|Cincinnati bullpen September 16, 2004|
by Rick Dikeman via Wikimedia Commons
The metaphor often used for the modern setup and closer roles is that they contribute to shortening the game from nine innings to six or seven, that after those innings the game is essentially over.
My point is that a team can gain a much bigger competitive advantage by using its one inning pitchers in the first three innings. That would discombobulate the other team, which would either not use pinch hitters or use them and possibly weaken its lineup for the finisher, the "starter" who would pitch innings four through nine. If he cannot finish, then you take your chances with the lesser relief pitchers.
I don't really see any downside. Players would not even be changing their roles, just changing when those roles are performed. And, of course, there is the obvious upside that the best one inning pitcher available that day can pitch to the top of the batting order in first inning of every game. Generally, the best available one inning pitcher would pitch the first inning, then the next best available would pitch the second inning, then number three. Of course, the first pitcher can also pitch the beginning of the second if his pitch count allows. Using him in the ninth precludes his retiring more than three batters.
They could also be scheduled to pitch their single innings in regular rotation and not randomly as is done now.
An additional benefit, which might happen in some games, would be playing lefty/righty with situational relief pitchers in those first three innings.
So, what do you think? Any team want to try? It can't hurt. You can always switch back. It only seems radical because baseball thinking has become so unimaginative, even in this age of analytics.
Resistance is further proof that another of my ideas must be implemented: stop using former players as field managers. NONE of them really buys into the new ideas, mine or others. Basketball and especially football have long since moved in that direction. Find people like New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who never even played big time college football much less in the NFL.