Trimming the Fat: Major League Baseball Can Fix Pace-of-Play, Ineffective Bullpens and Revenue Issues with One Simple Change
We hear a lot about length of game and payrolls. It’s gotten to the point that players like John Lackey in August are publicly stating baseball’s getting “soft”. I can’t argue with that. It is. And part of the issue is the widespread use of the bullpen. Thirty years ago, starters were throwing 120 or more pitches during a game. The logic was simple: They are the starter, so the onus to win or lose is on them. This logic, this mentality, gave us great hurlers like Nolan Ryan and Jack Morris, guys who often went beyond 120 pitches and lead Major League Baseball in pitches, complete games and a slew of other records. They were hard and gritty. These records aren’t possible in the same way as they were decades ago. Pay versus playing time has gotten out of control too. So Lackey is right. The game is getting “soft”.
We now get to see the arbitrary pitch count grow. It’s almost a uniform action among managers that once the starter hits the magical 100 pitches, he’s gone. Every network showing MLB games has a pitch count somewhere. Every stadium advertises the pitch count. It’s become a staple for predicting when a pitching change will occur. We’d see a softening of the game on pitchers. Baseball has created an arbitrary number, the century mark, as the delineating point between continuing to pitch and stopping.
I still recall Jim Leyland and Brad Ausmus taking out starters who were into the 8th inning, even the 9th inning, because they hit 100-110 pitches. Then seeing the bullpen choke up the game. Tigers fans are still smarting from the 2013 ALCS Game 2 debacle caused by Jim Leyland. Ironman Max Scherzer had 108 pitches through the 7th inning. He had a lead of 5-1 over the Red Sox. Jim removed Max, much to the astonishment of fans. Had it been Verlander, he’d have kept him in. The result was catastrophic. The Tigers bullpen choked up five runs in only two innings, and wound up losing 6-5. Ausmus pulled the same stunt on Scherzer in 2014 during the ALDS Game 1. With Max at 98 pitches after 7.1 innings Ausmus yanked him. Granted, Max was credited with giving up five runs, but he wasn’t given the opportunity to redeem himself as he’s so great at doing. He’s a clutch pitcher. The result of being pulled? The Orioles buried the bullpen, scoring seven runs beyond the five Scherzer gave up. Essentially, by pulling Max at 98 pitches, Ausmus guaranteed the loss, relying on three relievers over 2-2/3rds innings. Instead of a two-run game, it became a blowout. All because of an arbitrary pitch count number.
Stories like these are common throughout baseball. Coaches are so stuck on 100 pitches they no longer think in terms of the big picture.
BULLPEN PITCHERS OVERPAID AND INEFFECTI
READ THE REST at FoulBallz.com