Friday, April 4, 2008

Back in My Day . . .

Anyone interested in playing a game of Old Coot Bingo? If so, this column has it all. My favorite part:

[When I was young] starting pitchers went more than five innings, when the closer was actually the starting pitcher much of the time. Could you ever have imagined a manager taking out Koufax, Drysdale, Gibson or Seaver in the seventh inning?

Average number of innings pitched in games which they started:

Koufax: 7.1
Drysdale: 7.2
Gibson: 7.8
Seaver: 7.4

So, yeah, actually I can imagine a manager taking these guys out in the seventh pretty darn often.

UPDATE: Click the comments to see Roger Moore's fabulous -- dramatically more detailed -- take on this than mine.

7 comments:

Roger Moore said...

I love Baseball-Reference.com. According to the numbers there (only from 1956 on), Koufax pitched 6 or fewer innings (i.e. didn't make it into the 7th) 97 times in 309 starts, or 31.4% of the time. He pitched through 7 innings or less 130 times, or 42.1% of his games.

For Drysdale, the numbers are 465 starts, 127 times with 6 or fewer IP (27.3%) and 161 times with 7 or fewer (34.6%). For Gibson, it's 482 starts, 79 games with 6 IP or less (16.4%) and 150 games with 7 IP or less (31.1%). For Seaver, it's 647 GS, 157<=6IP (24.3%), 284<=7IP (43.9%).

For comparison, Greg Maddux has 708 GS, 264<=6IP (37.3%) and 457<=7IP (64.5%). Roger Clemens has 707 GS, 196<=6IP (27.7%) and 433<=7IP (61.2%). Randy Johnson has 556 GS, 176<=6IP (31.7%) and 338<=7IP (60.8%). Tom Glavine has 670 GS, 273<=6IP (40.7%) and 505<=7IP (75.4%).

It's noteworthy that the difference between getting into the 7th and getting into the 8th seems to be bigger now than it was in the 60s and 70s. When he made it into the 7th, Koufax had an 84% chance of making it into the 8th. For Drysdale it was 90%, for Gibson 82%, and for Seaver 74%. Maddux had only a 57% chance of making it into the 8th, Clemens 54%, Johnson 57%, and Glavine only 42%.

And the trend seems to be down. I looked at the rest of the pitchers who have won Cy Young awards in the past 10 years. The best rate is for Chris Carpenter, who's made it into the 8th 59% of the time when he made it into the 7th. Bartolo Colon is at 54%, Roy Halladay 52%, Pedro Martinez 48%, CC Sabathia 45%, Johan Santana 40%, Brandon Webb 37%, Barry Zito 36%, and Jake Peavy just 24%.

Alex said...

Looks like, on average, those guys came out in the 8th.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Alex: see Roger's comment above. The author made it sound like it was unheard of for those guys to come out in the 7th or before. Roger shows that they did roughly a quarter of the time (more in Koufax's case, less in Gibson's).

roadrider said...

I grew up in that era and while it was not unheard of for those guys to be pulled in the 6th or 7th my recollection is that such a thing was much more likely be due to the pitcher not having one of his better days or being lifted for a PH (no DH before 1973 and only in the AL after that).

The difference today is that guys of that caliber are only expected to pitch 6 or 7 innings (or 100 pitches, whichever comes first) and then hand the game over to the bullpen. Back in the day the expectation was a complete game.

The post-season was an even more stark contrast. Check out the box scores of some of the World Series games from that era and you will find the staff ace starting 3 games of a seven-game series (the last one on two days rest) and going the distance, even in situations where 2-3 relievers would routinely be called for these days.

I'm not arguing for one approach over the other (although I do lean more to less reliance on bullpens). I'm just saying that there was a distinct difference.

steven.presley said...

It is noteworthy that it is simply much harder to get hitters out these days than it used to be. Despite the fact that many hitters strike out more, a larger portion of a lineup is more dangerous than back in the 1960s. Not to mention smaller parks, shorter mounds, bouncier balls, and smaller strike zones. The pitchers of yore would have every bit as difficult a time pitching 7+ innings/start as today's great pitchers.

Anonymous said...

Koufax, Gibson and Drysdale sepent their entire careers in four man rotations, making up to 40 starts a year and completing more than 20 games a year in certain seasons. Koufax pitched 27 complete games each of his last two years, Gibson had 28 complete games one year. Drydale made 40 or more starts five straight years. Each man eclipsed 300 innings multiple times. Seaver's career overlapped the five man rotation, but he still pitched more complete games than Clemens and Maddux combined.

The poster who said the expectation back them was a complete game, not seven innings in correct. The bar continues to be lowered and the statistic known as the quality start clearly illustrates this point.

Craig Calcaterra said...

And Koufax was done at 30. Drysdale was done at 32.

Yeah, those guys sure piled up some pretty CG and IP numbers, but I'm guessing their teams would have preferred to have them hang around longer, don't you?