My post about the use of starting pitchers in post-season play drew some good comments about differences between the conditions that pitchers from different eras confronted. Before I address them, though, I should note that the Red Sox’s decision not to start ace Josh Beckett in game four may have been down to physical discomfort Beckett experienced after his first start. If Beckett was ailing, then clearly manager Terry Francona was right not to press him into service.
With regard to the modern pitchers, several readers noted that they face obstacles unknown to their counterparts from, say, 40 years ago. The pitching mound is lower; the strike zone is smaller; the fences are closer in; the hitters are stronger (due, in some cases, to drugs).
I agree, generally. And I certainly don’t advocate a return to using starting pitchers on three days rest during the regular season, much less to disregarding their pitch count. I’ve looked at enough old box scores and play-by-play reports to believe that managers frequently kept the pitchers of 50 years ago (when mounds were high, line-ups had several punch-and-judy hitters, etc) in the game too long.
I remain convinced, however, that in the post-season today’s managers should be willing to use top-quality starters on three days rest when facing “must-win” situations. Unless, of course, the starter is ailing physically.
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