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25+ Starts In A Season By 2+ RHP Age 36 Or Older

Posted by Steve Lombardi on April 29, 2011

How many times, since 1901, has a team had two right-handed starters, age 36 or older, in the same season, make 25 starts or more?

Here's the answer -

Rk Year Lg Tm #Matching  
1 1998 NL San Francisco Giants 3 Danny Darwin / Mark Gardner / Orel Hershiser
2 2004 AL Boston Red Sox 2 Curt Schilling / Tim Wakefield
3 2003 AL Boston Red Sox 2 John Burkett / Tim Wakefield
4 2000 AL New York Yankees 2 Roger Clemens / David Cone
5 1999 AL New York Yankees 2 Roger Clemens / David Cone
6 1995 AL Cleveland Indians 2 Orel Hershiser / Dennis Martinez
7 1993 AL Toronto Blue Jays 2 Jack Morris / Dave Stewart
8 1990 AL Texas Rangers 2 Charlie Hough / Nolan Ryan
9 1989 AL Texas Rangers 2 Charlie Hough / Nolan Ryan
10 1985 NL Houston Astros 2 Joe Niekro / Nolan Ryan
11 1984 NL Houston Astros 2 Joe Niekro / Nolan Ryan
12 1983 NL Houston Astros 2 Joe Niekro / Nolan Ryan
13 1983 NL New York Mets 2 Tom Seaver / Mike Torrez
14 1982 NL Houston Astros 2 Joe Niekro / Don Sutton
15 1947 NL Philadelphia Phillies 2 Dutch Leonard / Schoolboy Rowe
16 1945 NL Chicago Cubs 2 Paul Derringer / Claude Passeau
17 1945 AL Washington Senators 2 Dutch Leonard / Johnny Niggeling
18 1934 AL Chicago White Sox 2 Milt Gaston / Sad Sam Jones
19 1933 AL Chicago White Sox 2 Milt Gaston / Sad Sam Jones
20 1932 AL Chicago White Sox 2 Milt Gaston / Sad Sam Jones
21 1926 AL Washington Senators 2 Stan Coveleski / Walter Johnson
22 1915 FL Chicago Whales 2 Mordecai Brown / George McConnell
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/29/2011.

If you take out the knuckle-ballers and Nolan Ryan, it doesn't really happen all that often. Can the Yankees Bartolo Colon (38) and Freddy Garcia (36) make the list this season? The odds are against them.

25 Responses to “25+ Starts In A Season By 2+ RHP Age 36 Or Older”

  1. Dvd Avins Says:

    It happened more often in the steroid era, of course. And people still act like I'm slaughtering a sacred cow when I point out that Ryan's famous fitness regimen sure makes him look like a Johnny Appleseed who was pushign something otehr than hard cider.

  2. John Autin Says:

    Indeed, the odds are against Garcia and Colon making 25 starts -- but as much as history is against them, perhaps an even bigger factor is that they didn't begin the season in the Yankees' rotation. Neither one started until game 13, missing 3 full turns through the rotation, and leaving only 30 turns for each to amass 25 starts.

  3. BSK Says:

    Yankee fans better hope they don't. While Colon and Garcia have started well, I am doubtful they can sustain this success over a season. If those two combine to start 1/3 of Yankee games, they could be in for a long season.

  4. Simarc Says:

    Seaver and Torrez...yeah, I watched that debacle in '83. Seaver had flashes of brilliance that year then went to Chicago and had a revival for 2 more seasons. Torrez was just awful and it shows you how bad that team was that he could get that many starts. I think he led the league in losses, walks and earned runs allowed.

  5. Liam Says:

    If Garcia and Colon make 25 starts combined it will be considered a huge success signing these guys off the trash heap. Yanks will most likely trade for an SP - I don't see either of those guys making a post season start for yanks

  6. Artie Z Says:

    The last 7 teams to do this have actually not been too bad:

    2004 Red Sox - won the World Series
    2003 Red Sox - lost in ALCS
    2000 Yankees - won World Series
    1999 Yankees - won World Series
    1995 Indians - lost World Series
    1993 Blue Jays - won World Series

    The only team not to make the postseason since the 1990 Rangers was the 1998 Giants, who finished 89-74, but they lost a one game playoff to get into the playoffs (the Cubs beat them and won the wild card).

  7. Doug Says:

    35 years between the '47 Phillies and '82 Astros.

    Good indicator of how hard it was for pitchers in that period with pitching full-out for the entire game (unlike "pacing" as pitchers practiced in earlier years), pitching ridiculous numbers of innings, and not having proper physical therapy between starts. Hardly a surpirse that Koufax and Drysdale (and others) broke down early.

  8. 25+ Starts In A Season By 2+ RHP Age 36 Or Older » Stathead » Blog Archive Says:

    [...] 25+ Starts In A Season By 2+ RHP Age 36 Or Older: Steve Lombardi of B-R finds teams that used a lot of old righty starters. [...]

  9. Artie Z Says:

    @7 - Is that true or could there be other explanations? Jackie Robinson breaking the color line in 1947 brought in a whole untapped labor pool which may have brought in younger, better players, spaced out expansion in the 1960s and 1970s may have made it less likely that two durable 36 year old pitchers were on the same staff. There may be other explanations - not sure.

    Also, look at the teams before 1947:

    1915 Whales - the Federal League is kind of a major league, but not on par with the AL and NL.

    1926 Senators - two Hall of Famers

    1932-1934 White Sox - it's almost like one observation since it is the same two guys

    1945 Senators and Cubs, 1947 Phillies - these are basically right after WWII, and two of them include Dutch Leonard

    So you have a team in what is basically an expansion league, an aberration where two HOFers were on the same team, 3 observations of the same pair, and 3 teams right after WWII. It's not really like it was being done regularly prior to 1947.

  10. Doug Says:

    @9. Artie Z.

    I hear what you're saying.

    This actually hasn't been a common occurrence at any time. Since 1982, there's also been lots of duplication in the occurrences: Nolan Ryan (5 times), Joe Niekro (4) and Hough, Clemens, Cone, Wakefield and Hershiser (twice each).

    If you look at the periods here, you've got:
    - 1901-47 (47 years): 8 occurrences
    - 1948-81 (34 years): zero occurrences
    - 1982-2010 (29 years): 14 occurrences

    So, almost two-thirds of the occurences have occurred in just over one-quarter of the study period.

    I still think the change starting in the 80s can be mainly attributed to better pitcher care (more moderate and better managed workloads, between start physical therapy) that has enabled pitchers to last longer and still pitch at maximum performance levels.

  11. John Autin Says:

    I was thinking about Doug's conclusion @10 -- that today's pitchers last longer while still pitching at maximum performance levels.

    For now, I'll put aside the question of just what are "maximum performance levels"; I think there's clearly a difference in value between, say, Tim Lincecum's 225 IP per year and Sandy Koufax's 300+ IP. But mainly I wanted to look at whether pitchers really do last longer.

    Of course, that phrase, too, is ambiguous; do we mean years, i.e., games? -- or innings? So I ran a very quick-and-dirty study to look at both angles. I looked at pitchers born in four 20-year periods, spanning 1900-79, who made at least 100 career starts.

    The answer to the question varies according to which angle you focus on:

    Median career starts and innings for pitchers who made at least 100 starts:
    (1) Born 1900-19: Median starts = 191 ... Median innings = 1,607. (161 pitchers.)
    (2) Born 1920-39: Median starts = 199 ... Median innings = 1,590. (174 pitchers.)
    (3) Born 1940-59: Median starts = 231 ... Median innings = 1,670. (256 pitchers.)
    (4) Born 1960-79: Median starts = 237 ... Median innings = 1,507. (273 pitchers.)

    The median starts are much greater for the two more recent groups; but the median innings didn't change much. Comparing groups 1 and 3, the median starts for group 3 is 21% more, but the median innings is just 4% more. The median innings for group 4 is the lowest; however, about 1/5 of that group is still active.

    I'll note one big flaw in the study in a moment, but first a question: If the changes in usage and training have led to longer careers in terms of years and games, but no significant change in innings, is that really progress? One downside is that teams spend more, in salary and in roster spots, to get the same total value. The salary doesn't bother me so much, but 13-man pitching staffs drive me nuts. Platooning is essentially dead.

    One big flaw in the study (and I'm sure there are others): The time periods are arbitrary and unfair. I started with a 1900 birthdate in order to filter out the dead-ball era. I used 20-year periods so as to get groups numbering at least 100 but less than 400 (the latter cutoff only so that I could see the median without clicking to a second screen). The groups 1 and 2 include many pitchers who lost time to WWII service. Group 4 has many pitchers who are still active. Perhaps I will run this again with 10-year or 15-year groups.

    Suggestions? Better yet, can anyone point to a more rigorous study that's already been done?

  12. John Autin Says:

    Version 2 of my study @11, this time with 15-year periods:

    Median starts and innings for pitchers with at least 100 career starts, grouped by birth year:
    (1) Born 1900-14: Median starts = 192 ... Median innings = 1,650. (122 pitchers.)
    (2) Born 1915-29: Median starts = 187 ... Median innings = 1,559. (118 pitchers.)
    (3) Born 1930-44: Median starts = 231 ... Median innings = 1,766. (154 pitchers.)
    (4) Born 1945-59: Median starts = 220 ... Median innings = 1,558. (197 pitchers.)
    (5) Born 1960-74: Median starts = 238 ... Median innings = 1,555. (200 pitchers.)

    In this version of the study, group 2 has the bulk of the WWII service; group 1 has the rest. Only 5% of group 4 are still active (10 of 200), and just 2 are actively starting (D.Lowe and B.Colon); those medians won't move much.

    Doesn't group 3 seem the most productive? Most of those careers happened within the span of 1950-80.

    I'm not naive enough to draw any conclusions from this little study. But I don't see any evidence that today's workloads and training are leading to longer careers.

  13. Neil L. Says:

    JA, I am trying to wrap my mind around around the significance of your study. I know it's hard to document rigorous research in a relatively short post.

    "...... but 13-man pitching staffs drive me nuts. Platooning is essentially dead."

    Bear with me here, but not quite sure what you meant by that.

    @1 " It happened more often in the steroid era, of course.
    Dvd, I assume you were referring only to Clemens. Are there other names on Steve's list that you think were juiced?

  14. John Autin Says:

    @13, Neil L. -- What I meant about 13-man pitching staffs killing platooning:

    With today's individual pitchers carrying smaller workloads, a team needs more pitchers to pick up the innings slack. Almost every team now carries at least 12 pitchers on its 25-man roster, and several carry 13. In the '70s, 10 was pretty standard. With fewer position reserves, the practice of platooning -- having a lefty and a righty hitter split the starts at one position based on which way the SP throws -- has dwindled. To really commit to a platoon setup, a manager has to be willing to routinely make the in-game switch when called for.

    And there's a self-perpetuating aspect to this trend: Fewer reserve hitters means a better chance that a pitching move can be made to gain a lefty/righty advantage; as more such moves are made, those extra pitchers seem more important, and managers become more reluctant to make a lefty-righty pinch-hit move in, say, the 7th inning, knowing more lefty-righty pitching moves are coming.

    In 1977, the average AL team had 134 pinch-hit PAs. In 2010, that average was just 93.

    Some pitching numbers:
    -- In 1974, the NL champion Dodgers had only 9 pitchers who either appeared in 5+ games or pitched 10+ innings. Several teams in the '70s got through the season with just 10 pitchers appearing in 5+ games, including the world champion 1973-74 As and '77 Yankees; the pennant-winning '72 Reds and '75 BoSox; and the division-winning '73 and '79 Orioles, the '76 Phillies and the '77 Royals.
    -- In 1977, the average number of pitchers per team who pitched at least 5 games was 12.6. In 2010, that average was 18.8, an increase of almost 50%.

  15. Neil L. Says:

    John Autin, I get it. Too many pitching specialists. No more Garth Iorg/Rance Mulliniks major-league rosters.

  16. Nash Bruce Says:

    @13: you truly know, why, "everything is bigger and better in Texas".........

  17. Neil L. Says:

    Nash, thanks. I re-read Dvd @1 and realized he meant Nolan Ryan was using. I missed that the first time through.

    Don't know what planet I've been on, but I always thought Ryan beat Father Time naturally without any chemical help.

  18. Rich Says:

    Given they're both getting by on luck right now (although Colon not as much, but I imagine he's probably been a bit lucky) I can't imagine they will unless the Yankees are insane. Garcia has 15 strikeouts in 18 innings, but also 9 walks which is really bad. A lot of smoke and mirrors to have only a 2.00 ERA.

  19. Rich Says:

    "Almost every team now carries at least 12 pitchers on its 25-man roster, and several carry 13. In the '70s, 10 was pretty standard."

    May have been but I'm pretty sure it wasn't a 25 man roster either. Wasn't it 24? That would only be the difference of one bench player.

  20. Rich Says:

    Nevermind, it looks like they just experimented with 24 in the 80s

  21. Artie Z Says:

    @17 - I think its an open question as to who was using what and when they were using it. If we are going to perform a witch hunt on today's players, why do stars from yesteryear (or at least the 1970s and 1980s) get a free pass? Steroids certainly existed prior to Jose Canseco's appearance in MLB, and so it is not impossible to believe that some players used steroids in the 1970s and 1980s. Do we really believe the East German women's swim team, bodybuilders, football players, track and field stars, and probably some other athletes I'm forgetting used what would be classified as performance enhancing drugs, but baseball players of this era were "pure" (or only took amphetamines or did cocaine)? Steroids' ability to speed up recovery time and hence allow athletes to train longer and harder was definitely known by the mid-to-late 1980s.

    I believe Ryan was famous for having a grueling workout regiment - he's not the only one (I happen to be reading one of the Win Shares books again right now, and Steve Carlton comes to mind as another pitcher who is mentioned as having a grueling workout regiment) but I don't see how he can be above suspicion. He may be a medical marvel (there are outliers in performance), but in looking at Bill James' list of "best pitchers over 40 with the most career win shares" - Quinn, Niekro, Wilhelm, Young, Ryan, Spahn, Hough, Alexander, Perry, Faber, John, Doug Jones, Satchel, Dennis Martinez, Leonard, Lyons, Wynn, Vance. If you look at cumulative WAR>=5 for pitchers 40+ you get basically the same list with some new guys (Moyer, Clemens, Unit, David Wells) thrown in the mix. There are a lot of knuckleballer/junkballer types, some really old time greats like Alexander and Young who were pitching in a vastly different game (and may have been junkballers back then), and Jack Quinn (who I know little about but who appears to be a junkballer - even in 1928 28 Ks in 200+ IP seems to be low). I suppose Dazzy Vance is the only "fireballer" pre-Ryan who is on that list, but (1) he's way down the list and (2) his arm probably had less mileage on it than others' arms as he only pitched 33 Major League innings before he was 31.

    If you read through New Historical Abstract, and really look at some of the stories told about some of the players, it makes you wonder. Read the passage on Brian Downing (pg. 678) if you have the book or the story about Lance Parrish showing up to spring training with 10 extra pounds of muscle (pg. 307). I doubt it was as prevalent in baseball as in other sports because of the idea that one did not want to be "muscle bound"; of course, I don't think anyone would consider Ben Johnson (the sprinter) as "muscle bound" so one does not have to be a big hulk-like individual to be using anabolic steroids, a point which seems utterly lost in public discussions of steroids in baseball.

    Also, I'm pretty sure Ryan didn't beat Father Time without any medical help - either that, or he endorsed Advil but didn't use it. I always find it funny that many people (I don't mean many people on this board, but who I have talked to in general conversation) seem to think that taking steroids is like taking an aspirin - all you need to do is take it and results happen. I would guess that many players who take/took steroids are exactly like Nolan Ryan - fitness fanatics or at least training fanatics or perhaps they are just paycheck fanatics. These players likely took steroids so they could train harder, not because they were lazy.

    I don't really mean to rain on anybody's parade, and to use Nicholson's line "I'm an educated man but ... I don't have the first clue about Ryan's habits", but if his career started 10 years later there may be some suspicions - then again, maybe not, since the media seemed to love him.

  22. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I'm no expert on roster rules but I think the 25-man roster has been in force since at least 1920 or so. There was one season in the mid-late '80s when they tried 24.

  23. John Autin Says:

    @21, Artie Z -- Outstanding points. Your opening -- "it's an open question as to who was using what and when" -- is something that everyone should contemplate for a moment before starting any discussion about steroids.

  24. John Autin Says:

    When did teams try the 24-man roster? According to B-R Bullpen:

    "Major League teams decided to play with 24-man rosters during the first half of the 1978 season (i.e. until July 1) and during the entire season - except for the period of expanded rosters - from 1986 to 1989, as a cost-cutting measure in the face of escalating player salaries. The settlement of the 1990 strike made the 25-man roster a part of the basic collective bargaining agreement and it has not been touched since."

    Much more roster information and history is available on that page -- including the fact (previously unknown to me) that until the early '60s, rosters were expanded during the first month of the season, as well as the last.

  25. Johnny Twisto Says:

    There was a 24-man roster for four seasons 1986-9? That sounds very wrong to me. I see there's no source given for that (hard thing to source, I understand). I was sure it was just one year and while I'm fully cognizant that memory is faulty, four years sounds crazy to me. I think my memory is based more on stuff I've read after the fact, anyway.