Why is it rare for quality starting pitchers to complete games?

I’m younger than 40. I remember when I was a kid, even in Major League Baseball, that a starter didn’t get taken out unless he struggled or needed to be pinched hit for in a crucial situation.

Today, unless there’s a perfect game going on, or his “pitch count” is less than 100, he leaves the game. Why? How can Harvey Haddix and Lou Burdette each pitch 12 plus shutout innings, but today’s highly trained stars have to leave after seven innings?

I can’t recall the number of games I’ve watched in recent years where the starter has a shutout or a one run game going on through 7 or 8 innings and they bring in a closer who has an off-night and blows the game. Why take a chance when you have a guy that’s pitching great?

1st off-Haddix’s near perfecto was in the 50’s, so you didn’t see it. 2nd-Blame Tony LaRussa and the evolution of the modern closer.

Of course not. I didn’t see it. But I remember what I posted about starters staying until and unless bad stuff happened or a pinch hitter was needed. The closer role is fine, but not if you’ve got a guy out there in a groove that has proven that he is on his game that day.

Pitchers pitch differently. It was possible for a pitcher to “coast” with certain batters (notably, the other pitcher) and throw a little easier to stretch that out. Now, batters are better (a function of the fact that the talent pool is deeper - there are more people in the US, plus the color line doesn’t exist and there are players from all over the world, who are better coached and trained than ever before). A pitcher has to go all out on every pitch, which is more tiring than being able to throw a little easier to the 7, 8, and 9 batters.

I believe it’s because managers pay more attention topitch countsthese days.

The Wikipedia article linked to above mentions that today’s pitchers are paid a lot more money than their predecessors, making concerns about not burning them out much more of a consideration than it used to be.

(The article also makes the point that not everyone in baseball believes in pitch counts. The author of the article certainly doesn’t appear to believe in them. I know the Phillies regularly let Roy Halliday go to 120 pitches. Then again, he’s now on the disabled list.)

Halladay, of course, has been an everyday major league starting pitcher continuously since mid-2001, and in that period of time this is only his third significant injury, and one of them was when his leg was broken by a line drive. So generally speaking I think you’d have to say he’s held up pretty well.

The anwer the OP, we’re actually discussing this over in the MLB thread.

There’s a number of answers to this question, but the overall reason, really, is this; major league managers do not manage to win games. They manage to keep their jobs. MLB managers tend towards strategies not because they are necessarily logical, but because they avoid criticism. if a manager pulls a guy after 100 pitches he will almost never be criticized for it, even if it means the game is lost by the team’s ninth-best pitcher. But if he lets the pitcher go to 120-130 pitches, he either will get no credit for it (if the pitcher pitches well and does not get hurt, the pitcher will be lauded) or gets ripped for it (if the pitcher gets hurt at any point in the near future or loses the game.)

It’s the same thing that causes all managers to use Closers, even when using a particular guy as a Closer makes no sense at all; since all other 29 managers are doing it you won’t be criticized for following the lead.

The number of complete games has been declining steadily since the founding of Major League Baseball. This is part of a bigger trend in which a team’s workload has been spread over more and more pitchers. When MLB was founded in 1876, each team relied mostly on a single pitcher. Over time they went to more starters (eventually to the five-man rotation). Bullpens got bigger, and manager would bring in relievers more and more frequently. In other words, the current situation came about gradually over many decades.

One purpose of spreading the workload is to avoid injuries. The thinking is that a starter who is limited to 100 to 115 pitches per game is less likely to develop arm trouble than one who routinely throws, say, 140 pitches per game. There does seem to be evidence to support this.

Another reason for limiting pitch count is that it means starters don’t have to pace themselves nearly as much. It used to be common for starting pitchers to save their arms for critical situations. Now they don’t have to worry so much about tiring themselves out late in the game (since they won’t still be there). Starting pitchers also used to limit their pitch selections early in the game, so that they still had pitches each batter hadn’t seen on the fourth time through the order. This isn’t so important any more.

There is a downside to using too many relief pitchers. The practice takes innings away from the best pitchers and gives them to guys who aren’t as good. For example, a tired Justin Verlander is probably better than a fresh Phil Coke. Some sabermetricians think this spreading of the pitching workload has gone too far, and that it would make sense to use fewer relievers (and even to go back to the four-man rotation).

It could have something to do with the lowering of the pitching mound in the late 60’s or the adjustments of the strike zone made more frequently. As baseball makes changes to allow for more runs to be scored and more home runs to be hit managers make changes to combat this. One of these changes involves the frequent use of two or more relief pitchers where previously only one might have been used. If you watch the Pirates this year, it certainly seems to make sense. They have not lost a game all year where they were leading after eight innings.

The idea is to limit injuries. I think the general thought is that it has helped, but not as much as people thought it would. It is really difficult to fully understand the causes of injuries, and there’s even a lot of debate in baseball circles about the right way to build up one’s arm. Do a google search of Travor Bauer or Dylan Bundy and long-toss, for example; both pitchers (drafted this past year) use long-toss to build arm strength and tried to warn off teams in the draft that they thought might try to get them to change their routines. If both are successful and durable, there might be some serious pressure for change.

The other part is that as run scoring continues to drop since PED testing was implemented, pitchers might be more able to go back to a lower-stress pitching style. Some already do this - for example Jeff mentioned Justin Verlander. He routinely starts off in game throwing his fastball in the low 90’s and ramps it up as he gets deeper into the game so that at the end he’s frequently hitting 100 mph. I’m sure he could do that earlier in the game if he chose to, but he can’t do it for 9 innings straight.

I agree with the above. You can see this sort of thing happen in other sports as well- especially football. Managers and coaches will employ traditional or suboptimal strategies that might even hurt their chances of winning because they don’t want to take the criticism and lose their jobs over an unexpected decision that someone will second-guess if it doesn’t work. Groupthink is very, very powerful. Only guys who are very confident in their strategies and/or very secure in their jobs will make a habit of bucking conventional wisdom.