More re­liev­ers, longer games

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Ron­ald Blum

Man­agers head to the mound and point to the bullpens so of­ten in the post­sea­son, it wouldn’t be sur­pris­ing if they need Tommy John surgery. Com­plete games have gone the way of spit­toons.

CHICAGO >> Man­agers head to the mound and point to the bullpens so of­ten in the post­sea­son, it wouldn’t be sur­pris­ing if they need Tommy John surgery.

Com­plete games have gone the way of spit­toons, flan­nel uni­forms and pregame in­field prac­tice.

An av­er­age of 9.32 pitch­ers were used in this year’s post­sea­son games head­ing into the World Se­ries, ac­cord­ing to the Elias Sports Bureau, up from 8.16 in the 1996 and 5.70 in 1986. Matchup mad­ness rules. “A lot of it is just to pro­tect your butt, that some­body else might have the in­for­ma­tion, so I bet­ter make sure that I make the move that they know I should be mak­ing in­stead of the move that I know I should be mak­ing,” for­mer big league man­ager Bobby Valen­tine said.

All those pitch­ing changes con­trib­ute to World Se­ries games turn­ing into the late, late show.

Af­ter us­ing a rel­a­tive re­strained three pitch­ers to win the opener 6-0, Cleve­land sent seven to the mound for a 5-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs in Game 2, and they needed 196 pitches to get 27 outs. The nine in­nings took 4 hours, 4 min­utes to play.

Through the league cham­pi­onship se­ries, nine-in­ning post­sea­son games av­er­aged 3:22, up from 3:14 last year. The first four games of this year’s World Se­ries av­er­aged 3:38.

Much of that time has been for trips to the mound.

“In the past you were look­ing for five re­ally good starters. That’s al­ways your fo­cal point,” Toronto man­ager John Gib­bons said. “Things have def­i­nitely changed but you can go back the last cou­ple of years and look at the Roy­als, and the big talk was how they had those three guys late, ac­tu­ally four guys. The starter would go five or six in­nings and they would just turn it over to those guys. A lot of teams are try­ing to do the same.”

Back in the 1976 reg­u­lar sea­son, games av­er­aged 4.83 pitch­ers, ac­cord­ing to Elias. The fig­ure rose to 5.59 by 1986, 6.88 a decade later, 7.70 in 2006 and 8.30 this year.

Decades ago, aces were ex­pected to fin­ish what they started. San Diego’s Randy Jones led the ma­jor leagues

with 25 com­plete games in 1976 and Detroit’s Mark Fidrych had 24.

This year, Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox topped the big leagues with six com­plete games and San Fran­cisco’s Johnny Cueto was sec­ond with five.

Data has rev­o­lu­tion­ized the sport. When he was man­ag­ing in the New York Yan­kees mi­nor league sys­tem in the 1980s, Buck Showal­ter had his wife hand-write spray charts to show where op­po­nents hit balls. An­gela Showal­ter can now re­lax while watch­ing her hus­band man­age the Bal­ti­more Ori­oles.

Just be­fore the start of this sea­son, Ma­jor League Base­ball reached a deal with Ap­ple to have iPad Pros in dugouts, and man­agers have in­stant ac­cess to fig­ures track­ing the de­cline of start­ing pitch­ers’ ef­fec­tive­ness the third time through the bat­ting or­der.

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