One of the questions de jour in baseball this spring centers around the continuing trend of team’s pulling their starting pitchers earlier in games. This was especially apparent during the 2017 World Series, with the likes of Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill throwing only four innings and 70 pitches in Game 2 despite allowing just one run.
Giants starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija led the majors in innings pitched last season (207.2), so it should come as no surprise that he’s not crazy about the trend when asked about it on Murph & Mac Wednesday. His reasoning, however, doesn’t have anything to do with how it affects starters, but rather the pressure it puts on bullpens over time.
“I just think that was a special case scenario with those teams,” Samardzija said. “I don’t think it’s sustainable as a staff over time. Maybe for a year, but I think if you look at the numbers when bullpen guys throw 50-plus outings, 70-plus innings or whatever it may be, their following years are very much a fall off.
“To me I think it was a special case scenario where you had a team like the Dodgers, that had a huge payroll, that had guys on the DL that weren’t hurt, they essentially were playing with 30-32 guys and most of those extra guys on their staff working with a six man rotation, and a lot of guys in the bullpen. Then they added guys after that so they were really heavy and I think they went for it last year. Which is cool to see. They said we’re not going to leave any holes, we’re going to have a backup at every position and they wen’t for it.
“The same situation but different scenario with Houston where they tanked for three years and over those three years accumulated a ton of young talent and young arms they didn’t have the resources to pay like the Dodgers did, but they had the resources when it came to men. They had all those guys that they built up over the years.
“You look at the Royals, you look at other teams that have committed to this process, and it works for a year no doubt, but if you want to win over stretches of time you’ve got to have big horses that protect your bullpen, so that when you do need those guys down the stretch run you’re ready to go.
“That’s just my theory. I think it’s a cheaper way to go about it if you’ve got a small-market team I think it makes sense. You look at our bullpen last year — I know the season didn’t go the way we wanted it to — but everyone stayed healthy. Everybody had good years out of the bullpen and that was minus Mark (Melancon). You throw him into the mix too and everyone’s going to get more rest down there and even have a more specialized role. I think there’s something to be said about it and I guarantee if you ask those bullpen guys they don’t want to go out there three or four years in a row with 60-70 appearances man, it’s just not good. It’s a short term fix and you can do it, but like I said you’re going to pay for it in the future.”
Listen to the full interview below. To hear Samardzija on pitching skip to 3:30