So, with no discernible plan and playing in the toughest division in baseball, can this team at least stay healthy? Over the past three seasons, the medhead numbers have not been kind to the Orioles. In addition to questions surrounding the death of Steve Bechler, the Orioles medical staff has had a difficult time with injuries. Injuries to players like Segui, B.J. Surhoff, Chris Richard, and Omar Daal leave them in the bottom quartile in most measures. Once again, the top three teams in the AL East trump the Orioles, and Tampa Bay is fast becoming a medhead team, led by their top-notch staff.
I wrote a piece in the Baseball Prospectus Basics last week (“How to run a bullpen.”) I got a lot of feedback that ran like this: Hey, that table you ran shows that it’s good to generally use the best reliever in tighter situations, rather than to protect three-run leads in the ninth…Facing a tie game in the eighth, wouldn’t it make sense that a manager would save his best pitcher for the ninth, which would be even more important? This is a fine question, and one I think deserves to be answered in some depth.
No news is good news for the Orioles this spring. The Rockies’ decision to move Shawn Chacon is equal parts puzzling and silly…or is it? And finally, the Mets look to be considering some trades. All this and much more news from Baltimore, Colorado, and New York in your Wednesday edition of Prospectus Triple Play.
So to understand the methods we use to analyze pitcher usage, it’s important to appreciate that while every team in baseball today employs essentially the same usage pattern–starting pitchers work in a five-man rotation, with four or five days of rest between starts, and never relieving in between–that usage pattern is far from the norm historically. As recently as 30 years ago, starters were expected to start every fourth day, with only three days of rest between starts. This does not appear to have had a detrimental effect on the pitchers of that era; in fact, over half of the 300-game winners of the live-ball era were in the prime of their careers in the early 1970s. There is no definitive proof that pitching in any kind of rotation is a necessary ingredient for successful pitching staffs. Through the 1950s, starting pitchers would routinely get six or seven days off to pitch against a team they matched up favorably against, then return to the mound on just two days’ rest for their next start. There is no evidence that starting pitchers who relieve on their days off between starts suffer adversely for doing so. Starting pitchers routinely made 10 or 15 relief appearances a season for the better part of half a century.