Changing Baseball Pitching – Cuba Style
MLB reports: The handling of pitchers and pitching staffs has evolved over the years in baseball. Once upon a time, pitchers were expected to complete all or almost all games they completed. Slowly the use of relievers expanded. From there, the invention of pitch counts started- 100 approximately per start. Innings limits, per start and per year are now prevalent. Teams are getting wiser as to watch the innings pitched in a year from the time a pitcher is a rookie and most create yearly caps. The strategy of handling pitchers seems to get stricter every year.
Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan are often credited with the modern game use of pitchers. The notion is for starters to pitch approximately 5 innings, with relievers for innings 6-7. The setup man pitches inning 8 and closer for the 9th. The above standard is adopted by all teams at this point in the MLB. But is this the right system? It is hard to know. Pitchers today seem to be stronger than ever and throwing less innings, yet injuries are at an all-time high. From a results standpoint, are MLB teams maximizing production from their pitching staffs? That is the million dollar question. Now I throw another hat into the ring- let’s try playing Cuban baseball instead. Perhaps its time for a shift.
My suggestion is a variation of the Cuban style of baseball, but I will simplify it for this article. Here goes the idea in a nutshell. A team would employ the closer for the first 2 innings of a game. The start of a game is the most crucial, to set the tone against the opposing team. Rather than start the traditional starting pitcher, who often takes time to get warmed up, start the closer who knows how to come into a game cold. The closer would pitch the first two innings and hopefully make short work of the opposing team. From there, the starter would come in, after warming in the pen during the game, for innings 3-9. If problems start near the end of the game, bring in the 2nd closer for inning 9, or 8-9 depending on need.
The above system is based on the Cuban style of ball. Watching the previous WBC in 2009, the Cuban system would have Aroldis Chapman starting the game, going anywhere from 1-4 innings. From there, Pedro Lazo, the workhorse starter would pitch the rest or close to the rest of the game. Imagine today for the Cinci Reds pitching Chapman to start a game, Volquez pitching innings 3-8 and Cordero with the 9th. How scary would that be? The opposing team would have no rhythm to start the game and would never likely get going from there.
Baseball has evolved over time and will continue to do so over time. Nolan Ryan is trying to get more innings under his pitchers’ belts to build stamina and endurance on the Texas Rangers. I like the system personally, but it doesn’t work for everyone. The concept I propose above is not my invention but based on the Cuban game. All I am saying is that perhaps its time for a change in the MLB. It will make the game more exciting and perhaps even revolutionize it…yet again.
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