Saturday, December 27, 2014

The shift in pitcher workloads

For reasons related to a Strat-O-Matic project I won't bore you with*, I have been preoccupied in recent weeks by the 1969, 1987 and 2009 seasons.

And I have been struck, not for the first time, by the massive shift in pitcher workloads during my time as a fan.

In 1969, 11 pitchers either threw at least 300 innings or made at least 40 starts:

Claude Osteen, Bill Singer and Don Sutton, Dodgers
Ferguson Jenkins and Bill Hands, Cubs
Larry Dierker, Astros
Bob Gibson, Cardinals
Denny McLain, Tigers
Dave McNally, Orioles
Gaylord Perry, Giants
Mel Stottlemyre, Yankees

Juan Marichal of the Giants is oh-so-close to meeting those round numbers. He had 39 starts and 299.2 innings.

It all makes the fuss over Phil Hughes' missed bonus for 210 innings look rather silly, doesn't it?

Forty starts is roughly one-fourth of the schedule; a 40-start pitcher truly works every fourth game. Three hundred innings is more than one fifth of a team's innings.

In 1987, only one pitcher in the majors -- Charley Hough, a knuckleballer with the Texas Rangers -- had 40 starts, and nobody came close to 300 innings (Hough led with 285.1). Last season, nobody in baseball reached 250 innings (the high was David Price, 248.2 innings), and the high in starts was 34, shared by 10 pitchers.

There are a lot of reasons today's hurlers don't match the workloads of four decades ago. But I can't help but notice that of the 12 1969 pitchers listed above, five are in the Hall of Fame (Sutton, Jenkins, Gibson, Perry and Marichal).

And it might also be noticed that Dierker, McLain, McNally and Stottlemyre had their careers truncated. McNally and Stottlemyre were done at 32. Dierker's last season came at 30. McLain was out of baseball before he turned 30.

Between them, Osteen, Singer and Sutton started 122 of the '69 Dodgers' 162 games and pitched 930 of their 1,457 innings. This is almost inconceivable today.

*If you're truly interested, and I don't know why you would be, visit

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