What’s Wrong With Baseball #10: Wimpy Pitchers

With a night off from playoff frenzy, in the midst of a postseason that gives hope to the little guy, I offer the beginning of a series on What’s Wrong With Baseball, from authorities greater than myself. Offering one at a time, in no particular order, we begin with number 10. Agree, disagree or offer your own selections.

#10. “Too many pitchers” pitching too few innings.

Cy Young said, many years ago: “Too many pitchers, that’s all, there are just too many pitchers. Ten or twelve on a team. Don’t see how any of them get enough work. Four starting pitchers and one relief man ought to be enough. Pitch ’em every three days and you’d find they’d get control and good, strong arms.”

This from the man for whom the top pitching award in each league is named. He ought to know. When Cy Young said this, there were pitchers routinely twirling on two days’ rest. Many years after this, guys like Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn were pitching 16-inning complete games. But, alas, they needed three days’ rest. How many young fans have heard the Braves’ success slogan of old?: “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain.”

Even this is soft by the standard of The Standard (Young). What would he think today? Relievers limited to one inning, starters to 100 pitches, and getting 4 to 5 days of rest.

Cy Young played for the Red Sox. He would have scorned Terry Francona’s decision to rest Beckett the extra day, thus limiting the use of his ace to two games in a seven-game series. … Robbing the Sox and the fans of their best shot. (Young played for two Cleveland teams as well … and a second Boston club.) To Young, pitching made you stronger. Throw more, not less.

From Cy Young, our number 10 thing that is wrong with baseball: “Too many pitchers” pitching too few innings.


7 Responses to “What’s Wrong With Baseball #10: Wimpy Pitchers”

  1. 1 tsos20 October 19, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    Pitchers today are called on to throw more piches than 40 years ago. The strike zone is smaller, the batters take more pitches and the fences are more reachable, therefore just getting the 1st pitch over is not safe anymore.

    When Cy Young pitched, all games wer in the afternnon. When the shadows move between the pitcher and batter, it is almost impossible to hit. The pitchers would get a few easy innings. There was no DH, more easy outs. There were many years the ball was less tightly wound, the mound was higher, batters didn’t lift weights or take steroids. Many pitchers turn the ball over and/or throw sliders and split finger pitches; all of which are hard on the elbow.

    Cy Young had it a million times easier than Josh Beckett. I doubt if he brought his exact same stuff and location into today’s game that he would even be average. Today’s players are the best there have ever been. The problem with today’s pitchers is today’s hitters.
    The Sultan on Sports


  2. 2 yorel47 October 19, 2007 at 10:47 pm

    This is a very intelligent reply. My top 10 is part serious, part tongue-in-cheek, and all intended to stir up a few good comments, agree or disagree. Your response is impressive. I doubt that “Cy Young had it a million times easier than Josh Becket” but you gave us food for thought.

  3. 3 Beppo October 22, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    It’s relative to the era in which they played, so we can’t make a direct comparison. If Cy Young was born 25 years ago and playing today, he would probably pitch similar to today’s best pitchers (in my opinion). If a pitcher is used to pitching on short rest, they can handle it better. If they’re always removed after 100 or so pitches, they don’t have the endurance to pitch well after 120 pitches. Personally, I miss complete games. And I especially get frustrated when a good starter is removed for a middle reliever with a 4.50 (or higher) ERA. I know the managers like to play the percentages and I’m not against that, but what about all the great pitchers that have won 300 games and pitched lots of complete games? They often finished what they started, not needing a reliever after 6 innings. It’s not all so far in the past that we can’t compare them. Nolan Ryan pitched up to 101 mph, and he’d still be throwing 99 mph in the 9th inning.

    Also, about Cy Young’s era, playing games in the afternoon is hotter than when playing at night. Heat (especially when combined with humidity) have a huge impact on a player’s endurance.

  4. 4 yorel47 October 22, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    I agree on the complete games. A complete game shut-out was always a highlight.

    The heat factor, though, seems to argue for my point, since the guys who pitched more games and innings (in Cy Young’s era) played more day games.

    That said, I think there’s a happy balance to be had between the two.

  5. 5 TDK1 April 16, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    I’m old school and a purist at heart. Baseball was a lot better in the 70s and 80s. Most of todays pitchers are overrated. Although Greg Maddux is good, he doesnt compare to Juan Marichal, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax.
    Take a look at the hitters back then. They were good, so to tell me its the hitters today that make it difficult to pitch. Thats a crock!!!
    Take a look at the stats back then at the above mentioned pitchers and you can see that todays arms do not even come close.
    Even when Maddux was at his prime, he didn’t even average 7.5 innings.

  6. 6 yorel47 April 18, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    TDK1, I love your response and couldn’t agree more.

  1. 1 What’s Wrong with Baseball « Sports and Ethics Trackback on April 18, 2008 at 7:04 pm

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