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Pitcher-Earned Runs

Posted on:January 2, 2024

In this blog, I promised to share my interests, and today, let’s dive into one of my all-time favorites: baseball. While I may not follow the sport as closely as I once did, my love for it remains strong. I was thrilled to see Major League Baseball introduce significant rule changes for the 2023 season, such as implementing a pitch clock and limiting defensive shifts. It’s refreshing to witness baseball innovating once again.

These changes have improved the game by shortening its duration and enhancing the fan experience. But why stop there? There’s always room for more innovation, and I’m glad they’re exploring further possibilities. Here’s an idea I’d like to propose: the “pitcher-earned run.”

The concept is straightforward. If a starting pitcher stays in the game beyond the sixth inning, they would earn a run for their team for each additional inning they pitch. For example, if a pitcher makes it through the seventh inning, their team would gain an extra run, two runs for completing the eighth, and three runs for pitching a complete game.

I appreciate this idea for several reasons, but primarily because it highlights the starting pitcher as a central figure in baseball from a fan’s perspective. Growing up, and certainly in earlier baseball generations, pitchers remained in games much longer. There wasn’t an obsession with pitch counts or limiting how many times a pitcher faced the batting order. As a result, fans enjoyed captivating moments like pitchers’ duels and watching hurlers face batters repeatedly throughout the game.

However, as baseball evolved, teams discovered a strategic advantage in frequently changing pitchers. While this approach might be beneficial when it comes to winning games mathematically, it detracts from the excitement of watching a starting pitcher battle deep into a contest.

By introducing the “pitcher earned run” concept, we can incentivize teams to keep their starters on the mound longer, bringing back the fascinating dynamics of old-school baseball while maintaining some of the new strategy: as once the SP is out, the strategies around relief pitching remain.

There’s something special about watching a starting pitcher go deep into a game, creating an identifiable attachment to this key player. Introducing a new rule that incentivizes teams to keep their pitcher in the game could not only lead to really compelling scenarios (imagine a pitcher being able to win a game by himself when his offense doesn’t put any runs on the board), but also encourage pitchers to preserve their energy.

In today’s baseball landscape, we often see power pitchers who focus on velocity rather than stamina, knowing they won’t be in the game for long. This approach results in less variety and fewer unique pitching styles centered around control, finesse, or stamina. Consequently, hitters adopt specific strategies, leading to a higher percentage of at-bats ending in walks, strikeouts, or home runs. This means less excitement and variability for fans.

By encouraging starting pitchers to stay in the game longer, we could introduce additional strategy around whether to pull or keep a pitcher. This would create interesting scenarios and put managers in unique positions. Imagine two pitchers both going deep into the game, sparking fascinating decisions about whether or not to pull them or leave them in for that extra out.

Moreover, this change wouldn’t negatively impact the statistical integrity of the game. Baseball has always been keen on preserving statistics across generations and rule changes. By simply adding a run under this new rule, traditional stats like ERA or batting average wouldn’t be affected – ensuring continuity while enhancing the excitement of the game.

In essence, you’re altering certain dynamics of the game without fundamentally changing it. Though it’s a significant shift, it doesn’t drastically affect those measurable aspects that baseball fans love to analyze and compare players with. For all these reasons, I find this concept quite intriguing, and I’m eager to hear what others think about it or any potential drawbacks I might be overlooking.

To my knowledge, no one has ever proposed a rule change like this before, so I feel like I might be the first person to bring it up. While it’s unlikely to happen, I thought it would be worthwhile to share my idea. And there you have it – that’s my suggestion!

PS if you have a better idea for the name, I’m all ears. Obviously using the term “earned run” for pitchers is already loaded. I just can’t think of something else to call it, and felt like maybe it keeps it in the baseball lexicon.