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Pitch Count Efficiency is Undervalued

During Game 6 of the World Series, Kevin Cash infamously replaced his cruising starting pitcher, Blake Snell, with reliever Nick Anderson. Anderson would give up the lead before registering an out, and the Los Angeles Dodgers won the Series for the first time in 32 years.

A heavily criticized decision by many, both in the moment and in hindsight, the move is representative of the new direction many clubs have been heading towards. This is calculated and analytics-heavy decision-making on reliever usage that has caused both a major shift in the value of relievers and a steady increase in pitchers used in games.

The consistent incline of pitchers used per game notably paired with the decline of average pitches and innings thrown by starters begs the question: how should pitch count factor into removing pitchers from games? If starters are removed for the fact that they are facing the top of the order for the third time rather than because they are fatigued or have seen a decline in their outing performance, is it important to pass on hittable pitches in order to drive pitch count up? Alternatively, is there value in being a pitcher who can record outs quickly if by the time Mookie Betts comes to the plate in the 6th inning, the threat of impending doom will chase an ace at 73 pitches out of the game? Read the rest of this entry »