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Orioles' one-batter bullpen usage not among league's highest

Buck Showalter isn't exactly "Captain Hook" when it comes to pulling relievers after they faced just one batter.
Buck Showalter isn't exactly "Captain Hook" when it comes to pulling relievers after they faced just one batter. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)

With spring training just a few weeks away, the onslaught of ideas on how to make this baseball season better has begun.

The baseball Twitter community is buzzing about a proposal, which FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal reported was floated by Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein this fall, one that suggests relief pitchers should required to face more than one batter in a game.

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That would all but eliminate the hyper-specialization of bullpen arms that Tony La Russa introduced nearly a quarter century ago. And it would produce the two-fold result of more offense (with less specialists brought in for a single batter) and a faster pace of play a bit by theoretically reducing the number of pitching changes and mound visits.

The proposal is getting good early reviews by fans and analysts, and based on how the Orioles have used relievers in the past few years, it might even get support here.

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Even with his (deserved) reputation as a master strategist, Orioles manager Buck Showalter wouldn't be among those most affected by such a proposal. Nobody works a bullpen like Showalter, whose players gush about his consistency and intuition in that sense.

According to Baseball Reference's data, that intuition usually involves leaving relievers in for more than one inning.

The 2014 Orioles matched a relief pitcher for a single batter 42 times, tied for ninth-most in the league, but just over half of the Cleveland Indians' league-leading total of 80. A year earlier, the Orioles were middle-of-the-pack with 38 such appearances by a reliever, which ranked 15th in the league and again was around half of the league-leading San Francisco Giants, who had 73.

Showalter called for 37 such matchups in 2012, and 40 in 2011. Both figures are in the middle third of the league. Over his four-plus seasons in charge of the Orioles, that basically amounts to once every four-game series.

This rule-change proposal isn't meant to level the competitive playing field, but instead to speed up the game. One fewer pitching change means one fewer mound visit, one fewer commercial break, and one fewer empty stretch of time that occupies the late innings of a baseball game.

Even if it takes something he uses, on average, once every four games, you'd guess the Orioles' manager could get on board with that.

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