of more or less equal pitchers, none of them standouts, and probably one where the park effect favors pitchers. You wouldn’t want to try this in Citizens Bank Park, nor when it means taking innings away from Cliff Lee and giving them to Michael Stutes.

    The metrically-minded GM looking to implement this should focus on “AAAA starters” – specifically, the type of guy who always seems fine in the first three innings, then melts down after that. Then the GM could bargain-hunt by prying away unwanted spare parts from the back ends of rotations and minor league depth to assemble a staff. Scott Feldman comes to mind.

    I think most of the guys who would thrive in this system are minor-league starters who failed at the major league level and became relievers. Many of them are now standout relievers – the Yankees thought of Tyler Clippard as a junk starter, for instance. The GM building this team should look for the next Tyler Clippards.

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    • Chuck says:

      Sounds like the Twins! All of their pitchers are of the softer tossing, pitch to contact variety. The team is pretty dreadful, so now would be a good time to experiment. All of their starters are of the 4th / 5th SP mold and they have a couple bullpen guys that would also fit the bill:

      Group 1: Hendricks, Liriano, Burton, Duensing
      Group 2: Blackburn, Diamond, Capps, Perkins
      Group 3: Swarzak, Manship, Burnett, Gray

      It really can’t be much worse than what they’re putting up now and they have a pitcher friendly park in Target Field and an average to above offense.

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      • monkey business says:

        I was thinking the same thing. Liriano might actually be more consistent if you did this because he appears to throw a 5-10 start season and then get dead arm and be terrible until he is given a 15 DL break with a bogus reason..

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    • brandon says:

      I think a key is that the the pitchers would have to agree to do this. I seriously doubt Verlander would agree to become “an ender”, nor would elite prospects be very happy about entering into this non-standard minor league system as it would drastically reduce their value to other teams. However, AAAA players would probably be happy to try something new in order to make it up to the big leagues and be successful.

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  4. ALEastbound says:

    Any ideas for the Blue Jays? The staff is a mess right now. Injuries have obviously taken a toll.

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    • Well-Beered Englishman says:

      Let’s ask everdiso.

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      • Not Everdiso says:

        which one?

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      • everdiso says:

        You can bet that if this is a good strategy, the Blue Jays will implement it. Although I’ll give a friendly reminder that the Red Sox are a palty 11th in pitching WAR, so maybe they should do it with their bloated payroll. Certainly they could get more out of has-beens like Lester, Beckett, and Felix Doubront that way.

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      • Ray says:

        @everdiso: Yeah, that 1.9 WAR for Lester is really sucking the life out of the Sox. I guess Kershaw, Price, Bumgarner and Weaver–all at 1.9 or 2.0 WAR–are has-been’s as well. And Doubront…what, is he the first 24 year-old has been pitcher? Kid’s pitched pretty well, at least as good as most expected from him this season.

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    • Spiggy says:

      I think it makes a lot of sense for them, even if it’s just for 2 spots in the rotation. After all, they’ve got a lot of guys who can get by for once in the order (Carreno, Chavez, and I’d put Cecil in there as well) as well as two decent longmen (Perez and Villaneuva). They’ve more or less had several games in which the bullpen has started, because the starter could only go 2 or 3 or 4 innings. Of course, if it was planned/prepared for, they wouldn’t have to ride the “starter” through a bad inning to try to milk him for more pitches, and could pull him before he implodes.

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  5. Zigs says:

    Interesting thought. I enjoyed the idea of platooning rotations.

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  6. Bill says:

    Can you separate the reliever and starter 1st PA numbers to show the platoon splits? Asking a reliever to go through the full lineup once rather than just an inning could cause them to face a higher percentage of opposite-handed hitters than they currently do.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Since you knew going in that everyone was going to have to face some hitters from each side, you probably wouldn’t have specialist pitchers on your staff to begin with. So, an organization trying this would focus on marginal starters with pitches that can get hitters from both sides of the plate out, rather than looking for guys who are really great at platoon match-ups.

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      • Bill says:

        My thought was that showing the 1st PA splits for relievers would be that you could better isolate how much of their numbers are due to platoon splits vs. being “worse” pitchers who are able to exert more energy, knowing they will have to pitch to fewer hitters.

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      • Paul says:

        Agreed, and I think you would also be looking at using a certain type of pitcher. The type of pitcher ideal for this scenario is a guy that probably won’t work out as a starter, but doesn’t really fit the ideal late inning reliever either.

        In other words, sinker/slider types. Not only are they undervalued and perfect for this role, but they typically have the repertoire to get both handed hitters out. Also, since they’ll mostly be working on pretty short rest, sinker/slider guys tend to be more effective when they’re just a little tired.

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  7. Dexter Bobo says:

    I’ve been employing this strategy since 1987 every time I play RBI Baseball.

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    • James says:

      I usually went with the 3/3/3 split in video games. My top 3 pitchers would each get 3 innings per game. In most of the games a starter could pitch a 3 inning stint every day without needing time off.

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  8. supershredder says:

    Would love to see a team try this.

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    • everdiso says:

      NO team ever would except maybe the Rays. And then when they did everyone would say how awesome of an idea it is regardless of the results.

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  9. Nate says:

    Would love to see how much that type of pitching staff would/could cost. I think you could save $$ over the “elite starter, middle reliever, shut-down closer” model now employed.

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  10. Mike says:

    It seems to me that a hybrid approach might work real well. For example, the Seattle Mariners. On days then Felix is pitching, you have 1 maybe 2 guys there for anything that Felix can’t finish off. On days when the Ramirez or Noesi pitching you go to the full plan of having them only pitch once through the lineup.

    This will give more innings for your best pitchers and take advantage of the once through the lineup bonus. It also give you that flexibility you would need for extra innings. If you have two really good pitchers, you modify again giving you greater flexibility without having to carry the pitcher/fielder two way player.

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  11. jt says:

    All this talk has me wondering about the Nats. Someone commented in one of these posts yesterday that they had been utilizing a 4+2 sort of rotation, with Detwiler and Wang essentially tied together on the 5th starter’s turn.

    Now the “if it ain’t broke” argument applies with particular force here, but the Nats seem well structured to use a 4 man rotation in a way that would allow them to avoid having to waste a start on Wang/Det. 4 strong starters go to 75 pitches. They are paired with long and short men, perhaps with alternating arms to the extent possible. Long lefties are Det and Gorzellany; long righties are Wang and Stammen. Then the short relievers are on some kind of every other night availability system, with say Burnett/Clippard and Mattheus/Storen linked up. (Add Henry Rodriguez if you dare.)

    Figure you are getting 5-6 from the starter, 1-3 from the long guy, and 0-1 from each short guy. Adjust as necessary based on game situation and performance. Or, you could forget the long/short distinction and increase the total innings of the solid late inning guys at the expense of Det/Wang innings.

    I have no idea what the result would be, but it should be possible to manipulate this kind of setup to increase the number of innings allocated to the stronger short relievers and away from the weaker 5th starters (and esp. their 2nd trip through the order), while keeping the 4 excellent starters humming along at 200+ innings.

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    • rarumberger says:

      I also thought of the Nats’ fifth starter situation here, and Wang/Detwiler sharing their starts the last month or so. It also seems like Strasburg to Gorzellany has been pretty common this season, and it has to confound hitters. It also forces opposing managers (almost all of whom are slaves to “the book”) to either allow unfavorable matchups in the later innings (Gorzellany would face a disproportionate number of left-handed batters), or burn through their bench quickly, reducing their options in the ninth and beyond.

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  12. Daven says:

    One problem I could see is if you have a situation where you have two or three pitchers struggling (which seems to happen at any given time under the current system), then those two or three guys would be negatively affecting most of your games. In the current system, relievers who are struggling can be pushed to the side and only put in in low leverage situations. Starters who struggle for several starts in a row can also be skipped on occasion, if needs be, while they work on stuff on the side. In the above system, unless you added a couple more pitchers, you wouldn’t have that option.

    One alternative is to keep your 1-2-3 quality level type starting pitchers starting as they do now. Then fill in the 4-5 spots with a relief pitcher setup similar to what you describe. If you spaced them out right (1, relievers, 2, relievers, 3, 1), everybody in the pin would be able to get plenty of rest in between their big work days and the regular starters would be on normal rest.

    You’d still probably need to add another pitcher or so to your staff, but at least in this case, it replaces your worst pitchers with pitchers who are likely to perform better due to shorter stints, or even for those worse pitchers, they themselves will likely perform better only going 2-ish innings.

    The other advantage of this type of system with extra reliever work is that you can move pitchers through the minors faster, as most relief pitchers are anyways due to only needing really 2 pitches or one really dominate pitch and one show-me.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Well, if you thought a guy was struggling badly enough to need to work on things, you could ship him to Triple-A for a couple of weeks. In general, though, you don’t really want to be overreacting to one or two bad performances, or even bad innings, so forcing a pitcher to keep pitching through rough spots might even be seen as a plus.

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      • whatever says:

        That is if they have options or are agreeable to being sent to the minors. What do you thik Padilla is gonna tell the Sox when they say he needs to go to AAA for a couple weeks. A bunch of Spanish words that when translated to English I can’t repeat here.

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  13. Sandy Kazmir says:

    Interesting thoughts, Dave. A team like the Twins, Rockies, or Astros that aren’t really playing for this year and don’t have any stand out, must-start pitchers, would probably be an ideal base camp to try out this experiment. Of course, you’d want to implement this in the off-season so I’m sure it would be a PR nightmare, but I’ve always wondered if something like this might be viable for a team that doesn’t have stud starting pitching and has plenty of young arms to burn up.

    Perhaps step two of this could be looking at constructing the ideal staff. I’d look at guys that traditionally show large splits between first time through compared to second and third time through the order. You’d probably also want to target relievers that were failed starters for this very reason, but have shown a penchant for getting out both lefties and righties.

    I’ll dig around a little bit and see if I can find some ideal arms for this type of project.

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  14. magdalencollege says:

    “Any team trying this should acquire Micah Owings, or someone of that ilk at least.”

    Sure. The same team should also acquire Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, Clayton Kershaw, and Stephen Strasburg. Or someone of that ilk at least.

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    • Anon21 says:

      Difficult to peel back the layers of witless snark and plain stupidity in this comment. Did you not bother to read two sentences further, where Cameron explains why he thinks such players should be readily available? Did you read it, and then not bother to address it? Or are you seriously contending that a player of Owings’ “talents” would command a salary (or trade return) similar to Verlander, Sabathia, Kershaw, or Strasburg?

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      • magdalencollege says:

        That wasn’t my point. Micah Owings is even rarer than an elite starting pitcher. Don’t you find it curious that Dave Cameron had to refer to a player who stopped playing in 2004 to find a comp for Micah Owings? And yet, Cameron’s argument is that teams should find more Micah Owingses, as if pitchers who can actually hit with positional players are commonplace. I know, I know. Cameron addresses that by pointing out the great college pitchers cum sluggers. Guys like, you know, Tim Hudson (career .163/.193/.210) (

        Nothing in my comment suggests that teams should value Owings as much as an elite starting pitcher. I have no idea where you got that, but then again, I am witless, snarky, and stupid. I understand that the scarcity of a resource doesn’t always translate to a greater value. Virtuous women are scarce, but men would rather pay a lot of money for whores. But Cameron’s premise is this: Starting pitchers suck so much that they shouldn’t be permitted to throw more than two or three innings. It would be a better allocation of resources to have four shitty pitchers throw 38 pitches every game than to have one of your best pitchers throw 100 pitches or more. Unless, of course, you have a really, really good starting pitcher. And then the four-headed shitty monster gets a day off.

        But I am witless and stupid. I can see why you think so highly of Dave Cameron’s majesty.

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      • Anon21 says:

        The problem was not that there is no valid counterargument to Cameron’s point, the problem is that you were too lazy to even address his argument in your initial post. That’s why it was obnoxious, mindless snark.

        So now you have bothered to make an argument, and it’s not stupid, but I don’t think it proves as much as you think it does. So let’s take Tim Hudson. How many ABs do you suppose he got coming up through the A’s minor league system? Baseball Reference says: zero. If the Cardinals had taken Albert Pujols in the ’99 draft and then failed to give him any ABs against live pitching until his age 29 season, he might have hit .163 too.

        The point of this part of the proposal is that you draft a kid as a two-way guy and develop him that way, rather than picking a path for him at the beginning of his professional career and sticking to that path. I expect the failure rate would be high, as it is for every type of prospect, but you don’t need the second coming of Babe Ruth for the experiment to be a success, only the second coming of Brooks Kieschnick, a replacement level player.

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      • Bob says:

        I don’t think guys like Owings are as rare as guys like Verlander. How many times have you beards about a SS who can’t do something or other well enough to make an MLB roster, but has a good arm so becomes a reliever. Or makes MLB as a reliever, loses his control, and comes back as a CF. The reason there aren’t many comparables who do both at the MLB level is specialization. Not lack of talent. Just because you don’t do something right now, it doesn’t mean you can’t.

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      • Paul says:

        I’ll concur with those pointing out that there are typically a few first round type players in the draft every year who orgs value as either a pitcher or hitter. For example, if he ever gets his SO% below 40 and makes it to the majors, the Royals Brett Eibner would be obvious to fill in on a fairly regular basis, certainly in blowout losses.

        Additionally, you have guys who pitched in HS who get developed as hitters and never see the mound again. But in this scenario that skill now has value because if you are willing to take this radical step, why wouldn’t you also consider this scenario: Aaron Crow is your 4 inning guy one night and you’re playing interleague with a NL team that has a really crappy lineup. Why not shift Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas, who both clocked over 90 mph as HS pitchers, to pitch to the bottom third of the lineup at least once, saving an inning for your pitchers? At 3B it would be a stretch, but Aaron Crow could play an inning at 1B, then go back in to face the better part of the lineup. The “only one time through the lineup” strategy would be altered here, but again, if you’re going to take this radical step why put relatively unimaginative limits on it?

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      • cobradc23 says:

        @Paul: I’m not sure you would want to risk Tommy John surgery for your young starting 1B or 3B in order to get through the bottom third of a lineup every once in a while.

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  15. Bryz says:

    With the Twins having no starting pitcher standouts right now (well, minus the reincarnated Francisco Liriano), they would seem like an ideal team to try this. While he was still in Minnesota, Kevin Slowey was the kind of pitcher that seemed to do well the first 1-2 times through the order, but then struggled by the 5th and 6th inning.

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  16. Jordan Bullock says:

    What about giving 3 pitchers about 13 batters each, then having 3 spare pitchers for extra innings or if one of the “starting 9″ goes down for injury or gets shelled? Pitcher 1 faces batters 1-4 a second time, pitcher 2 faces 5-8 a second time, pitcher 3 faces 9-2 a second time.

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    • Chris H says:

      This is just what I was thinking. Or you could have 2 sets of 3 better pitchers, then 1 set of 4 worse pitchers, which would give you 2 extra relievers, but stick more to the plan of “only once through the lineup”

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  17. Colin says:

    It doesn’t work with how you currently have the roster structured in this plan, but I wonder the impact of reserving at least one, maybe two pitchers to use as firemen to go one inning here and there, instead of using a flex guy who can pinch hit. With an emergency one inning guy who can pitch more frequently, you can take advantage of some leverage situations or lend a hand if one of the 9 batter guys gets blown up before his limit is reached.

    A guy like Bronson Arroyo would be tons more valuable under this kind of system. They threw up a graphic during last night’s Indians-Reds game (where he coincidentally got shelled starting around the 4th) that he is great the first time through the order, really mediocre the second time, and is basically throwing BP after that.

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  18. db says:

    One concern is that if you are counting on four pitchers each going 2 plus innings, you can get really burned when one pitcher just doesn’t have “it” that day. So instead of having one pitcher blow up, and get relieved before the damage is too severe, you can easily end up in a position where you have to keep a struggling pitcher in because you have used more effective pitchers (that day) already, but can’t relieve someone because it will kill the rest of the rotation. From a risk management standpoint (in terms of score, not injury), you are giving yourself three to four chances to lay an egg and get blown out, compared to one or two (where the one, the starter, is generally a better pitcher on the staff).

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      This concept is mostly a myth. Early game performance doesn’t predict pitcher performance any better than a pitcher’s true talent level. Just because a guy gives up three runs in an inning doesn’t mean he doesn’t have it, or that he’s going to keep struggling if you leave him in.

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      • jon says:

        Disagree with this notion. There are definitely days that pitchers do not have ‘it’ where ‘it’ could be control, command, or just their best stuff. Suppose the Twins do this and Liriano is the 4th guy up, somewhere starting in the 7th with 2 outs in a 1 run game. He comes on and goes: 1B, HBP, BB on 4 pitches. You are stuck having to leave him in there or ruin your rotation for tomorrow.

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      • Marver says:

        Please show me your research on that. I have seen this stated ad nauseum, only to be handed work with an extreme selection bias each time.

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      • Peter 2 says:

        It is totally implausible to label this a myth. This would mean that a pitcher’s stuff has no variability between starts. That is an absurd belief.

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      • Derek R-C says:

        Josh Beckett is a perfect example. I can’t count how many times he has a 3 or 4 run inning and then settles down to still pitch 7 innings.

        That being said I still have to disagree. There are times when a pitcher “doesn’t have it” we can all see it when watching and the managers can too. The better pitchers know how to get it back quickly or pitch around the deficiencies that day. The assumption is that we have quality pitchers not great pitchers.

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      • Anon21 says:

        Yeah, selection bias seems to be the big, honking, obvious problem with an attempt to prove this contention empirically. Any pitcher who’s left in after a rough start is presumably showing something to his manager and pitching coach that lead them to believe that he is going to improve. Any pitcher removed after a rough start because the manager thinks he doesn’t have “it” that day will be unable to demonstrate his ability to recover.

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      • Peter 2 says:

        Derek, etc,

        The manager (and we) must infer the pitcher’s underlying stuff (whether he has “it”) from the results observed. This is based on the perfectly valid assumption that a pitcher’s ability will have some variance start to start—if we believed (as Dave does), that there is no such variance, we would never pull a pitcher early.

        Being that we live in a probabilistic world, where there is not a one-to-one correspondence between underlying ability and results, this inference is probabilistic (Bayesian). That is, when you are inferring the underlying “stuff” of a pitcher based on early game results, the data must be combined with your prior expectations of the pitcher.

        Consider the ambiguous data of a pitcher giving up 3 runs in an inning. This is evidence for the pitcher not having “it” today. How strong is the evidence? If it’s Justin Verlander on the mound, not too strong, because the prior probability of him not having “it” that day is low. If it’s Freddy Garcia, you might want to yank him. You can further refine your decision making process by also considering additional data: how many pitches has the player thrown? Is he all over the place with his control? Is his velocity way down, or does he look like he might be hurt?

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      • whatever says:

        Of course if one guy gets shelled he’s likely to throw in the vicinity of 36 pitches at least to get through one inning making it imperative that the guys in front of or behind him to be sharp as hell.

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  19. nscheer says:

    is it just me or does that seem to describe the padres to a tee?! lots of mediocre guys (right now, albeit, because of injuries) and a park that supresses runs to begin with (meaning they have to overpay for offensive players to come/stay with the team).

    wouldn’t it also serve as a useful development tool for younger pitchers (they can get exposure to MLB hitters in shorter doses) and simultaneously limit the service clock on them as well (as you could, seemingly, easily rotate the back of your “rotation” with guys off the 40 man roster.

    couldn’t you avoid the 13th pitcher problem by having just one “ace” who goes 6-7 innings (saving 1 RP for the rest of the week)?

    lastly, is there any research on more frequent but shorter outings = less injuries (i know that’s what the long-toss people seem to think)? that would be the tipping point for me (preventing injuries would, obviously, be a huge advantage to any “system”. . . if it works).

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  20. Jarjets89 says:

    If a pitcher was really rolling in this structure, how bad would the consequences of letting him pitch more than his allocated 38 pitches. You could save the pitchers you don’t have to use for the next day.

    Also, toronto has been using starters in 3 and 4 inning stints in low A ball and short season A ball. That may be something worth looking at when compared to the rest of the league.

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  21. james wilson says:

    All pitcher clearly will not be equal. One will find success pitcing an out or two five times a week, another pitching three innings every three days. That leaves room for mixing and matching late in a game, especially with a thirteenth pitcher–probably a necessity.
    For a lot of fans in a lot of cities, it would be a treat compared to what they fear to see in the starting rotation, and would redefine teamwork and team mates.

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  22. Aaron says:

    I see the real problem here. If a team implemented this system how would we properly score wins and saves? /sarcasm

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  23. alex says:

    Didn’t Larussa try this in oakland? he bvased it on 3 IP instead of batters faced.

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    • Ron says:

      A good example of talent needed. If I remember right when the A’s tried it the rotation included guys like Todd Van Poppel, Bobby Witt, and an over the hill Bob Welch.

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  24. CJ in Austin, TX says:

    I recall that Tony LaRussa wanted to try this same system sometime in the 1990’s, but he concluded that you can’t sell it to your pitchers. Because of the importance of “wins” to the starting pitcher, pitchers wanted to pitch long enough to increase their chances of getting a win. LaRussa said the compensation system for pitchers would need to change. But LaRussa thought it might be the most effective system for some of the reasons that Dave gives.

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    • Spiggy says:

      The Jays have been “piggy-backing” their higher-ceiling young arms in the low minors, with one pitching four or five innings and then the next “starter” finishing the game. I’ve read a few anecdotal reports that at least some of the pitchers don’t like having a day of their own that’s “theirs”.

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      • PiratesHurdles says:

        Piggy-backing in the minors is a whole different story because organizations don’t care about the result of the game. Its just about getting the work in.

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      • Spiggy says:

        Yup, you’re right, I’m just pointing to the possibility of pitchers resisting the ideas. If even in the minors, where it’s more understandable/acceptable, there are objections, then it may be tough to implement in the majors.

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    • Nathaniel Dawson says:

      How you sell it to your pitchers is starting your “best” pitcher of the day in the second spot, where he now has 54 games in which he could potentially get a win, instead of 30-35 games now. If the team is ahead when he enters, or takes the lead while he’s on the mound, and the scorer deems him the most effective pitcher of the day, he gets the win. We could see the return of 25-30 wins in a year and 300 career game winners under this scenario. That should have a lot of appeal to a pitcher.

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      • TKDC says:

        And a lot of appeal to people who dislike the Win stat as it would likely “cheapen” the stat out of relevance.

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  25. PiratesHurdles says:

    Sorry, but I’m not buying it. I can’t see how any strategy that employs a bunch of average SP and middle relievers pitching the majority of your innings will be better than the current format where your best pitchers get the most innings. Even on a team without an ace like Pittsburgh, why would I want to take 40 innings away from JMac or Burnett and give them to Lincoln or Resop (54G x 3IP vs 32G x 6IP)?

    The whole first time through data likely only exists because SP are really good and are better than mid-RP. Middle relievers are designated as such because they can’t start (usually can’t get both RH and LH out) and they can’t do well in high leverage. This plan is basically increasing their IP and impact on game outcome at the expense of a SP who is more talented.

    In Dave’s scenario the team somehow gets a bunch of starters who are good to buy into this, but why would they want anything to do with it? They would be costing themselves money.

    The hybrid idea might actually work with 4SP and a bullpen day as long as you put your best two SP on each side of the bullpen day.

    The other issue with such experiments is that you better be right. With the premium value on SP and SP prospects, changing them to 3Ip every 3 days better work or it would detsroy an organization for years.

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    • jj tri says:

      You are not wrong that taking innings away from the best players is not ideal. Also player development would be challenging. Still, one must open his mind and see that a one size fits all philosophy works well for certain teams (e.g. Yankees). An innovative GM should look at his roster and employ the best strategy for his organization. While this specific formula is imperfect the idea that we should explore radical changes is a good one.

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    • rarumberger says:

      It doesn’t work perfectly with the rare Verlanders of the world. But a better way to look at it might be: who’s going to give you better results, an average starter on his third trip through the lineup, or an average reliever on his first trip through the lineup. If it’s the latter, then it’s probably a smart thing to do, for average pitchers at least.

      Try not to think about it as taking away innings from the most effective pitchers, and think of it as getting the best innings out of them, and cutting out the worst. In most cases. Theoretically.

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  26. Marver says:

    “If we accept that it’s an acceptable work/rest balance that wouldn’t shred arms and ask pitchers to do things of which they weren’t capable, then the question is simply whether we could expect this system to be an improvement over the current setup.”

    Yes, and if we accept that I have beer pong playing aliens in my backyard, then the question is simply what type of beer are you bringing over (and when)?

    Empirically, we have no idea whether or not this is acceptable wear and tear since it has never really been applied en masse.

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    • Peter 2 says:

      Over time, people’s confidence in their unsubstantiated claims about how to prevent arm injuries has grown (see Verducci, Tom). Also, modern medicine’s ability to fix injured arms has grown. But actual knowledge of how to prevent arm injuries remains about nil.

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  27. Sidearm Knuckler says:

    Another interesting aspect of this is that it allows you to better suit your pitchers for the parks they play in. Because of the increased flexibility, if you have a game coming up in Petco you can group your fly ball pitchers to pitch there.

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    • PiratesHurdles says:

      Not really, you can’t change the groups mid stream or you will have guys pitching on 1 or 2 days rest. Also, you will have all 3 groups pitch every series so every guy pitches in every park.

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  28. Brandon says:

    A non-contending team could test a system like this in September. It would save the SPs arms at the end of a long season, allow more RPs and prospects the opportunity for extended action in different situations, and position player bench spots would not be an issue because of expanded rosters.

    In addition, I believe a team like the Orioles would be good candidates for the system because of their sub-par SPs and quality RPs. And, with no big name pitchers buying into the system may be less of an issue.

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  29. reillocity says:

    Off topic slightly, but the two-way player is a terribly under-utilized asset in today’s game, granted there aren’t a lot of them. Instead of carrying a 7th or 8th bullpen arm, teams would be smart to carry a Brian Bogusevic, Mitch Moreland, Adam Loewen, Micah Owings, Joe Savery, or similar player on the roster as a position player first and have that guy step in and soak up some innings in a lopsided contest when that 7th or 8th bullpen arm is needed. Having that extra bench bat available every day seems like a better use of roster talent than pitching a 7th or 8th reliever who can’t hit once a week in a low-leverage situation. This strategy seems particularly well-suited to non-DH baseball.

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    • Well-Beered Englishman says:

      Off-topic radically: I wonder if Rick Ankiel counts as a two-way player anymore.

      Off-topic even more so: Bryce Harper once pitched against Jorge Soler.

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  30. Chike says:

    Great read – very interesting concept.

    Even in a system like the one Dave proposes, you would eventually develop role specialization. Either out of leverage or necessity (perhaps driven by ego, money or conventional thinking), those three groups of four pitchers would be broken down into classes:

    Class A: “Starters” – I can imagine the first quarter pitchers being gimmick guys – pitchers with unusual deliveries/low release points or specialty pitches. Here you have a mixed bag of sidearmers, unorthodox-types (Japan?) and junk throwers (institutionalized knuckleballers, anyone?).

    Class B: “RHP middle reliever” – Based on the score and lineup, these pitchers would be used in either the second or third quarter. When facing a team that generally struggles against LHP, you’d probably bring in the RHP in the second quarter and save the LHP for the third quarter.

    Class C: “LHP middle reliever” – Just like the Class B’s, you’d alternate these guys between the second and third quarter. I would think that a situation would come up where, just like we currently have, you’d bring in one reliever a bit early to take advantage of the platoon split or turn a guy around.

    Class D: “Closers” – They’d take the fourth quarter and record what we currently consider to be the toughest outs in baseball. These are probably the hard throwers and/or most talented pitchers in the organization.

    This system would get you through the regular season, but come September when rosters are expanded, could you imagine what you’d be able to do as an organization? The benefits in the postseason would be incredible.

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    • nscheer says:

      i like the institutionalized knuckler myself… plus, the way r.a. dickey is pitching, the mets should throw him every three days and just push (or skip) everyone else to make it work!

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  31. Purple Rox says:

    Three questions:

    1) LaRussa tried this with the A’s back in 1993. It lasted about a week. Does anyone know why he stopped. I mean he was pretty liberal to try things against the grain.

    2) The whole extra inning argument? Does it really matter? Teams go into extras maybe 5 times a season. Why bother, save your staff…

    3) Did pitchers when going from a 4 man to a 5 man rotation lose money? Would pitchers actually make more money in the long run since they would be putting less wear and tear on their arms each year and theoretically pitch longer into their careers?

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    • Dustin says:

      5 times a season? There are a bucnh of teams already with more than 5 extra innings games. I’d say the number is probably closer to at least 10

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  32. Peter 2 says:

    I fully expect to get lambasted for this post, but I hope such a trend never comes to pass—I have long dreaded the day when a particular team would find this appealing enough to give it a try.

    A huge appeal of baseball is the personal drama derived from the day’s pitching matchup. The starting pitcher is a cornerstone of baseball tradition, and great moments in baseball history often come from memorable duels or outstanding individual performances (no-hitters, high K games).

    As baseball (and all sports) is a form of entertainment that only has value to the extent that we, the fans, can enjoy it, it is valid to appeal to these considerations. I am all for innovation, so long that it doesn’t ultimately destroy the fabric of a game that has been enjoyed for over a hundred years.

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  33. Matt says:

    Dave, great article. I’ve considered something like this before, but my 13th pitcher I had a knuckleball pitcher – a guy with a rubber arm who could come in an toss the extra 5-6 six innings that might crop up with an extra innings game. Sure he wouldn’t be that good (otherwise, someone else would have him), but it prevents you from over working the regular staff.

    It means your reserves have to be good. You can’t waste a spot for a 41 year old Matt Stairs (as much as we all love the guy). You value versatility – guys like Jerry Hairston Jr.

    I love the idea of having a pitcher only face the opposing hitters once per game. And with the typical 3 game series, that means the other team only sees each player one time during the entire series.

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  34. RollTribe says:

    As other commenters have suggested, I think this could best work with 2 or 3 top tier starting pitchers depending on depth, and then use the 10 batter split for starters 4 and 5.

    This would allow teams to maximize their top talent, the Verlanders, Hamels, Lee, etc, while not having to throw Joe Blanton or Josh Tomlin out there every five days.

    I don’t exactly know how a rotation like this would work but I think you could get it done with 12 pitchers maximizing their value.

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  35. whatever says:

    Thier are so many holes in this idea its ridiculous. Every team has a disparity between thier first best pitcher and their twelfth. Why you wuld allocate innings equally to the first man and twelfth man is both stupid and a waste of scarce resources. Secondly their are not many Alfredo Aceves’ out their. Some of these guys are good because they throw one inning at a time. I undrstand your logic in a way. In a three game series a batter would see every pitcher on the staff once and would face none of them more then twice (likely only once). It’s just to rigid and putting this staff together would be much, much harder than you think.

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  36. Robbie G. says:

    Isn’t it incredible that nobody is experimenting with this concept or something like it? There are a number of bottom feeders out there who should be more than willing to think outside the box, particularly if a bunch of money could be saved in the process. A general resistance to innovation is one of the hallmarks of MLB.

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  37. It seems a combination would be the best approach. Let your best starters go further, and your marginal starters should instead start every 4 days but also be available to relieve 2 days thereafter. This way you let your great starter have a normal 4 day rest while improving the efficiency of your other pitchers. But this really does seem best for AL teams. Unless of course you have a bunch of good hitting pitchers, but hasn’t that always been the problem with pitchers?

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  38. bluejays49 says:

    I have an idea!

    Take full advantage of the platoon advantage by employing three pitchers per game: two righty specialists and a lefty specialist. Tons of starters fail because their arm slot and repertoire limits them to same-sided batters, you wouldn’t have trouble finding such flawed players.

    You’d sacrifice a position (say, left field), and sub one of the righties and the lefty in and out of left field and pitcher depending on the handiness of the batter. Against left-handed hitters, the right-handed pitcher would man LF, and against right-handed hitters, the left-handed pitcher would man LF.

    In the 6th inning, you’d sub in the second righty to relieve the first. Since right-handed batters account for approximately 2/3 of hitters in MLB, the left-handed pitcher would recieve about the same amount of pitches through the whole game as either of the righties, who only played for half the game each.

    Each of the three would throw about three innings each, so you could probably get away with having only three groups of these three platoon pitchers. To add flexibility/and or relieve the other pitchers more often, you could employ a traditional starter for a fourth day, or add a couple other general-use relievers for extra innings and to allow for more use of pinch hitting.

    If you picked the right pitchers, you could easily hold teams to a .650 OPS or worse. The pitchers would have been trained to play the field, but that wouldn’t be hard to do if the team fully committed to the strategy.

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    • Bob says:

      I think it would be difficult to pitch for the first batter in an inning, shift to LF for the second (possibly more), then shift back to the mound and throw strikes without any warm-up throws. And I think the fans would experience all that extra time moving people around, boo, and chose to spend their money elsewhere. It takes enough time when a manager plays reliever roulette at the end of a tight game. I can’t imagine sitting thru that for 9+ innings, every single day.

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  39. Nathan Nathan says:

    Hypothesis: All analytical baseball discussion eventually recapitulates The Book. I believe the Book addresses this pretty well (and concludes that it’s reasonable strategy).

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  40. rustydude says:

    This is my idea from many years ago. 3 inning limits to limit the # of times any one pitcher goes through the batting lineup. If a team were to try a radical approach like this where I lived, I’d buy a season ticket to see how it worked out, live.

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  41. Bryan says:

    But… but… the win! The save! How would we pick All-Star teams and elect Hall of Famers? Won’t somebody please think of the children?!

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  42. Derek R-C says:

    To me I think it would be a viable way to work. I also would think it would be cheaper in some ways.

    To me the questionable part would be the ripple it would send through the organization. As you can see by teams like the Rays, Rangers, and Nationals are competitive because of good young pitching. As mentioned in an earlier post, I don’t know if you would be able to sign HS or foreign pitching prospects. Why would they want to sign with a team that won’t even make them a starter? Now this strategy seems to not be as cost effective.

    If a team could figure out a method to keep the proposed format flexible so that if you had a Strasburg or elite SP come up through your system. Then instead of the 4 x 3 method (4 starters, 3 pitchers per game) suggested you could do a 1 conventional starter and a 3 x 3 method.

    The team would basically have to find a way to adapt it so when your team does draft an elite starter they aren’t getting screwed.

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  43. JLuman says:

    I’ve been searching for the data to make a markov model of this exact idea for two years now. Anyone have transition matrixes for pitchers (good and bad) that accounts for number of times thru a rotation? I’d be real interested.

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  44. 39Bailey says:

    And the only thing that needs to occur to put Dave Cameron’s pitching staff proposal into practice is the death of all agents.

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  45. Jim Lahey says:

    What happens if someone gets injured while pitching or warming up? You’re screwed?

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    • philosofool says:

      One guy who was supposed to work tomorrow, probably the one who threw the fewest pitches his last outing, would have to pitch and the guys pitching that day would learn that they might have to face one or two additional batters, probably depending on how many pitches he took to face ten.

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  46. Radivel says:

    So I posted right away on the article yesterday and sort of suggested this but my concept wasn’t to be super rigid like Dave suggests.

    My 1st thought was this – if a pitcher pitches 7 innings every 5th game, can’t that same pitcher pitch 2 innings at a time for 3 of those 5 games?

    My 2nd thought was this (this was years ago, mind you) – Man, it’d be cool if Roy Halladay could start 110 games in a single season? Wouldn’t that just bugger up all sorts of statistics?

    Anyway, using a scenario for a five game “rotation” for the 2008 Jays with extremely limited matchup thought put into it.
    Game 1 (innings in brackets)
    Halladay (1, 2)
    Burnett (3, 4)
    Marcum (5, 6)
    Downs (7, 8)
    BJ Ryan (9)

    Game 2
    Halladay (1, 2)
    Burnett (3, 4)
    Marcum (5, 6)
    Litsch (7, 8)
    Downs (9)

    Game 3
    Halladay (1, 2)
    Marcum (3, 4)
    Litsch (5, 6)
    League (7, 8)
    Ryan (9)

    Game 4
    Burnett (1, 2)
    … etc

    Anyway, the point is, it wouldn’t have to be the same any time. Halladay would start, and you can mix and match who follows him up, as long as they only pitch a certain amount, and as long as they get a day off and don’t really overpitch as compared to the linear (starting) way.

    Dave Cameron has already done all the math and all the strategic thinking, so there is no need to recount that here. My thinking was just that – why not?

    This is a really sweet article. FanGraphs has been on fire today.

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  47. mike wants wins says:

    The Twins? Um, they are stuck in the the 80s, since they only hire from within, and never appear to think about ANYTHING new and different. NO CHANCE my twins would ever do this, not with Ryan and Gardenhire there. I’ve thought they should, but they won’t.

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  48. vanillablue says:

    cricket sort of works like this. each bowler (pitcher) throws one over (6 pitches), then is replaced by another bowler. the captain can decide how many overs a given bowler throws during a match, but one bowler can’t throw consecutive overs. bowlers have to bat as well, so there is a lot of value to having good bowlers who are also decent hitters. but even great batsmen will bowl occasionally.

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  49. Go Seattle says:

    A couple thoughts in my head on this interesting topic and some of it in regards to the things that are being brought up in response.

    1) First, what if we just categorized pitchers into 2 categories…starters and elite starters. There is the simple fact that some are better than the others. Not every team has the same amount(if any) so why not build your pitching rotation around what you do have. You can still use the same methodology, but an elite starter has the ability to get through the lineup twice(or 20) just as effectively as a regular starter can do his once through(or 10). Fans want to see dominating performances, no hitters, 15k games etc. so you still are allowing this possible dynamic. If your elite starter has a 2 hitter going after 6ip you let him trot back out there..if he has given up the normal 2 or 3 runs you call it good at 6ip regarless. You would have 4 groups still, but your elite starters groups would have 1 less starter in it. That would essentially allow you to have a floating SP for every elite starter that you have.

    I think this would solve the problem of giving elite pitchers less and lesser pitchers more. You could also use more reliable statistics such as: era, whip, k, bb etc to determine what a pitchers salary is worth.(not w’s, or saves)

    2) You could keep the minors essentially the same except that you would want to build your relief pitchers up to 3ip which would be in the normal sp category. Maybe you could develop a closer type 1ip guy if needed if the particular pitcher in the minors had “elite stuff” but unable to make 3ip in the minors. The idea probably needs a little refining, but it seems that this would accomplish Dave’s statement of better run prevention vs drastic change vs cheaper pitchers etc. but still maintaining the integrity of the game. Not to mention, it would be more exciting to see your elite guys going every 4 days instead of 5 and should even help boost attendance. Sp’s are usually pitching bullpens during on a off day so that would essentially be the trade off.

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  50. #teamteddy says:

    My only problem with this is money… A team of 12 Alfredo Aceves just wouldn’t be that good. I don’t care about 1st PA/2nd PA/etc splits, they still have to be able to get people out.

    Once this is established, now you see the problem. Unless you believe you can get enough quality pitchers from within, you’re going to need to go to the free agent market. And finding quality relievers who have to stretch their workload (or starters who would compress their workload, but probably ask for a good chunk of money on the basis that their performance would improve with less workload) isn’t monetarily feasible for the right teams.

    Maybe the big market teams could pull it off… but why, when they can do just fine with standard 5 man rotations?

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  51. #teamteddy says:

    I shouldn’t say that’s my *only* problem. It’s just the one that immediately sprang to mind. I’ve not fully digested the article yet. I think it’s great though, Dave, that you’re thinking way more outside the box than the Rockies are.

    Out of curiosity, can anyone fill me in on how/why we have five man rotations/specialized seven man pens? Is there any basis to it or is it just how things are? I understand now that it’s in place it’s tough to unilaterally deviate if you’re a below-.500 manager.

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  52. 39Bailey says:

    I think that a more flexible version of this proposal would work in the postseason. But that isn’t very radical. Casey Stengel managed his pitching staff to five consecutive World Series wins with a flexible version, using his ace Allie Reynolds as a starter and reliever, and basically telling him to throw as hard as he could for as long as he could in each outing.

    But using this format over a 162-game-season? Even putting aside the fact that the players and their agents would never permit this to happen, it is a lousy idea for a number of reasons.

    1. This proposal is predicated on managers being slaves to a rigid pitch count that has nothing to do with preventing fatigue or injury. Even if we assume the premise is valid – the idea that every pitcher can bounce back after two days of rest if he throws no more than 36 pitches in a game (ignoring, of course, that a pitcher has to throw a lot more pitches while warming up – and every pitcher is different) – Dave argues that a starting pitcher must be pulled after a mere three innings even if he is dominating the opposition. If that isn’t a recipe to kill the morale of a team and lose the entire clubhouse, fan base, and media, then I don’t know what is.

    2. Almost without exception relief pitchers – even the great ones – are relievers because they couldn’t hack it as starters. They became relievers because their secondary pitches were lousy and/or they didn’t have the physical endurance to maintain a satisfactory velocity over the course of a game. In contrast, successful starters have developed adequate secondary pitches and the ability to pace themselves so they can still throw hard on the 100th pitch or more. But what Dave is advocating is treating every pitcher the same, regardless of stuff, command, variety of pitches, or endurance. And that makes absolutely no sense. How would underusing a more valuable resource (a decent starting pitcher) while overusing a less valuable resource (a mop-up relief pitcher) give a baseball team a better chance of winning?

    3. It would be wonderful if every at bat finished after 3.8 pitches. And it would be wonderful if every half-inning resulted in 0.47 runs (or whatever the league average is for this year). But they don’t. Some hitters have 12 pitch at bats. Some pitchers throw 7 pitches in an inning. Most innings are scoreless, but you also have the very crooked innings as well. I’ve watched a number of games this year where more than 36 pitches were thrown in one inning. You will have games, particularly against the best hitting teams, where you will need to throw far more than 145 pitches in 9 innings. And then what happens to the games that go into extra innings? Dave argues that the 13th pitcher (presumably, the worst pitcher on the team) becomes the designated extra-innings/145+ pitches guy? Is that an effective use of resources, to have the 13th man close every close game out? And what if the 13th man was used as a pinch hitter in the 7th inning the way Dave is advocating? What happens when the team has a series of extra inning games or games involving high pitch counts? That 13th man had better have a rubber arm.

    4. Dave clearly doesn’t understand pitchers. Johnny Sain, the fine pitcher and even greater pitching coach, called pitchers “delicate flowers.” He understood how fragile their psyches are, even though they can throw a baseball through a brick wall. And it’s no wonder. The game is out to get them. The strike zone gets smaller each year, ball parks are smaller now than they were 50 years ago, hitters are permitted to wear body armor at the plate. Every substantial rule change in the last 90 years was made with the intent to increase scoring. And what Dave proposes is telling pitchers that no matter how well they are throwing, they’re getting pulled after 36 pitches. No matter how lousy they are throwing, they’re getting pulled after 36 pitches. The team has 4 sets of pitchers, and it really doesn’t matter who they are. Basically, Dave is saying that pitchers are just numbers. I can’t imagine any pitcher thriving in that type of environment.

    5. How a team using this format would ever attract free agents or sign elite pitching prospects beats me. A team would almost have to print money to attract the best pitchers.

    6. Implementing this format would take some time because it is not the way pitchers are developed in the minors now, and it is not the way pitchers are used in the Major Leagues. To make it work, a team would almost have to use only home-grown pitchers. As a result, any pitcher developed in this system would have little trade value to a team that doesn’t use the same system. Likewise, the team using Dave’s system would have a hard time trading for a pitcher from a team that doesn’t use the same system – because that pitcher would have to adapt to a regimen that is unfamiliar.

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    • Bob says:

      I think you have taken this a bit extreme. I doubt that Dave thinks that every pitcher should throw 38 pitches exactly, even if they are in the middle of an at-bat.

      I think you also missed the part about not needing elite pitchers, unless you think Alfredo Aceves and Micah Owings are elite.

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      • 39Bailey says:

        I never wrote that a pitcher would be pulled in the middle of an at bat, a substitution which is illegal unless the pitcher suffers an injury. My point is there has to be flexibility in the pitch count for each pitcher. But how much is too much? Can every pitcher be expected to recover on just two days of rest after throwing 50 pitches? Sixty pitches? This isn’t like asking a pitcher to recover on short rest for one game or a short playoff series – the requirement to pitch on short rest lasts for an entire season. Dave Cameron’s proposal requires a rigidity that isn’t practical for a 162-game season.

        I didn’t miss the point about not needing elite pitchers. That wasn’t my argument, although it is ridiculous to think that a team could win 90 or 100 games in a season without having any good pitchers on its staff, no matter how one manages the staff. My argument is that a team who uses this strategy would completely close the door to any elite pitchers signing with them, whether they be established veterans or highly touted amateurs. How exactly is this a strategy for success?

        If this is a stop-gap, short term strategy to get a really shitty team with shitty pitching like the Colorado Rockies through a season, a team that has no hopes of winning anything, my argument is that it can’t work because it requires pitchers to completely overhaul the way they’ve prepared all of their baseball-playing lives to pitch over the course of a season. My argument is that this strategy would take time to implement.

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      • AJS says:

        “I never wrote that a pitcher would be pulled in the middle of an at bat, a substitution which is illegal unless the pitcher suffers an injury.”

        That’s totally incorrect. You absolutely can pull a pitcher in the middle of an at-bat, so long as it’s not the first hitter he is facing.

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  53. PadresFuture says:

    There is a legitimate strategy to pull from this discussion. The idea of using a two way player like Micah Owings in the opposite way he is used now. Currently, he is expected to get regular pitching time, when healthy of course, and an occasional pinch hit. Why not instead us him more as a utility player and pinch hitter an donly have him pitch on rare occasions as an emergency. This could reduce injury occurences and allow the team to carry a “bonus” pitcher. He would throw in practice as needed to stay ready. Players like Joey Gallo could be drafted and developed for this type of role. Essentially, it is just an expanded use of the utility player into the foray of pitching.

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  54. Steve Davey says:

    A variant of this idea was used by the A’s in the early 90s.

    http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19930720&slug=1711920

    It was pretty quickly abandoned.

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  55. PadresFuture says:

    How a hybrid pitching staff could work for a team like the Padres. You extrapolate on the understanding that on average you will need about 46 innings every 5 games. From there you start evaluating all the pitchers available to you…. either in you system, available FA, or available via trade. You gain an understanding of whether each pitcher is most valuable as a 1 inning guy, 2 ining, 3, etc. You simply put together the best 12 guys that make up roughly 46 innings in 5 days, perhaps expecting 48 to have some cushion. A perfect examplefor the Padres is Tim Stauffer. From what I have observed, he is very effective working about 2 to 3 innings and about 6 innings over a 5 day period. This effective work spread over 5 days would be more valuable than the 2 Huston Streets it would take to get thesame production over the same same production over 5 games, simplu because it limits the

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    • PadresFuture says:

      Trying to edit on a mobile device is maddening. The point is to construct you pitching staff more like a flexible puzzle, taking into consideration where a player is most valuable. If your system was flush full of Justin Verlanders you would not want to have 12 Verlanders on your staff. 12 Verlanders would make for 70 plus premium innings per 5 days…. thus a misallocation of resources. The idea is to fit the best overall production of 12 players as close to 46 innings as possible with one micah owings as an emergency pitcher only. This system allows for more felxibility than 12 guys pithing 3 innings each but having to be only available on certain days.

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      • Bob says:

        If I had 12 Justin Verlanders in my farm system, I would want them regardless of how I am handling my pitching staff. Why get rid of a potential Cy Young candidate on rookie wages, to get a mediocre reliever making FA money?

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  56. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    Crazy that we got past 100 comments without any of them reaching the threshold for thumbs up/down points being shown.

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  57. james wilson says:

    At least four separate methods have been advanced on this thread that have merit. There is no reason they could not all be employed by the same team in the same season depending on changing circumstances.

    Because the Red Sox starting pitching is so bad, we have seen what amounts to a fifth variation already being used in mlb. The point of the post was to bring out the firemen before setting fire to the barn. As to the starters buying into it, nobody but nobody in Boston cares what the starters think.

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  58. jfree says:

    This would be a great way to develop young arms. Specifically, many young pitchers simply don’t have the full repertoire of pitches that are MLB caliber. This way they can still pitch at the MLB competition level – and face enough batters each outing to develop tertiary pitches under less pressure (ie pick and choose the batter to test the pitch on – without so much pressure to pace themselves for a full quality start (and with batters only getting one bite of the apple at a weaker developing pitch).

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  59. Dfw says:

    To me this would actually fail due to assumptions made from context-less, though usually robust, sample sizes. I wonder if hubris on how things actually work in the game now has led to the belief in the stats actually existing outside the structure that produced them. At some point baseball players are human and likely succeed in some situations better than others. To rely on stats that resulted from human decisions about the likelihood of other humans succeeding in a given scenario, and to then assume those stats are essentially predictable or consistent regardless of context is dumb. Assuming Verlander would pitch the same over three innings as he would nine is ludicrous, and empirically impossible because it has not happened. The same would be true of some closer pitching more. You can’t apply large sample sizes to scenarios that are fundamentally different from the scenario that produced the sample.

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    • RobbieDob says:

      I think stats will be what kills this idea. Late-game situational pitching statistics are of more value to a manager than running a platoon and being stuck with a bad match up.

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  60. james wilson says:

    The pitching staff by committee approach does not preclude closers and situational pitchers held for the late innings. At all. It prevents bad starters from burning bullpens, produces less up and downs, and allows for more regular and regulated work, which improves bullpen arms.

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  61. Tcbrd says:

    I would be interested to know more about what happened when larussa tried this in 93 . I am guessing it was too radical a departure for his staff psychologically and also it seems that there would be huge roadblocks for anyone trying to implememt this in terms of PR, agents, etc.

    That said the hybrid solution seems well worth trying that is using a combo for the 4-5 spots. There isnt such a high cost of trying it and if a team implements it successfully it could take off from there.

    The big unknown seems to be how to maximize use of pitchers – number of pitches vs. days off vs. injuries. I am not convinced the current model is best in that starting pitchers are asked to do too much and relievers closers in particular too little.

    I think what i would like most from this idea is it would get us away from the trad pitching stats like wins and saves apologies to purists but i think those stats are holding the game back as is the obsession with avg for hitters.

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  62. Wabbit_Season says:

    I’ve been saying this for years having watched the lousy Pirate pitching for almost 20 years now. The solution works, as the author points out, because you don’t even bother with elite pitching. You go and pick up decent pitching, which there is plenty of.

    Take, say, the current Pirates’ starter Kevin Correia. He would be perfect for such a system. Because, around the 6th inning, that’s about it for him. But up until that point, he’s crafty enough to get the job done. He is the definition of a “decent pitcher.”

    Teams trying this, as the author points out, could then afford a good hitting and defensive lineup that would add to the cause.

    Teams trying this, as the author points out, would get a number of pinch hitters into a game so a player like, say, Delwyn Young from a couple years ago that the Bucs had, would be, in effect, a semi-regular DH in the national league.

    The problem I see with the author’s approach is this. He’s TOO rigid in his plan. The plan’s strength is its flexibility, not its in-flexibility. You could build a plan like this and still have a Doc Halladay going. It would be simple that you just ride a guy who is on fire for more than the ten batters the author suggests.

    The thing you would want to avoid is to have your pitching staff have inconsistent guys on it. You need guys who are solid, if unspectacular.

    I would love to see a plan like this put in place. It would work, for sure.

    -Wabbit

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    • 39Bailey says:

      The “plan” completely falls apart when your team has to throw 180 pitches to get through a game, and their schedule requires them to play nine more games with no days off. It falls apart when one of your pitchers who was slated to throw about 36 pitches discovers he has a blister on pitch number 7. It falls apart when your starter throws three perfect innings with six Ks but gets pulled because he has reached his pitch count limit, and then the bullpen comes in and gets a shellacking. It falls apart when you have to play a doubleheader.

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  63. DC says:

    Can’t you mitigate the roster limiting aspect somewhat by carrying pitchers with option years? In other words, if they get tired, send them down to AAA to rest up and call up a replacement. Obviously, you’d need to turn your roster over a fair amount from year to year. Perhaps you could even further mitigate the roster limiting issues by locating your AAA team relatively close to your ML team (a la the Rangers and Round Rock or the Cubs and Iowa).

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  64. Ryan says:

    It seems odd to me that this discussion proceeds with no mention of the fact that last year’s world champions informally used a somewhat watered down version of this approach during their remarkable run through the end of the regular season and then, especially, in the playoffs. La Russa was basically pulling non-Carpenter starters after 4 innings and using relievers like Lynn and Salas to go 2 innings before playing match-ups in innings 7-8 (Rzepzinski?, Dotel, Sanchez, etc.) to bridge to Motte. He was avoiding mid-game at bats for his starters, reducing their exposure to a 3rd time through the order, and generally leveraging a staff that had more depth than front end strength. Somehow, I doubt this gets ignored if the Rays had done it instead of TLR.

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    • 39Bailey says:

      You really need to review the Cardinals box scores, and pay special attention to pitch counts, for the last month of their season and every postseason game. Your assertion just isn’t true. For example, Edwin Jackson never pitched a game in the regular season where he threw less than 90 pitches, except when he came in relief on just one day of rest to close out the 161st game of the Cardinals season. In the postseason, LaRussa pulled him early because Jackson kept pitching into jams. However, in his one WS start, he threw 109 pitches even though he was struggling with his command and his team was losing. LaRussa had overtaxed his bullpen the night before and needed to stay with Jackson longer.

      LaRussa had no intention of pulling his starters after three or four innings. In the postseason, he had to pull his starters early before the games got away from him. That isn’t revolutionary. Every manager handles his pitching staff in that matter in the postseason.

      More importantly, this “strategy” of pulling starters early can be utilized only over a relatively short term, like the postseason or the end of the regular season, not over the course of a 162-game season. A team would run out of pitchers by June if the manager was pulling his starters out every time they got into trouble in the early innings.

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  65. Chris H says:

    Everyone is talking about how this wouldn’t work if you have an ace or a few top pitching prospects in your system, but I think teams like that could still implement this strategy by trading those pitchers for TONS of value in return, be it position players or multiple good starters.

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  66. Billion Memes says:

    Interesting thought experiment, but clearly that’s all. The risk/reward ratio is much too skewed for anyone to try this. It is an extremely radical plan that would be scrutinized heavily by the media, tough to get ownership buy-in, and fans would rip. Also, any manager or GM undertaking such a plan, no matter how great the thought process is, is risking their career. That’s a lot of risk to implement an idea that is complicated to manage at best and only provides modest potential gain in productivity. Despite the fact that 4 man rotations used to be the norm, its taken years for even one team to be willing to even try that again. That team also happens to be possibly the worst team in baseball right now and they didn’t come into the season with the idea. Only halfway in are they even willing to try it. I think I’d be happy if we could get to a point where most managers and GM’s truly understand the pointlessness of the save and went back to using their best relievers in the “Fireman” role.

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  67. ODawg says:

    Dave, can someone do a case study of a current big league pitching staff that theoretically uses this approach? Instead of using league averages for the analysis, use actual performances by those players within the pitch count/batters faced parameters. It would not accurately tell us just how this would work, as we must assume as you mention that a team plans for this approach and acquires accordingly. It would, however, be a fun read and help us wrap our mind around how this could really work.

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  68. David Scott says:

    1) Seems to me that the teams in the World Baseball Classics (particularly the Japanese) have used this strategy, or am I misremembering? Difference there was that teams did not play every day.

    2) As memory serves, Bill James proposed a strategy in which a starter/reliever tandem threw 75 pitches each. You would tie six pitchers this way, giving each tandem two days’ rest. You would then have another six pitchers for specialty situations.

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  69. D. A..M. says:

    I have thought of a similar pitching structure for a few years now. Each pitcher goes one time through the order. . Then they are done.
    Not sure if this has been mentioned, but an effect of this would be crossing up platoons. A manager could set up his pitching staff for example with a hard throwing righty, followed by a soft throwing lefty, etc. I could see this negating the benefits of a hitting platoon or forcing the opposition into early pinch hitters.
    Obviously, if anyone had the courage to try this, it would take dramatic re-framing in terms of pitching preparation.

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  70. Bookbook says:

    I actually think that, in some bizarro universe where this could actually get a fair, multi-year, organization-wide trial it would work. We forget that Goose Gossage, Bob Stanley, Kent Tekulve et al thrived under phenomenally different usage patterns than we claim are acceptable today. Just looking at the M’s, Noesi, Furbush, Ramirez, Carraway, Fernandez, etc. May all be fringe #5-#6 starters. It would not hurt their career prospects if they can thrive at throwing three innings every three days instead of trying to hit the right side of marginal, tossing 6-7 every 5 days. I’d love to see it tried, but don’t expect we will in my lifetime.

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  71. tz says:

    Back to the Rockies, who need some way to put Coors to their benefit. The key as I see it is to build a high OBP offensive team that wears out the opposing pitchers to the point of demoralizing them (think late 90’s Yankees). To do this, they should minimize the number of PAs that their pitchers use.

    Here’s what I would do in their shoes:

    – Use their best 3 starters every 4 days, with a pitch limit similar to what they are doing right now. Use a combo of relievers on the 4th day.
    – Get and/or develop a few Owings type hybrids, and use them to pinch-hit for the starters, pitch a few innings, and then bat a second time before being replaced. This would minimize the need for pinch-hitters.
    – Build the best offensive team possible, and scrap the humidor. Use pitchers who rely on a combination of fastballs, changeups, and maybe a cutter as their key pitches – curves and sinkers will get them killed. Assume you will need to win about 55-60 games at Coors and milk that advantage.

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  72. odditie says:

    How will I know if a pitcher is doing well if the starting pitcher can no longer earn a win?

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