The four-man rotation

Unless my memory is faulty, when I was a kid almost every major league team had a four-man pitching rotation. Just a few teams were starting to use five-man rotations. And pitchers then more often lasted past the 7th inning and threw more complete games.

Today, complete games are rare, lasting into the 7th inning is called a qualty start, and it’s so rare, some statiticians count them, pitch counts are closely monitored and it seems like there are more arm and shoulder injuries these days.

As for that last statement, I would really like to see somebody to a scientific study on injuries to pitchers over the last 100+ years. If there are more injuries, why?

You would think that with all of the pampering modern pitchers get, including better physical fitness regimes, contemporary pitchers would be healthier, but currently there are 40 pitchers on major league rosters who are the disabled list because of arm or shoulder injuries.

I think it was Nolan Ryan who once suggested that older pitchers were more durable because they grew up throwing all the time. They played more baseball (instead of basketball, football or soccer) and if they weren’t throwing baseballs, they were throwing rocks at cans or tennis balls against walls. But Trevor Hoffman, who until this season never missed playing time because of an arm injury, said his father’s refusal to let him pitch before he turned pro contributed to his good health.

So the issue comes down to this question — can today’s pitchers handle a heavier workload, or more specifically, can the modern pitcher handle a four-man rotation. Toronto is going to give a four-man rotation a try, and maybe that will set new precedence in how pitchers are handled. Maybe it won’t.

This Rob Neyer column discusses the issue pretty intelligently.

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