MLB faces a complex task to make its starters shine

SURPRISE.- Max Scherzer logged at least 179 innings in 10 of his first 16 years in the major leagues (MLB) and the three-time Cy Young Award winner learned some hard lessons on the way to pitching many innings in games.

That’s one reason the Texas Rangers right-hander believes the majors will have to do more than set a roster cap if starting pitchers are to return to prominence.

“I became a better pitcher once I faced the opposing lineup three times and failed on the third round,” said Scherzer, 39. “That’s the difficulty for every young pitcher, learning to face a lineup three times. … Now we are very afraid to let kids fail.”

The present of the starting pitcher has caught the attention of Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, who said in October that he is considering reducing the maximum of 13 pitchers per team to possibly 12. The change could be a reality for the 2025 season, all with the objective that the starting pitchers acquire more prominence.

Last year, starting pitchers averaged 15.4 outs and 85.1 pitches, according to Sportradar, and 15.6 outs and 84.9 pitches in 2022. However, the numbers were 17.4 and 93.1 in 2015, and 17.8 and 98.6 in 2000.

“I grew up a fan of the game, my dad and I chose to watch Astros games based on when Roy Oswalt pitched,” said Chicago Cubs right-hander Jameson Taillon. “We watched the pitchers’ duels, that’s what we did. Nowadays I think that attraction has been lost a bit.”

While a limit of 12 pitchers could encourage teams to allow their starters to go more innings in games, it would add greater stress to the pitcher roster. Additionally, it could cause teams to move more of their middle relievers from the major leagues to the minors – regardless of their performance.

Future impact on MLB and MiLB:

The long-term answer lies with the lower levels of the minor leagues and how baseball develops the next generation of pitchers.

“It starts with training in the minor leagues,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “That’s where it all starts. It’s difficult to do it when the kids are coming up. They are not prepared to do that. Now you are going to ask them to last longer in games and you are risking injury. So you have to be smart about that.”

Scherzer called the 12-pitcher limit a “terrible idea,” but agreed that he would take certain actions to reverse the current trend on starting pitchers.

“We should encourage keeping a starter longer during the game,” he said. “We will have to come out with some rules to make that happen. “It won’t correct itself.”