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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Start the closer./Let the starter close. Is mainstream embracing radical?

Yesterday on MLB Network Clubhouse Confidential host Brian Kenny was orgasmic over the idea that teams could actually do something different from what they've been doing for a hundred years.  His particular thing was to start a relief pitcher and bring in the "starter" in the second inning.  He had a young guest who helped to water it down to maybe a young starter who isn't very good but not for all starters.

Welcome to the origins of Radical Baseball June 9, 2006.  Post number one on this blog simply had its title, which was the name of a document I had written almost two years earlier.

Radical Baseball February 20, 2008

June 9, 2006

1. Start the closer.
2. The Real scandal of the last 16 years: propagation of non-uniform playing areas.
3. Four leagues, no divisions.
4. Walks: a terrible rule.
5. Designated Fielders and the Six-Player Batting Order.
6. Clock, time-outs, … you know, like the other sports...

...In another recent game Torre announced before the game that he would pitch Rivera no matter what because Rivera needed work. Aside from the silliness that a pitcher needs to play catch in a game rather than just do it on the sideline (hey, it’s nothing like a batter needing to face game pitching), why wait until Rivera’s usual time in the ninth? Start him! Here are three advantages:

1. Rivera pitches to the top of the order. The batters in the ninth are random. Rivera is as likely to face the bottom of the order as the top. Pitch Scott Proctor against the bottom.

2. In the first inning the game is almost always close. Always at home. On the road it might not be close if the closer’s team scores a bunch in the top of the first inning.

3. Rivera can pitch more than one inning. If Rivera retires the side in the first inning on six pitches, he did not get the work that Torre wanted. However, Rivera can pitch at least one more inning. If Torre waits until the ninth inning, Rivera may throw those six pitches, get little work and Torre may have already used Scott Proctor for an inning or two when he may have avoided using Proctor at all. Let pitch count dictate how long Rivera works, not the arbitrary wall of the ninth inning. You know, like they do for starters.

Rivera pitches in about 70 games and throws about 80 innings in a season. Why not start him every other game? He would get regular rest and the three advantages listed above would apply in every appearance. I’ll bet that Rivera’s contribution to the Yanks winning would be at least as great as it is with Torre blindly following the formula. OK, now it’s time for you to run around and scream: he blasphemes!

I think if Brian Kenny and like minded radicals-come-lately simply read that one post they will have enough ideas to both make their heads spin and to also put them in the vanguard of the mainstream media.

More on this topic:

Thinking Man's Guide to Managing a Pitching Staff  February 20, 2008

December 10, 2007

...  the Tony LaRussa orthodoxy of designating his best relief pitcher as the closer. The closer is used almost exclusively to pitch one and only one inning (the ninth), which he starts, and only with a lead...

This is exactly backwards ...

1. The best relief pitcher available should be the first to enter the game. The second best relief pitcher available should be the second to enter the game. And so on.

2. Starters should pitch in relief on their normal throw days between starts.

The reason for using Mariano Rivera, the Yankees best relief pitcher, first is to get the maximum number of pitches from him in that particular game...

Using this technique the pitchers most likely to be short changed, i.e., throw the fewest pitches, are the worst pitchers, not the best as is the case now. Each succeeding pitcher in order of value is increasingly more likely to throw fewer pitches.

Let the starter close.  November 13, 2008

This is a variation on my theme of getting an optimal number of pitches from the best pitchers available for each game. This latest may be the easiest for conventional managers to implement. The pitchers we currently describe as starters would continue to pitch in a regular rotation as they do now. The difference would be that they enter the game in the fourth inning and finish it. They would be long men and closers all wrapped into one. That means that they only need to pitch six innings. Most can do that most of the time. If not, bring in the worst relief pitchers to finish and take your chances. So who pitches the first three innings? The same guys who now pitch the last three innings, except in reverse order. The closer starts because he is the team's best short pitcher. The advantages as mentioned in previous posts:

1. He pitches to the top of the batting order.
2. He may pitch more than one inning, depending on pitch count.
3. The game is close.

Next into the game is the second best relief pitcher and so on until the three innings are complete. Then the long man enters to finish the game. An additional advantage is that the opposing manager has a dilemma: does he set his lineup for the expected long man or for the short starter?

Start the closer. More true than ever.  November 6, 2012

OK, you get the idea.  My Radical Baseball ideas have been around longer than theirs and mine go a lot further.  A few days ago on the same TV program Tom Verducci tried going radical and got a lot closer than I would have expected with one idea: a wild card pinch hitter who may bat once any time in a game.  That player may already be in the game.  Not bad, tomboy.  But if you want to be radical, endorse one of my six originals listed at the top of this post:

5. Designated Fielders and the Six-Player Batting Order.

There should be designated fielders, not a designated hitter. Everybody fields but a team has the option to have up to three players only play the field and not bat. Six batters in a lineup. That’s the minimum there could be without a batter coming up with himself on base. They’d get 1,000 plate appearances a season, comparable to the number of batters faced by a starting pitcher. This would improve both offense and defense. It addresses those sappy complaints of National League fans without having to watch the dreaded bottom of the order. Who wants to watch the bottom of the order? No one, except people who are actually interested in sacrifice bunting and all the brain power involved in making that decision. Oh, and the double switch. Take me out to the ball game so I can see a double switch in person. Complaining about batters not knowing how to bunt is like complaining about American soldiers not knowing how to load a musket. Who cares? Bombs away. Batter up, not bunter up.

Oh, and how about giving me credit this time?

1 comment:

Kenneth Matinale said...

Brian Kenny (@MrBrianKenny) tweeted at 9:30 AM on Thu, Feb 06, 2014:
@radicalbaseball I love it. Excellent ideas. I like your theory better, but might hold relief ace to known hi-leverage spot, sted opening.