Walters: Baseball’s unhealthy obsession with starting pitchers is killing the game

From John Walters at Newsweek on June 21, 2016, with mention of SABR members Rory Costello and David Kaiser:

The staff’s ace checks every box on Frank Sinatra’s list: he’s A-#1, king of the hill, top of the heap. Beginning with Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw, who will earn $34.6 million this season, five of the six highest-paid players in Major League Baseball are starting pitchers. Each will earn north of $25 million this season.

It’s good work if you can get it. Because every Major League club employs a five-man rotation, a starting pitcher never works—at least not in an actual game—more than once every five days. Your Friday at the office is his Monday through Friday. The starting pitcher works on four days’ rest—three more than God took after creating heaven and Earth.

That workload sounds even sweeter when you realize that starting pitchers are hurling fewer innings each season, as teams try to preserve their precious limbs. Kershaw, baseball’s premier ace and a future Hall of Famer, led all pitchers in the big leagues last year by throwing 232 ⅔ innings. That’s a prolific output compared to his contemporaries, but it’s also the lowest total for baseball’s innings leader since records were first kept in 1876. Before 1980, when Steve Carlton of the Philadelphia Phillies became the last starter to throw a 300-inning season, there had only been 10 seasons in all of baseball when the game’s innings leader hurled fewer than 277 innings.

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Originally published: June 22, 2016. Last Updated: June 22, 2016.