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.
This is an article from the Dec. 7, 2015 issue
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.