Innings pitched from starting pitchers has been continually trending down. Since records have been reported in 1876:
- 1876-1896 – 400+ IP each year
- 1897-2001 – Less than 400 IP
- 2002-2004 – 400+ IP each year
- 2005-2006 – Less than 400 IP
- 2007-2008 – 400+ IP each year
- 600+ IP – 9 times
- 500 – 600 IP – 7 times
- 400 – 500 IP – 10 times
- < 400 IP – 7 times
Last 500+ and 600+ IP was achieved by Bill Hutchison in 1892. Last 400+ IP was achieved by Ed Walsh in 1908.
- From 1909-1929 – 300+ IP
- From 1930-1931 – No pitcher reached 300 IP
- From 1932-1936 – 300+ IP
- 1937 – No pitcher reached 300 IP
- From 1938-1941 – 300+ IP
- 1942 – No pitcher reached 300 IP
- 1942 – 1946 – 300+ IP
- 1947 – No pitcher reached 300 IP
- 1948 – 1956 – 300+ IP
- 1957 – 1961 – No pitcher reached 300 IP
From 1962, with expansion, the games have increased from 154 to 162 games. With a 4 man rotation, that would give each pitcher two additional games to accumulate IP. From 1962 through 1980, at least 1 pitcher threw 300+ IP. This is the era I am most familiar with.
|Year||Pitcher||IP||Qualified Starters||> 300 IP||> 250 IP||> 200 IP|
|200.0 – 202.2||6 pitchers|
1981 was a short season, from 103-111 games, due to a players strike. Dennis Leonard was the only pitcher to reach 200 IP that season.
From 1982 through 2004, no pitcher achieved 300 IP, but 121 pitchers pitched at least 250+ innings. There were three other seasons where one pitcher had 250+ IP. The last 250 IP season was 2011 thrown by Justin Verlander.
David Price was the last pitcher to pitch 225+ IP (230.0 IP) until Sandy Alcantara threw 228.2 IP in 2022.
Until late 1969, only a four-man starting pitching rotation existed. Gil Hodges is credited with initiating the five-man pitching rotation in 1969.
With the Chicago Cubs collapsing in 1969, the Amazins thought they had a chance to catch the Cubs. Hodges decided to give Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry, Don Cardwell and Jim McAndrew an extra day’s rest during the final month of the season. The Cubs had a 9.0 game lead on August 16, but fell into 2nd on September 10. The Cubs never regained the lead.
The reasoning for the five-man rotation was that an extra day of rest would cut down on arm injuries as well as extend some pitchers’ careers.
By1980 all teams were utilizing 5 man rotations Not so ironically, that was the last year MLB has had a 300+ IP pitcher. Philadelphia Phillies’ Steve Carlton threw 304.0 innings that year. Another Phillies’ starter, Dick Ruthven, threw 223.1 innings for two 200+ IP pitchers.
In 1994, Pittsburgh Pirates’ manager Jim Leyland and Kansas City Royals’ skipper Bob Boone decided to resurrect the four-man rotation. They were motivated in part because in 1994, a strike-shortened season, 122 pitchers had been placed onto the disabled list. Those who believed “work prevents sore arms” had renewed influence.
“I think baseball in general babied pitchers’ arms too much,” Leyland said. “The arm is like any other muscle—the more you use it, the stronger it gets. We used to have four-man rotations all the time years ago. I don’t know why it can’t work today.”
Boone had some doubts.
“I just don’t know if I’ll have the guts to stay with it,” he said. “It’s not really my decision. It will be what their arms tell us.”
Any chance of a return to giving starters four days rest was lost when the awareness of offensive minded PEDs became prevalent. Pitchers had to extend themselves more because it became more difficult to retire hitters who were making themselves more dangerous. Back to the five man rotation.
What could be causing the decrease in number of IP by starters? In the last 8-10 years, computer algorithms have been created to advise management that the best chance for success was to have starting pitching only go through the lineup twice. There has also been an increase on the use of the bullpen. We are now hearing increased use of a six-man rotation. Just how long are we going to have pitchers surpass 200 IP?
We are now experiencing a paradoxical catch-22. While the IP for starters are decreasing, the salary commitments for the starting rotation is increasing.
- $40MM+ 2023 salary – 2 (Justin Verlander & Max Scherzer)
- $30MM – $40MM 2023 salary – 3 (Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Jacob de Grom)
- $25MM – $30MM 2023 salary – 1 (Chris Sale)
- $20MM – $25MM 2023 salary – 10
- $15MM – $20MM 2023 salary – 14
- Justin Verlander – 175 IP
- Max Scherzer – 145.1 IP
- Gerrit Cole – 200.2 IP
- Stephen Strasburg – 4.2 IP
- Jacob deGrom – 64.1 IP
- Chris Sale – 5.2 IP
Patrick Corbin (152.2 IP) is earning $24.4MM and Madison Bumgarner (158.2 IP) is earning $23MM for 2023. Both pitchers had poor seasons. Bumgarner had 4.88 ERA and Corbin had a 6.31 ERA.
$100MM contracts signed by pitchers:
- Kevin Brown, LAD – 7 years, $105MM
- Mike Hampton, COL – 8 years, $121MM
- Barry Zito, SF – 7 years, $126MM
- Johan Santana, NYM – 6 years, $137.5MM
- Matt Cain, SF—six years, $127.5 million
- Cole Hamels, PHI—six years, $144 million
- Felix Hernandez, SEA—seven years, $175 million
- Justin Verlander, DET—seven years, $180 million
- Stephen Strasburg, WAS—seven years, $175 million
- Homer Bailey, CIN—six years, $105 million
- Clayton Kershaw, LAD—seven years, $215 million
- CC Sabathia, NYY – 7 years, $161MM (opted out after 4 years, signed an new contract)
- CC Sabathia, NYY – 5 years, $122MM
- Cliff Lee, PHI – 5 years $120MM
- Zack Greinke, LAD – 6 years $147MM (opted out after 3 years)
- Masahiro Tanaka, NYY – 7 year $155MM
- Jon Lester, CHC – 6 years $155MM
- Max Scherzer, WAS – 7 years $210MM
- David Price, BOS—seven years, $217 million
Zack Greinke, ARI—six years, $206.5 million
- Johnny Cueto, SF—six years, $130 million
- Jordan Zimmermann, DET—five years, $110 million
- Yu Darvish, CHC – 6 years, $126MM
- Zack Wheeler, PHI – 5 years, $118MM
- Chris Sale, BOS – 5 years, $145MM
- Jacob deGrom, NYM – 5 years, $137.5MM
- Patrick Corbin, WAS – 6 years, $140MM
- Stephen Strasburg, WAS – 7 years, $175MM (opted out after 3 years and signed a new contract)
- Stephen Strasburg, WAS – 7 years, $245MM
- Trevor Bauer, LAD – 3 years, $102MM
- Gerrit Cole, NYY—nine years, $324 million
- Max Scherzer, NYM—three years, $130 million
- Robbie Ray, SEA—five years, $115 million
- Kevin Gausman, TOR—five years, $110 million
- José Berríos, TOR—seven years, $131 million
- Luis Castillo, SEA—five years, $108 million
- Joe Musgrove, SD—five years, $100 million
- Jacob deGrom, TEX—five years, $185 million
- Carlos Rodón, NYM – six years, $162MM
That is a total of 39 nine-figure contracts for starting pitchers. How many of the above massive contracts have turned out to benefit both the player and the organization? Six pitchers have signed $200MM+ contracts. Nine other deals were in excess of $150MM.
Next year the Dodgers are going to be deciding as to how much to offer Julio Urías.