For most of my lifetime, every single team in the major leagues carried 11 pitchers at all times – 5 starters and 6 relievers. A little before my time, teams used to carry 10 pitchers, and way back in the day, they carried only 9 hurlers – those were the days when every team kept three catchers on the big club.
In recent years, as the Cult of the Pitch Count has spread and increasingly specialized relievers rarely if ever throw two innings, only throwing more than two in a complete emergency, teams have started routinely carrying 12 pitchers.
But in the last few years things have really started to get out of hand.
Last year two National League teams – the Brewers and the Giants – became the first teams not playing in Coors field to carry 13 pitchers for extended amounts of time. This is somewhat loony. Carrying 13 pitchers means that after your starting 8 position players, you only have four players on the bench at the start of the game. Assuming one is a backup catcher you are loath to waste, that leaves only three position players for pinch hitting, double switching, and replacing injured players. God forbid the game goes to extra innings.
And at the same time, the increased number of pitchers throwing fewer innings means more pitching changes which require ever more pinch hitting and double switchery. Which you now have fewer players for, with the predictable result that we are seeing more and more at bats by relief pitchers who have no business batting, or that abomination – starting pitchers pinch-hitting for relievers on their off days.
But this season is when things got really crazy.
This year, several American League teams have been carrying 13 pitchers. With the DH taking away a guy from the bench, this means an AL team starts the game with only 3 bench players. Now granted, American League teams don’t really need pinch hitters or double switches much, but wow – only 3 players in the dugout… What do we even need a manager for?
And what’s next? Are NL teams going to stand for this uppity behavior from the Junior Circuit? Or are they going to start carrying 14 pitchers to show who’s boss?
Those two way players like Brooks Kieschnick and Dave McCarty are starting to sound less like a novelty act and more like a good idea.