It is no coincidence that managers and general managers spend more and more time working and reworking their bullpen over the course of a season. This is due mainly to the ineffectiveness of starting pitchers and their inability and temperament to last more than five innings in games they start.
In 1965 when the Save Stat first came into play, teams used an average of 1.5 pitchers over the course of a game……meaning that a good portion of the time, the starter went the distance. Today, it takes more than four pitchers to get through a game – win or lose. (read more here).
It is revealing to glance at an overlooked and very important stat for starting pitchers. It’s called Quality Starts – which is when a starter goes six or more innings and gives up three runs or less. So far the best in 2015 are Zack Greinke (left) and Jake Arrieta (right) . Combined in 54 starts thus far, they have failed to reach this rather modest plateau only seven times. (see full list here).
Moreover, the teams with the best records have the most quality starts. Again, this is not a coincidence. The St. Louis Cardinals get quality starts nearly 70% of the time while the New York Mets are just behind in second place. Needless to say, both teams have comfortable leads in their Division. To no surprise, teams like the Phillies and Brewers rank at the bottom of the list. (full list is here).
The push to reduce the time of games (hey, if you’re a fan let ‘ em play forever)……is thwarted by the overuse of bullpens and the time it takes for each transfer. It is further compounded by that awful stat called “pitch count” where it takes an act of God for a manager to let a pitcher throw more than 100 pitches in a game……even with four days “rest”. I suppose if someone should be “blamed” for this mess, it should be Tony Larussa (upper right) who ushered in the use of as many as three pitchers to get three batters out late in the game. Most managers follow suit today because that is the “trend”…….much like the employment of a shift in today’s game. So be it.
As with all other changes in how the game has played out over the years (and there have been many during my 67 years following the game avidly), I accept it because I simply love the game…..but I don’t have to like it. In fact, I believe it would be a good idea to change the number of minimum innings from five to six to EARN a win. If nothing else, it might encourage starting pitchers to learn the importance of throwing “Strike One!”