Tuesday, August 20, 2013
THE DECLINE OF THE "EARLY SHOWER"
No, what we have here is failure--not to communicate, as the protagonist in Cool Hand Luke is able to transform into a virtually perfect storm of indiscriminate mayhem--but failure to make it out of the first inning.
As with just about everything that is shocking and extreme about the game, however, the incidence of starting pitchers being removed from the game prior to finishing the first frame has taken a nose-dive.
If this sounds vaguely epidemiological, that's because it is. Clearly the practices of managers have produced a decline in starters leaving in the first after a frightful shellacking. The peak of this "disease" occurs in 1965, and while there's the usual "up and down" motion to be found in the stats, it's pretty clear that it is all downhill from here.
Ironically, teams with nine-man pitching staffs pulled their starters in the first inning at a seriously elevated rate. Today, we are facing the extinction of the "early shower." The rate per 1000 batters was always near or above 30 until '65, and we've been in virtually uninterrupted decline ever since.
It's what you might call "an epidemic in reverse."