San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Jeremy Affeldt (41, right) hands the ball to manager Bruce Bochy (15, left) during a pitching change in the ninth inning against the Atlanta Braves at AT&T Park. The Giants defeated the Braves 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
On Tuesday night, the San Francisco Giants used 11 pitchers. It tied an MLB record for most pitchers used in a game. The list, with the hopes that you'll picture a slow walk to the mound and a bunch of warmup pitches after each name.
That's five pitchers with fewer than 10 pitches thrown, and six who didn't pitch a full inning. Why did manager Bruce Bochy do this? Because he could. The Giants have 17 pitchers on their active roster, 12 of whom are in the bullpen. Bochy was saving two relievers for an emergency, even, in case the game went past the 11th inning.
One of those relievers was Brad Penny, who, if we're talking about baseball emergencies, is a fire extinguisher filled with paper snakes. Highly flammable paper snakes. Possibly poisonous and/or covered in weaponized smallpox. Note: point the extinguisher away from your face. But the point still stands. It was the most September game possible when it came to bullpen management. Bochy did it because he could.
Dig the lefty-righty specialists coming into the fifth inning. If the fifth-inning Omogrosso/Septimo combo sticks, they'll need a nickname, possibly relating to musical dynamics and notation.
The timing of both of those games coincides with a solution to the problem you might not have been aware of. From Scott Miller:
Expanded late-season rosters have been a growing topic of discussion among members of Commissioner Bud Selig's special committee for on-field issues. And there is increasing momentum to change the rules by next season, multiple industry sources have told CBSSports.com.
Teams would still be free to expand rosters during the final month of the season but would be subject to roster limitations on a nightly basis. Within this, clubs would have to designate which players are eligible before each game.
The argument against 40-man rosters can be distilled down to a simple talking point: Why make it so games in September -- ostensibly the most important of the season -- are played differently than the rest of the year?
The argument for 40-man rosters can be distilled down to simple talking point: Rebuilding teams get a chance to evaluate all sorts of players they'd be unable to otherwise.
Both sides have a point. But then you look at those box scores again. Baseball's the bestest sport in the world. But those pitching changes are interminably tedious. It's almost enough to make a person turn on NFL exhibition games. Almost.
But here's a confession: I love September rosters. I love the wealth of pitchers and pinch-hitting options. I love the speedy bench players who exist only to harass a reliever in the ninth inning of a tie game. I love the prospect cameos, which occasionally turn into postseason heroics, like what the Angels got from Francisco Rodriguez in 2002.
Perhaps most importantly, I love the ability of managers to use pitchers like they want to, even if it leads to 49 different pitching changes in three innings. The pitching changes are awful, but what's even worse is when managers ride a reliever for that extra inning, or for their fourth game in a row, because that's the only option the managers have. More arms should lead to fresher late-September and October bullpens, which should lead to healthier pitchers. I'll put up with a couple extra pitching changes for that.
Heck, I'm an extremist when it comes to this. I say go with 40-man rosters all year. You'd have guys like Wily Mo Pena on a bench, just in case a soft-tossing lefty comes into the game. Hell, bring back the Herb Washington gambit.
But I realize that's not going to happen and that I'm a freak. Instead, a move to a 30-man roster year-round is probably the best bet. The game doesn't change around in September, and more pitchers allow key bullpen arms to stay fresher throughout the season. Miller mentions that some managers prefer 28 players on a roster; others likely prefer even more.
Those examples up there from Robin Ventura and Bochy? Outliers. Not things that happen every game. September baseball is certainly played a little differently, but it's disingenuous to suggest the 11-pitcher game is becoming the norm. As David Nieporent writes in this Baseball Think Factory thread:
This seems like a solution in search of a problem.
There we go. September rosters are a good thing for rebuilding team, they help rest tired pitching staffs, and they're interesting. Prospects, projects, and n'er-do-wells, all of whom break up the monotony of a long, long season. Avoiding the occasional game of turgid bullpen management isn't worth the loss.