More players, more pitching changes, longer games
Sep. 14, 2015
Remember all that talk about pace of play? Early this season, baseball's effort to trim the length of games seemed to be a mild success.
Tell that to the fans in Detroit on Tuesday.
The Tigers and Tampa Bay Rays played for 5 hours, 3 minutes before Detroit finally won 8-7 in 13 innings. The extra frames made the game take longer, but what really made it tedious was the ceaseless substituting by both teams, especially on the mound. The Tigers used 10 pitchers while the Rays used six.
Tampa Bay used 17 position players, including three designated hitters and three catchers. Detroit used three third basemen.
"Every time one manager makes a move, the other manager probably has two or three choices," Detroit skipper Brad Ausmus said. "That's what happens when you expand rosters."
Indeed, the expanded rosters in September give managers a chance to look for platoon advantages throughout the late innings — they hardly have to worry about running out of pitchers.
Last Monday, the Dodgers and Angels played a nine-inning game that felt like rush hour on the freeway with all of its stopping and starting. The Angels used nine pitchers, including eight in the final 4 2/3 innings. The Dodgers used seven pitchers, including six in the last three innings.
The Dodgers won 7-5 in 3:52.
"September baseball...when there are too many people available to play and timely games go to die," said a message on the Twitter account of Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson.
The average nine-inning game this month has taken 3:03, compared to 2:55 before September, according to STATS. The average nine-inning game last September was 3:02.
Here are a few other developments from around baseball:
A LEAGUE OF HIS OWN?: Yoenis Cespedes is beginning to get some support in the National League MVP race, which is odd considering he played more than half the season in the AL. Cespedes has hit .308 with 16 home runs since being traded from Detroit to the New York Mets at the deadline. His full-season stats — .297 with 34 homers and 102 RBIs — are certainly impressive, but does the fact that he's split time between the two leagues mean he can't win either MVP?
Washington's Bryce Harper has spent the whole year in the NL and has an OPS of 1.111, the best in baseball. Even if you look only at the time frame from Aug. 1 on — when Cespedes began playing for the Mets — Harper still has the New York outfielder beat with an OPS of 1.048 to 1.033.
On some level, it's fair to wonder if — after nearly two decades of interleague play — baseball needs to keep giving separate awards for the AL and NL, although the fact that one league uses the DH and the other doesn't makes it harder to compare stats between them.
A quarter-century ago, a league switch affected one major honor. When Willie McGee was traded from St. Louis to Oakland in late August, his .335 average was frozen in the NL batting race. He ended up finishing first, becoming the first player to win a batting title in a league in which he didn't finish the season.
Logan Verrett gets the start Monday night as the Mets try to limit Matt Harvey's innings. It's a good spot for Verrett — at home against Miami — and at this time of year, the short term is all there is to worry about in non-keeper leagues. So looking day by day for good matchups isn't a bad idea.
In that same vein, Oakland's Jesse Chavez is slated to start Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox, who are near the bottom of the majors in runs.
LINE OF THE WEEK
Madison Bumgarner, Giants, struck out nine in a one-hit shutout Saturday as San Francisco beat San Diego 8-0. The Giants are unlikely to make the playoffs, but Bumgarner (18-7) has a chance to win 20 games for the first time.