Aug 28, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37) throws a pitch in the second inning against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
I read an article last night that was about the Washington Nationals and how to view their starting rotation. The writer states that Stephen Strasburg is not a number one starter. He also states what he believes to be number one starter material per say. One of those requirements was innings pitched. He explains that to be eligible for awards you have to pitch a certain amount of innings, but why should it be that way?
Innings pitched seems to be becoming a huge thing that people look at when evaluating a pitcher. That is all fine and dandy if you want to do so, but why does a guy have to pitch 200 innings every season to be considered a great starting pitcher and get the subname “ace”. If a guy pitches 190 innings in a season, can he not be allowed to be a number one pitcher on a staff anymore? I just don’t get it.
There are plenty of pitchers that can throw 200 innings in a season, but are they a number one pitcher on most staffs in the league, no. Bronson Arroyo has pitched 200 innings in eight of the last nine seasons, with one season pitching 199 innings. In those nine seasons he has had an ERA below 3.70 once. Is he considered an “ace” now because he can eat up innings? I don’t think so. So why does a pitcher have to pitch a certain amount of innings to be considered for an award? Or by this writer’s estimation, be determined an “ace”.
The game is changing drastically every single season, and the technology and statistics used now weren’t used 10 years ago. 10 years ago you relied on your big arm to throw eight or nine innings every time out because bullpens didn’t have as much depth. That isn’t the case in 2014.
If I am a manager I look at a game this way. If everything goes right, I throw my starter six innings max. He doesn’t need to go more than that. Once a pitcher faces an order once, the second time around the batting averages for the opposing team will rise. The more times you see a pitcher the more comfortable you get. So why let a pitcher go through the order more than three times max?
Here is an example…
Stephen Strasburg is on the mound and it takes him three innings to get through the order once. The second time through the order it takes him two innings. So he has five innings pitched and every hitter on the opposing team has seen him twice. He goes out for the sixth and faces four hitters and gets out of the inning. The Nationals have a 3-1 lead after six, why send him out for the seventh?
Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
This is a great time to go to the bullpen. Say the opposing team has two lefties and righty coming up. Bring in Jerry Blevins for the 7th inning. He retires the side in order with no problem, because those three hitters have yet to see him. While on the other side of the coin, say Strasburg comes out for the seventh and the 5-6-7 guys have seen him twice but get tips from the first four hitters that have seen him three times and he gives up a two run homer in the 7th. Now you have a tie game. Instead of bringing in Jerry Blevins, who they haven’t seen and getting out of the inning free and easy.
Now you go to the 8th with a two run lead, with Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard both available just in case and Rafael Soriano in the 9th with at least a two run lead. Instead of letting Strasburg get that one extra inning that he may need down the road to get to 200, and giving up a lead and possibly losing the game in extras.
You take that one inning away each time and he loses 30 innings. That puts him at 170 innings, but the team gets four more wins out of it because he was taken out in the 6th instead of the 7th, that is the difference between being first in the National League East and being in a one game playoff because you finished second. You do that for each and every pitcher in a close game and you win more ball games. Winning more ball games get you in the playoffs, it’s that simple.
So is the 200 innings saga that important? In my opinion, no. It saves pitchers arms for further seasons and it could possibly win you ten more games because of it. The statistics are there for you to use, so please step back from only using the back of the baseball card stats and start seeing the game in a different light. A light that can possibly change your opinion about the game as a whole. I know it has changed mine and I have loved baseball my entire life. If that is the one thing that you get from reading this, just please step into the 21st century and use the statistics and technology available to you.