During the off-season, Sports Illustrated ran this piece by Albert Chen which compared, contrasted, and prodded the past, present, and future of baseball’s market inefficiencies. The notable quotable – for this piece at least – comes courtesy Tony Blengino, bright mind who works with the Mariners. (I’ll beat you to the snark: No, Blengino cannot hit the baseball well, either.) Here’s what he said:
“Defense might be the new OBP,” says Blengino, “but at some point it’s going to be something else that will be underappreciated. It may be something that has nothing to do with the statistical perspective. A team that figures out how to get 250 innings out of a starter, for example, is going to have a huge advantage. Who knows what the next inefficiency in the marketplace is going to be.”
The 250 innings idea is worth examining.
Since 2000, five pitchers have topped 250 innings: The since forgotten Jon Lieber (2000); Curt Schilling, twice (2001 and 2002); Randy Johnson (2002); Livan Hernandez (2004); and yes, Roy Halladay (2003). Halladay actually tossed 266 innings in 2003, the most of the group. That puts him third on a list since the last strike, with those two guys, Johnson and Schilling, both topping him with their respective 1999 and 1998 seasons.
Halladay started 36 games that season. He would start a combined 40 the next two years. His high since was 246 in 2008, but he’s thrown at least 220 in every season since returning full-time in 2006. SO far, he’s made three starts in the National League, and he’s averaging eight innings per. If he makes 30 more starts, he needs to average roughly 7.5 innings in order to reach 250 innings again.
The Phillies seem committed to start Halladay every fifth day, too, regardless of the number five starter being bumped, which gives him a legitimate chance at racking up more than 33 starts. He’s almost certainly not going to average eight innings per start from here on out. If he makes 35 starts on the season, though, he’ll only need seven innings per outing. That’s a more realistic goal given Halladay’s history.
The National League is a double-edged sword in Halladay’s pursuit. Yeah, the competition level doesn’t approach that of the American League East, but Halladay now has to come to the plate a couple of times as a hitter, making it more likely that he would be pulled in a tight game for a pinch hitter rather than being allowed to continue to work through a deficit. Of course, the quality of the innings matter too, but forget Roy flirting with 25 wins; his race towards 250 should be the one counting stat worth watching.