I’ve had this idea for a while now, and a stat Josh Lewin threw out last night reminded me of it. It concerned Sidney Ponson and how his effectiveness goes down as hitters faced him multiple times through a game. I’m not a stats guy but I bet a lot of pitchers have similar diminished success as they go through a game.
What if a team had the strategy of only letting a pitcher face a hitter once per game? What if you had 3 starters for every game and a pitcher was expected to go through the order once or twice at most (a 3 inning average)? So your staff would be 9 starters and maybe 3 reliever types. There would be a 3 day rotation so a starter would get 2 or 3 days rest between his 3 inning stints. If a pitcher just didn’t have it on a given day you move up the rotation or use a reliever, but you can afford to get him out of there quick because you have other starters ready for that day. Likewise you can let someone go twice through the lineup if they’re mowing em down. This also seems like a possible economical approach to dealing with the free agent pitching market. Sabathia is going to cost some team Barry Zitoesque money and there’s no guarantee he will continue to perform like he has in the past, because his success depends on a lot of little fragile ligaments and sinews that are not built to take the punishment they get from a pitcher throwing a ball at 90mph 120 times every 5 days. With 9 starters you stress the arms less, (very good for a young pitching staff.) You need 9 average/slightly-better-than-average pitchers rather than 3 or 4 brilliant ones. And I bet you can assemble a good staff for about 20 million with some veterans and young arms, rather than paying 20 a year for a Barry Zito.
This also addresses something that has always bugged me about the way games are traditionally managed. Managers are very hesitant to bring in a reliever early in the game. If Luis Mendoza is getting lit up in the first, why do we have to wait for the game to get away before we put in Dustin Nippert? If Mendoza only throws 20 pitches and gets 1 out on a start, just move his next start up a day because he’s rested, and if Nippert goes 4 strong, puts up zeros and throws 80 pitches move him back a day and give him an extra day rest.
Only time would tell if this approach would help keep pitchers healthy, but it stands to reason that if you spread the work out more evenly between 12 guys you have more luck keeping everybody healthy. Another problem of course is how to test it out. You’d probably get resistance from pitchers and managers because it’s not traditional, but neither was relief pitching many years ago. I guess a minor league team having a bad season could experiment with it for a few weeks and see how it worked.
There are many better baseball minds than mine out there in LSB land, what do you think?