It’s no shocker that starting pitching has pitched fewer innings than ever before. Baseball has less complete games than it’s ever had, and for certain fans, it’s a sign of weakness. “They can’t fight the way the older guys did”, “Back in my day pitchers went longer!”. How often have you heard these two phrases and thought to yourself “Jeez, maybe pitching today is bad”, but when you look at the analytics, starting pitching is as efficient as it’s ever been. With the emergence of great bullpens, it’s given teams the best possible pitching they could have.
Limiting Wear and Tear on the Arm
From 1996-2000, there were 20 pitchers who threw 1,000 or more innings in that five-year stretch. From 2015-2019 there were only three pitchers who accomplished such a feat. This lack of damage on a pitcher’s arm can help extend their careers. Pitchers in 2000 had nearly one whole inning more on average per start than in 2019. One inning doesn’t seem like much but over 30 starts that’s 30 innings and over 10 years that’s 300. That’s more than one season of pitching, and it helps preserve pitchers.
Better Starting Pitching With Fewer Innings
While ERA is definitely higher now than in 2010, that could be attributed to the widened use of Statcast data and juiced baseballs. This however isn’t the only stat that should be looked at, as a good percentage to look at is strikeout to walk%. From 2015-2019 the K-BB% has been better than in any other stretch in the decade and much better than the 1996-200 stretch we used earlier.
Pitchers have gotten a lot better at exploiting power hitters and their strikeouts while reducing walks. This is something that has been a result of giving a pitcher the ball and saying “Throw your best for five to six innings” rather than just “save your stuff until you need it”. This has done wonders for starting pitching, and it’s best for baseball
Will This Trend Continue?
In my opinion? Yes, it will, starting pitching will throw fewer innings than before. I think most pitchers will go 5-6 innings rather 7-8 and that it’ll be best for their careers. Pitchers will consistently age better now in my opinion, and we’ve seen this phenomenon so far. Charlie Morton, Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, all of these guys are still really good. The bullpen, opener, and spot starter will become normalized which will change baseball.
I think it’s for the best and gives us healthy pitchers and quality pitching.
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