Three days rest: Carpenter, Spahn, Maddux, and … Loaiza?

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For the first time in his 14-season, 339-start career Chris Carpenter started on short rest last night and it didn’t go well, as he failed to make it out of the fourth inning while allowing four runs to put the Cardinals in an early hole.

St. Louis came back to win, so rightly or wrongly few people are questioning Tony La Russa’s decision today. But mostly Carpenter making his first short-rest start at age 36 got me wondering about short-rest starters throughout baseball history.

Details from the early 1900s are often incomplete, but based on the data Baseball-Reference.com has available here are the all-time leaders in starts made on three days rest:

Warren Spahn      282
Jim Kaat          282
Gaylord Perry     280
Jim Palmer        257
Phil Niekro       255
Don Drysdale      253
Mickey Lolich     251
Jim Bunning       241
Fergie Jenkins    226
Robin Roberts     219

Warren Spahn debuted in 1942 and you’ll notice that most of those other pitchers are from the 1960s and 1970s, when four-man rotations made starts on three days rest commonplace. But how about more recently? Here’s the same list, but from 1990 forward:

Greg Maddux        30
Mike Moore         24
Scott Erickson     24
Tom Glavine        23
John Burkett       21
John Smoltz        20
Terry Mulholland   20
Tim Wakefield      19
Esteban Loaiza     19
Chuck Finley       19

Of the 10 pitchers to make 19 or more starts on three days rest since 1990, three of them were in the Braves’ rotation for most of the 1990s. And the leader since 2000? Esteban Loaiza, with 10. Obviously.

It also should be noted that knuckleballer Wilbur Wood not only made 153 starts on three days rest in the 1960s and 1970s, he also made 71 starts on two days rest. And in those 71 starts he had a 2.67 ERA.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.