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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pitching backwards: switch innings 1,2,3 with 7,8,9. Start the closer. Close with the starter.

It's as basic as Radical Baseball.  From the very first June 9, 2006 document (posted  February 20, 2008):

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...

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,..  Rivera can pitch at least one more inning. If Joe 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!
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Thinking Man's Guide to Managing a Pitching Staff   December 10, 2007 (posted February 20, 2008)

August Rodin sculpture "The Thinker"
photo by Frank Kovalchek
via Wikimedia Commons
The closer is used almost exclusively to pitch one and only one inning (the ninth), which he starts, and only with a lead. The set up man is the second best relief pitcher who pitches only the eighth inning. The set up man is removed no matter how many pitches he threw and no matter how well he pitched. It's like Russian roulette, looking for the pitcher who does not have his good stuff that day...

Outs are the currency of baseball. Since pitchers are on pitch counts, pitches are the currency of individual pitchers. The manager should attempt to get the optimum number of pitches from each pitcher in each game constrained only by the game situation and the needs of the long 162 game regular season...  get the optimum number of pitches thrown by the team's best pitchers:

... 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...

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.
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Let the starter close.  Thursday, 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?
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Sound somewhat familiar?  The final game of the 2014 tournament:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014, 8:00pm, Kauffman Stadium
Attendance: 40,535, Time of Game: 3:10
Giants 3, Royals 2

Giants manager Bruce Bochy didn't get the memo.  Bochy started a starter who allowed both Royals runs.  The guy Bochy wanted to start, Madison Bumgarner, had only two days rest but he wound up filling the role as described above.

San Francisco Giants

PitchingIPHRERBBSOHRERABFPitStrCtctStSStLGBFBLDUnkGScIRISWPAaLIRE24
Tim Hudson1.23221104.291028171034343041-0.1641.26-1.5
Jeremy Affeldt, W (2-0)2.11000000.007322116145110200.1641.221.4
Madison Bumgarner, S (1)52000401.0317685026121231040000.6032.012.4
Team Totals96221502.00341288852162011158041200.6031.632.4
So with experts tripping over each other trying to dream up the next big idea, try mine.  Simply pitch backwards.  Not in the micro conventional sense: throw fastballs in off speed counts and off speed pitches in fastball counts.  Reverse the current order of when pitchers are used in a game.  It's the simplest change that can be made.  There's no real change to existing routines and schedules.  In fact it establishes a rotation for "relief" pitchers, rather than the nerve wracking uncertainty to which they are currently submitted.

The "starter", who would now close, might be empowered to reach his old finish line and complete his six innings with gustow.

Hey, it can't hurt.

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