Welcome To The Bridge Starter Era
MLB teams are facing a real dilemma. I’m just not sure if any of them realize it yet. Teams have to cover 1,458 innings next year if a full 162 game season gets played. We’re coming off a season a 60 game season where starters who normally crossed the 200 inning threshold now threw maybe 60 total innings.
Have teams thought about the fact that maybe their entire rotation is totally out of wack and could be totally unprepared to handle a full season? The sport is about to change and I’m not sure how many teams are truly ready for it. The era of the bridge starter begins now.
The average starter a year ago averaged fewer than 5 innings a year ago. We would have mocked that guy 20 years ago. Now it’s the sport. It’s possible even the best of the best aren’t pitching deep into games because they won’t be ready for a full workload after a shortened season. Teams must be ready to equip their rosters with that in mind.
Someone like Rich Hill becomes super valuable. We’re all just waiting for Hill to show his age but the man continues to fool hitters with his looping curveball. Hill, 40, is also coming off a season pitching towards an ERA of 3.03.
More importantly, Hill can make spot starts or come out of the bullpen to eat innings. Hill can be someone where you hand him the ball and say the 4th-7th inning are his. Maybe Hill isn’t built to pitch 200 innings but he can serve as an 80 inning multi-inning weapon. That’s what the sport is turning into.
Former starters with plus stuff that can eat multiple innings are now becoming very valuable. 2021 is going to be about innings, not about getting quality starts. Sure, there are guys like Jacob deGrom but they are a dying breed. It’s going to be challenging for even the best of the best to return to their normal workload after the shit show of the 60 game season.
Jose Urena is another example. Teams need to take fliers on these type of players. Urena was the Marlins opening day starter in 2018 but has sort of fell off the map the past two years. He’s also someone I’ve seen pitch at a high level in the past. Could his stuff play up in a bullpen role where he only has to pitch two innings?
That’s what the Mets are betting on after signing Trevor May to a contract this offseason. May was a failed starter with Minnesota but turned into a bullpen weapon that features an array of pitches.
It’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint to postseason play and I’m not sure anybody is ready for it after a short season. Burning through a bullpen in June could cost you a championship in October. Teams better be prepared to cover innings that starters otherwise would in other years. Are teams ready for the bridge starter era?