[Baseball History] Ruling out strategy
Ford Fricks Asterisk : May 16, 2007 04:42 PM

With the constantly increasing specialization of bullpens, I sometimes wonder why no manager has the cajones to pull the ol' interchanging pitchers strategy anymore. If a pitcher struggles badly against a certain hitter, or if you want your lefty facing 3 of the next 4 hitters, but not that fourth one, move the pitcher to a different position where he isn't likely to see action, and then move him back to the mound after that at bat. This seems like a natural for Tony LaRussa, but here are few things I didn't realize...

Although it has been used a few times since, this strategy has basically been dead since Paul Richards left the White Sox in the mid-'50s. Even then it was rare enough that people took note when Richards did it. Yet, despite the rarity of it, MLB has since adopted a rule that kills a lot of its advantages. There is now a clause in rule 3.03 that allows the pitcher to switch positions on the field only once in an inning. So if you move the pitcher to some other spot on the field, he's stuck there until either the third out is recorded or the manager replaces him. I really don't understand why MLB adopted a rule that largely eliminated an under-utilized but interesting strategy of the game.

Getting back to Richards... He used this strategy once in 1951, again in 1953, and twice in 1954. In 1951 he removed right-hander Harry Dorish, and used lefty Billy Pierce to face Ted Williams. What I love about this move is that we usually hear about the pitcher taking up some corner of the outfield, but Dorish moved to third base. Since Williams was a notorious pull hitter from the left side, and teams regularly played the extreme "Williams shift" on him, third base was actually the least likely place on the field for Williams to hit the ball. Unfortunately, I don't know what the result of the at-bat was, except that Dorish never made a play in his one batter career at 3B.

When Richards tried the move again in 1953, he used the same two pitchers, but this time had Dorish come in to face two right-handers. Now here's the head scratcher -- Pierce must have been considered a pretty good athlete, because he was moved over to replace the first baseman. One of the two batters Dorish faced grounded out, giving Pierce a putout while he was over there.

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Swampudlian : May 17, 2007 08:10 AM

Our good friend Birdy could probably address this one... Or his buddy Aggie... Wasn't there a game that went something like 15 or 16 innings where Davey Johnson put Jesse Orosco in right field and swapped him in to face tough lefties? Or did Orosco go to RF because they were simply out of bench players?

Swampudlian : May 17, 2007 08:50 AM

As always, retrosheet has the answers... From the game log of July 22, 1986, Mets in Cincinnati. We pick up after the end of regulation in a 3-3 game:

REDS 10TH: OROSCO REPLACED AGUILERA (PITCHING); Parker struck
out; ROSE BATTED FOR FRANCO; Rose singled to center; DAVIS RAN
FOR ROSE; Davis stole second; Davis stole third; Knight,
Davis, Mitchell and Soto ejected for brawl; BROWNING RAN FOR
DAVIS; Milner struck out; CARTER CHANGED POSITIONS (PLAYING 3B);
HEARN REPLACED K. MITCHELL (PLAYING C ); OROSCO CHANGED
POSITIONS (PLAYING RF); MCDOWELL REPLACED KNIGHT (PITCHING);
Rowdon grounded out (second to first); 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB.
Mets 3, Reds 3.

METS 11TH: WILLIS REPLACED BROWNING (PITCHING); Teufel flied out
to center; Hernandez doubled to right; Carter was walked
intentionally; Hearn grounded into a double play (pitcher to
shortstop to first) [Carter out at second]; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1
LOB. Mets 3, Reds 3.

REDS 11TH: Perez singled to center; Oester out on a sacrifice
bunt (third to second) [Perez to second]; Butera grounded out
(third to first); OROSCO CHANGED POSITIONS (PITCHING); MCDOWELL
CHANGED POSITIONS (PLAYING RF); Venable struck out; 0 R, 1 H, 0
E, 1 LOB. Mets 3, Reds 3.

METS 12TH: Orosco grounded out (second to first); McDowell
grounded out (shortstop to first); Johnson flied out to left; 0
R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Mets 3, Reds 3.

REDS 12TH: Bell singled to third; MCDOWELL CHANGED POSITIONS
(PLAYING LF); WILSON CHANGED POSITIONS (PLAYING RF); Parker
singled to right [Bell to second]; On a bunt Willis grounded
into a double play (first to third to second) [Parker to second,
Bell out at third]; Milner flied out to center; 0 R, 2 H, 0 E, 1
LOB. Mets 3, Reds 3.

METS 13TH: Wilson singled to center; Dykstra grounded out (first
unassisted) [Wilson to second]; Teufel struck out; Hernandez was
walked intentionally; Carter struck out; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 2 LOB.
Mets 3, Reds 3.

REDS 13TH: OROSCO CHANGED POSITIONS (PLAYING RF); MCDOWELL
CHANGED POSITIONS (PITCHING); WILSON CHANGED POSITIONS (PLAYING
LF); Rowdon grounded out (shortstop to first); Perez flied out
to right; Oester grounded out (second to first); 0 R, 0 H, 0 E,
0 LOB. Mets 3, Reds 3.

METS 14TH: Hearn doubled to center; Orosco walked; POWER
REPLACED WILLIS (PITCHING); McDowell struck out; Johnson homered
[Hearn scored, Orosco scored]; Wilson grounded out (second to
first); Dykstra grounded out (shortstop to first); 3 R, 2 H, 0
E, 0 LOB. Mets 6, Reds 3.

REDS 14TH: Butera grounded out (shortstop to first); Venable
grounded out (second to first); Bell grounded out (shortstop to
first); 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Mets 6, Reds 3.

Neat to note that the 2 pitchers were batting consecutively in the lineup... And Orosco scored on the 3-run bomb by HoJo. Also note that Orosco successfully fielded a fly ball in the bottom of the 13th.

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