10-22-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
As noted by many of you all season long, you really hate what has become of the role of starting pitchers. Some of you primarily watch the Pirates so the ire stopped with disliking Derek Shelton’s handling of the pitching staff. Some of you have looked a little deeper and come to understand it was a farther reaching change in the game itself.
If you ever want to know what really scares the players union, or more accurately, the agents who represent the top end of the pitching market, look to national baseball writers. They’re typically all too happy to make sure they get the message out there.
He’s right, well, parts of what he says is right.
I’ve mentioned before in one of the Five Thoughts at Five that this new usage of pitching sweeping the league smelled a whole lot like an effort to suppress salaries for the very top end of the starting pitcher market.
We’re of course told it’s about health, and I’m sure that’s what started us down this road. Then they started feeding us the analytics for pitchers as they face the lineup more than twice. Next we got to rest, two days in a row, well maybe Sir, providing that inning yesterday wasn’t ‘stressful’.
On the innocent side, I could easily go into some rant about protecting arms not helping, or never forcing them to face the lineup 3 or 4 times directly creates what you’re trying to avoid.
The cynical part of me (which sadly is larger than it should be) thinks Gerrit Cole might just be the last super long, super expensive deal we see for a starting pitcher for quite some time.
I add into my conspiracy theory bucket of evidence that fits only if you want it to, that the timing of these efforts combined with the crackdown on the sticky stuff is very convenient right?
Now, for a team like Pittsburgh, even factoring in it’s not the baseball we grew up with, this might all be a good thing.
The Pirates already aren’t going to compete on the free agent market for starting pitching. 20-30 million for a guy who might give you 30 starts is even more ridiculous if you’re only going to let the guy go 5 innings a night. Perhaps this treatment of the staff makes retention more possible too.
I’ve heard some suggest this is cyclical, I guess that could be true, but when it comes to pitching, every gear turns a bit slower. If you get an entire generation of pitchers throwing less innings it’s not like you can snap your fingers and go right back to everyone shooting for complete game shutouts next week. Have them come up through your system like that, quite frankly as we’re seeing all over MiLB right now, and good luck expecting more at the MLB level.
Buster is right, I personally think it sucks for the game, it’s not what I grew up enjoying. I remember seeing Drabek was scheduled for tomorrow and feeling like my team had a great chance to win and he had a great chance to pitch 75% of the contest.
Buster also is right, the union probably is and should be concerned, but good luck backing off of saying the health of pitchers matters. Even if it’s been abused, this all started to keep pitchers healthy, so at some point someone needs to prove it isn’t helping, and even that’s ignoring the analytics that speak directly to keeping starters short.
Baseball is cyclical though, maybe we’re just waiting for the next great generation of starting pitchers who reclaim their freedom to go deeper and pitch more, problem is as it stands, I fear even if that’s the case, it’ll be coached right out of them.
Not every pitcher likes this. Look at Max Scherzer the other night when he was pulled after 5. And he wasn’t his typical great self that night against Atlanta. Thing is, guys like him and Justin Verlander earned the right to be indignant about coming out, they grew up being able to push through bad innings. They came up being expected to find a way to give you seven, even if they didn’t have their best stuff.
They were cultivated to not show every arrow in their quiver the first time through the lineup because they needed to save a surprise for the third time through. Hell Verlander would actually throw harder as the game went on.
Fast forward a bit… Will Quinn Priester ever be given that chance? Will he ever be afforded the opportunity to build up that kind of swagger about not wanting to come out of the game in the 5th? Or will that simply stay so routine a happening that he doesn’t even blink?
Ultimately, fans will, and largely have gotten over it already. We’re already to the point where an 8 inning start is lauded on Sports Center. And the funny thing, at the beginning of this season many were whining that no-hitters were happening too much. 9 in all, but what’s become of starting pitching is really this simple, if you want a shot at going 9, you almost better be tossing a no-no, or you’re coming out. Even that isn’t a guarantee.
Baseball is constantly evolving, this most recent evolution has taken some of the charm out of the picture. I know I’ll keep watching, but it doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten how it used to be.