Can rookie starting pitchers help win a pennant?

rookiepitcher

If you are a baseball fan you know the importance of starting pitching, especially if a team is looking to go deep into the playoffs and potentially win a World Series. But what if I told you that what is also important about starting pitching is having a “veteran” starting staff… not having a dependence on rookie starting pitchers during a pennant drive.

Case in point: Look at the stats for starting pitchers this season (through games of August 26). Of the six teams leading their division (Baltimore, Kansas City, L.A. Angels, Washington, Milwaukee and L.A. Dodgers) these teams have had a combined total of only seven games started by rookie pitchers, an average of 1.2 per team. Of the other 24 teams, there have been 299 games started by rookie pitchers, an average of 12.5 per team.

Let’s look at it another way… Of the 15 teams that have records above .500, those teams have started rookie pitchers in 91 games, about 6.3 starts per team. Of the 15 teams that are at .500 or below, those teams had started 211 rookie hurlers, an average of 14.1 per team. Another way to state this stat is that of the 306 games started by rookie pitchers in 2014 (through August 26), 69% of them were started by teams at .500 or below; 31% were started by teams above .500.

Here’s a look at how many games have been started by rookie pitchers by each of the 30 MLB teams through games of August 26.

0: Baltimore, L.A. Angels, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, San Francisco
1: Kansas City, L.A. Dodgers
2: Boston
3: Houston, St. Louis
5: Washington
9: Detroit, Miami
13: Cleveland
14: Philadelphia
15: Chicago White Sox, Toronto
16: Minnesota
18: Texas, Chicago Cubs
23: N.Y. Mets
24: San Diego
25: Seattle
27: Arizona, Colorado
38: N.Y. Yankees

If we look at the past 10 World Series champs, we see that only three (2006, St. Louis; 2007, Boston and 2010 San Francisco) had 10% or more of their regular season pitching starts during their title season started by rookie pitchers. Five of the 10 had fewer than five starts by rookie pitchers that championship season: 2004, Boston; 208 Philadelphia; 2009 N.Y. Yankees; 2011 St. Louis; and 2012 San Francisco).

Keep an eye on the pennant races during September. How many teams in the thick of the race will have to depend on a rookie pitcher to start a game… or more? And will that dependence hurt or help their pennant chase?

Follow Jerry on twitter @StatsonTapp

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