NO MORE ONE-BATTER RELIEVERS

December 07, 2015

RANDY CHOATE, the Cardinals' 40-year-old southpaw, appeared in 71 games last season. In 51 of them he pitched to only one batter, earning $3 million for 271/3 innings of work.

Choate (below) was only the most prominent beneficiary of a tactical trend managers are embracing more than ever: using ultraspecialized relief pitchers. In 2015 there were 1,398 single-batter relief appearances, 132 more than in '14 and a 34% increase from a decade ago. The practice saps momentum from what ought to be the most exciting portion of games and hinders Major League Baseball's pace-of-play initiatives. During late innings of close games fans spend as much time watching new pitchers warm up as they do actual baseball.

What can be done? It's simple: Require relievers to pitch to multiple batters unless, perhaps, they successfully finish an inning having faced only one. A minimum of three batters would be ideal, but we'll start gently, with two.

The players' union might not be on board with anything that harms the careers of a certain genre of player. But it should be. What's good for Randy Choate is bad for baseball.

PHOTODAVID E. KLUTHO FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)