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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Many great relief pitchers or not that difficult?

March 6, 2015 on a program on the MBL Network about the top ten relief pitchers Brian Kenny was gushing about all the candidates and it reminded me of something from about ten years ago.

A couple of friends and I were practicing softball at a field and Peter was gushing about Eric Gagne, the Dodgers relief ace at the time, and asking who else could possibly pitch that well.  To which Cliff asked:

Roger Clemens?

Yeah. Pretty much any really hard throwing starter.  The fact that there are so many today shows that it's not that difficult to throw only 70 innings, a workload of one inning less than every other game.

Baseball is approaching a tipping point when batters will not be able to handle all this speed/control and Major Baseball League (MBL) decision makers will not be able to react quickly enough to re-establish something approaching what traditionally passes for balance: batters failing 70 percent of the time.

Brian Kenny's shredder picked Wade Davis as the top relief pitcher in the MBL now.  Davis is a failed starter who has been a relief pitcher in two of the last three seasons: 70 and 72 innings.

Some people think that his Kansas City Royals team last season turned into a three headed relief monster that shortens games to the six innings before the big three enter, each throwing one dominant inning.  The other two hot shots are closer Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera.

pitcher, games, innings in 2014:
Herrera, 70, 70
Davis, 71, 72
Holland 65, 62

What I see are three guys who are not likely to all pitch together in more than 70 of the 162 games.  That leaves 92 games for the rest of the pitchers to fend for themselves.  That's 92 games, which are not reduced to six innings.

So while batters are being dominated more and more by more pitchers, there are still holes that need to be filled.  I'm thinking that more one inning wonders will develop, mainly because it's simply not that difficult for a pitcher to muscle up for 70 innings a season.  When I was first becoming aware of baseball the Yankees had a relief pitcher who was dominant for his era: Ryne Duren.  Duren stood out because batters did not strike out nearly as often then as they increasingly do now.  Duren also had control problems and walked more batters per inning than the current strike out relievers do today.

That's what's really scary about them.  They are no longer afraid of the batters and simply pound the strike zone as never before with dominating Ryne Duren type fastballs plus assorted Bugs Bunny trick pitches to make even the best batters look like Elmer Fudd or Wile E. Coyote.

Baseball Bugs  Also: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038333/

Baseball Bugs (1946) Poster
Voices by Mel Blanc
Tedd Pierce (unc.)
Bea Benaderet (unc.)

Baseball Bugs is a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes theatrical cartoon short released on February 2, 1946, starring Bugs Bunny...

A baseball game is going on in New York City at the Polo Grounds (but the depiction of the frieze on the top deck was borrowed from Yankee Stadium), between the visiting Gas-House Gorillas and the home team, the Tea Totallers...

Bugs now has to play all the positions on the opposing team, including speeding from the mound to behind the plate to catch his own pitches...

Bugs first throws his fastball so hard that it zips by the opposing batter but also knocks him offscreen and into the backstop with a crash as he catches it. In the course of his dual role, he shouts encouraging words to the pitcher before going back to the pitcher's mound to make the next pitch, then returning to home plate to catch it.

Bugs then perplexes the Gorillas with his slow ball, accompanied by a sputtering engine sound, a gravity-defying pitch so slow that the players can't seem to connect with it.
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