Jeff Passan of Yahoo! has an interesting story up today about long-tossing for pitchers. The upshot: two of the top prospects in this year’s draft are warning teams that ban their pitchers from long-toss drills against selecting them, because they’re all about long-tossing. Included in the anti-long toss crowd: the Royals and Pirates and, according to Passan, about half of all of the teams in baseball.
Of course complicating all of this is that no one has any actual data about whether long-tossing — as opposed to throwing 120 feet with no arc, which the Royals, Pirates and others advocate — is a good thing or a bad thing. The teams think long-tossing is bad, the players believe that long-tossing is good for them, but no one has any freakin’ idea.
If only there was some way to figure this stuff out! Some sort of discipline that begins with observation, moves on to the formation of a hypothesis, tests said hypothesis with some sort of experiment or gathering of empirical data and then compels one to reach a conclusion as to the validity of said hypothesis!
But sadly, there is no such thing in the world.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.