A Modest Proposal (It’s About Baseball)
May 28, 2013
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I’ve grown tired of pitch counts and starting pitchers who can’t get past the sixth inning. Starting pitchers who pitch excellently for five or six or seven innings and don’t get the win because something happens at the end of the game. Games that teeter for innings and then suddenly, in an explosion of runs in the final inning or two are decided. Not, as a result of the best pitchers in the game throwing their hearts out, but because relievers whose only job is to shut the opposition down for an inning before they hand the ball off to the next reliever with the same one inning obligation. Relievers who, generally speaking make a fraction of what starters make and who are, well, let’s be serious. They’re relievers because they couldn’t cut it as starters.
Yet, more and more, games are left in the balance of those relievers.
I decided to a bit of an unscientific study. I compared the first 50 games the S.F. Giants played this season against the first 50 games the S.F. Giants played in 1973. Forty years ago. These were the Giants of Bobby Bonds, Willie McCovey, Tito Fuentes, Gary Matthews, Gary Maddox, Chris Speier, Jim Barr, Juan Marichal, Ron Bryant. A team that finished with 88 wins. So, in terms of talent, I think it’s a fair comparison.
Here’s what I tried to do. Look at those 50 games each season and determine how many games in which the winning run was scored in the 7th inning or later without the starting pitcher giving up said winning run. Here’s what I discovered. In 1973, there were 10 such games out of the first 50 played. In 2013, there were 21. Twice as many games decided by bullpens staffed up by low paid relievers versus starting pitchers, the heart and soul of baseball.
Yes, it’s a small sample, based on only one team. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is actually a valid statistical backup to this.
My proposal: Baseball needs to return to the days when starting pitchers were allowed to win or lose games on their own. Baseball needs to no longer leave the fate of games in the hands of washed up has-beens or relievers who couldn’t hack it as starters. This is getting ridiculous.