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When I began to dive into this pitching game log analysis, I remembered this time in my life:

The year is 2005. Young Rodrigo Motoyama is playing little league U-12 as a C/LF. While playing catcher I knew pitchers could only go a maximum of 4 innings pitched, because that was the rule at the time. In order to prevent injuries, the CBBS (Brazilian confederation of baseball and softball in Portuguese) had this rule in place limiting innings the young arms could work through the weekend. Only 15 outs were allowed per U-12 pitcher per day.

I also knew that opposing pitchers could only go five innings a day, so if we faced a team in their second game of the day, we knew their ace was probably not on the mound in our game.

Strategies were made based on this concept. My team has been crowned Brazilian champions in a U-14 league because our coach did not use the ace in the semifinals, and he pitched gloriously in the final game. Unfortunately, that was not me. At the time my athletic features were good enough for a backup catcher/left fielder because I could not hit.

Why is he talking about little league days that he did not even play?

I’ll tell you why!

Because this article needs an introduction that doesn’t seem forced. But also, to give context is important – both in little league, and the big leagues.

When a pitcher is scheduled to play or not that can tell us something. So why don’t we talk about what it can tell us?

Rest

I’ll borrow the definition from an article on Fangraphs to start defining my types of rest.

So short rest is considered in this article as one to three days, normal rest as four to six, and seven-plus days is extended rest.

Analyzing last year’s game logs for pitchers who had at least seven games started, which gave us a sample size of 4,388 starts, we got to these numbers.

Percentile 1% 5% 10% 25% 30% 40% 50% 75% 80% 90%
Days of Rest 4 5 5 5 5 5 6 6 7 7

We can see that around 1% of the starts on our database were performed with a short rest, and around 20% were performed by guys on long rests.

Let’s break it down a little more to see what pops up!

Short Rest

Out of 4,388 starts, only 55 were played by a starting pitcher in a short-rest schedule. Some of those I am not sure we can really call a short rest, but I’ll leave that to you.

Starting pitchers on short rest did not perform well, nor did it have any sort of pattern.

Reynaldo Lopez and Paolo Espino had the most short-rest starts of all players, but none of those starts came after other starts. They followed relief appearances.

Only one guy pitched six-plus innings, and it was Marcus Stroman, after a 7-pitch-start two days prior due to rain.

They averaged less than 4 innings pitched and 60 pitches per game.

Basically, just avoid this area, please.

Normal Rest

Now we get to the fun part. Here is concentrated most of my analysis, so please hang in there.

Normal rest starts were made 3,455 times – including the first start of the year – and we got an interesting percentile ranking on earned runs (ER), IP per start, and pitches per start.

Percentile 1% 5% 10% 25% 30% 40% 50% 75% 80% 90%
ER 0 0 0 1 1 2 2 4 4 8
IP/Start 1.05 2.2 3.14 4.2 5 5 5.1 6 6 7
Pitches/Start 34.5 56 67 79 82 86 89 97 98 103

Wins are always hard to predict, but this can maybe give us some light on the matter. Almost 80% of the starts were made on a normal rest schedule, and around 70% of those were 5-plus innings. So if you are looking for wins, guys under normal rest schedules seem a good fit.

However, this is a very broad table. What else can we take from this game log? I am glad you asked, because it was overwhelming to work with this much data, and I have a lot to say. Check it out!

The Faithful

These are the guys you can trust. They got you back. Day in and day out they are there for you, with five to six days of rest, obviously. Check out our top 13!

Consistency could be their middle name, don’t you think? And I know, this doesn’t really tell us much about their performance, or almost anything for that matter, but there is one thing we can spot, and I learned the value of this after I joined the SP Streamer team: they will give you volume! May not be the volume you want, but it is the volume they have. And also, in order for a breakout or a bounce-back (Patrick Corbin), the guy needs to play! That is the start of everything.

Player Games n Average Pitches (Normal Starts) ERA (Normal Starts) Average ER (Normal Starts)
Aaron Nola 32 30 92.7 5.31 2.83
Frankie Montas 32 30 94.36 4.19 2.23
Julio Urias 32 30 87.43 3.18 1.9
Patrick Corbin 31 30 88.7 7.13 3.5
Sandy Alcantara 33 30 94.7 4.88 2.1
Walker Buehler 33 30 95.8 2.9 1.7
Zach Davies 32 30 81.63 7.51 2.9
Zack Wheeler 32 30 100.1 3.05 2.07
Adam Wainwright 32 29 96.06 3.71 2.1
Charlie Morton 33 29 89 3.45 2.07
Kevin Gausman 33 29 92.27 3.15 1.86
Luis Castillo 33 29 96.20 5 2.62
Tyler Mahle 33 29 96.48 4.65 2.31

But, if you are not satisfied, the next few tiers may put a smile on your face.

The Machines

Yes, I had some fun creating these tier names. Please, enjoy (or I am sorry).

Here we have our guys who can throw. Do they throw hard? Where do they throw? I am not sure, but they for sure can throw some games with 90-plus pitches.

Player Games n Average Pitches ERA Average of ER (Normal Rest)
Zack Wheeler 32 29 101.03 2.85 2.03
Walker Buehler 33 27 98.81 2.04 1.44
Sandy Alcantara 33 24 98.95 2.29 1.54
Tyler Mahle 33 24 99.79 3.04 1.83
Luis Castillo 33 23 101 3.11 2
Robbie Ray 32 23 100.08 3.08 1.96
Adam Wainwright 32 22 101.04 2.86 1.86
Frankie Montas 32 22 99.36 3.22 1.73
Kevin Gausman 33 22 95.90 2.45 1.64
Mike Minor 28 22 96.27 4.85 3.05
Sean Manaea 32 22 97.72 3.44 2

Throwing and pitching are not the same things, right? But, in order to go deep in games, most of the time we need stamina. We need the body to handle 90-plus pitches, and it doesn’t hurt when it is done with a good performance. Some guys there may even deserve a deep dive to see what happened.

Ok. They can throw a lot of baseballs. But who can throw and perform at the same time? I mean, who are the good machines? Let’s find out, shall we?

The Autobots

The good machines. The guys with stamina and who have an above-average performance, or in this case, games with ER lower or equal to 2 with 90-plus pitches. (And we have our Optimus Prime)

Player Games n Average Pitches ERA Average ER
Walker Buehler 33 21 99.38 1.13 0.86
Sandy Alcantara 33 19 100.36 1.36 1
Brandon Woodruff 30 18 98.61 1.37 0.94
Adam Wainwright 32 17 101.88 1.69 1.24
Max Scherzer 30 17 102.23 1.26 0.88
Zack Wheeler 32 17 102 0.96 0.71
Frankie Montas 32 16 99.06 1.42 0.94
Kevin Gausman 33 16 96.62 1.25 0.94
Tyler Mahle 33 16 100.18 1.25 0.88
Gerrit Cole 30 15 104.06 1.33 0.93
Kyle Gibson 31 15 99.8 1.58 1.07
Robbie Ray 32 15 101.13 1.73 1.2
Sean Manaea 32 15 98.73 1.59 1

The top half of these tables are pretty steady, but the bottom half changing from one to another is very interesting. At the bottom, we have legit aces and first-round picks (Gerrit Cole), but also guys going above 100-plus in ADP (Kyle Gibson, Tyler Mahle, and Sean Manaea).

Guys who can perform well with a high pitch count through the year sound like a good deal. But can they go deep into games?

The innings eaters

The not so much machines. The guys who do not necessarily throw high pitch counts, but they will give the bullpen a rest going 5-plus innings. And interestingly enough, we have some guys who are not on the machines list on the top ten of this one.

Player Games n Average Pitches ERA Average ER
Julio Urías 32 29 87.44 2.82 1.76
Walker Buehler 33 28 98.10 2.03 1.43
Zack Wheeler 32 28 101.35 2.74 2
Frankie Montas 32 27 96.33 2.88 1.85
Sandy Alcantara 33 27 96.77 2.26 1.56
Adam Wainwright 32 26 98.46 2.41 1.69
Luis Castillo 33 26 98.76 3.16 2
Charlie Morton 33 25 92.96 3.41 2.12
Kevin Gausman 33 25 93.92 2.35 1.56
Gerrit Cole 30 24 100.87 3.64 2.25
José Berríos 32 24 96.87 2.91 1.96
Kyle Gibson 31 24 95.29 2.94 1.96
Marcus Stroman 33 24 88.54 2.71 1.75
Max Scherzer 30 24 98.5 2.37 1.5
Robbie Ray 32 24 97.41 2.91 1.92
Tyler Mahle 33 24 98.70 3.24 2

If you are looking for wins, this is the place to start. Differently from high pitch counts, high pitched innings means that they may not have the gas to play through the year with 90-plus pitches per game, but they for sure can deliver some innings for you. The success Urías had, for example, is something to keep an eye on. An average of pitches per game lower than 90, and 29 out of his 30 normal rest games (first table) were above five innings pitched. I guess finesse is his middle name.

But once again, we want to know. Eating innings is enough? If we want quality innings, who can we turn to?

The inning diners

There is a difference between eating and dining. In our case is an ER lower or equal to 2. Here are our fancy eaters!

Player Games n Average Pitches ERA Average ER
Julio Urías 32 22 88.5 1.61 1.05
Walker Buehler 33 22 98.45 1.16 0.86
Sandy Alcantara 33 21 98.85 1.28 0.95
Adam Wainwright 32 20 99.55 1.63 1.2
Max Scherzer 30 20 99.4 1.22 0.85
Brandon Woodruff 30 19 97.31 1.3 0.89
Kevin Gausman 33 19 93.89 1.31 0.95
Marcus Stroman 33 19 88 1.98 1.26
Frankie Montas 32 18 97.77 1.45 0.94
Kyle Gibson 31 17 97.94 1.47 1
Tyler Mahle 33 17 99.05 1.6 1.06
Zack Wheeler 32 17 102 0.96 0.71

In need of quality innings? These are the guys for you. The K rate may vary, but they all are going to give you quality innings in at least half of their starts.

Gibson and Mahle surprised me here in these lists. There may be a lot to unpack with Gibson in Philadelphia and Mahle in Cincinnati with a bunch of guys gone, but the normal rest schedule seems to fit them very nicely.

Long Rest

The end of our ride. The 878 games left are here, and here are their percentiles!

Percentile 1% 5% 10% 25% 30% 40% 50% 75% 80% 90%
ER 0 0 0 1 1 2 2 4 4 5
IP/Start 0.2 2.1 3 4 4.1 5 5.1 6 6 6.2
Pitches/Start 29 49 60 74 77 82 86 94 96 101

No, I didn’t copy and paste the normal rest table. They are that similar. Almost every percentile has the same number, but with a whole bunch of different guys.

And here they are!

The Rested

Resting is important. It can avoid injuries, help with fatigue throughout the year, or just let you hit as DH on the days you don’t pitch. Whatever the reason is, these guys got the ball more rested than any other.

Player Games Total Starts n Average Pitches ERA Average ER
Shohei Ohtani 23 23 16 88.12 9.05 2.19
Alex Cobb 18 18 12 87.08 5.68 2.67
Andrew Heaney 30 23 12 94.5 5.92 2.83
Carlos Rodón 24 24 12 91.66 2.2 1.17
Dylan Bundy 23 19 11 71.81 8.82 3.09
Brett Anderson 24 24 9 62.55 2.9 1.11
José Suarez 23 14 9 88.33 4.87 2.56
Chris Flexen 31 31 8 86.62 9 3.25
Corbin Burnes 28 28 8 91.12 3.73 1.75
JT Brubaker 24 24 8 77.12 6.98 3.5
Lance Lynn 28 28 8 82.75 2.52 1.62
Lucas Giolito 31 31 8 98.25 4.12 2.25
Marco Gonzales 25 25 8 81.62 7.05 3.25
Michael Wacha 29 23 8 63.87 2.36 1

Don’t worry. We won’t go through as many tables as we did for normal rest pitchers, especially because they don’t really change that much from one condition to the other, but it is nice to locate ourselves on who do we have resting longer.

The list is quite interesting. It goes from aces to fifth starting pitchers. This could mean that some guys need this in order to succeed.

Who do you think to take the most value from this rest?

The Good Foods

Everyone knows one restaurant where their dads won’t go because the line is always too long. Some of these lines are ridiculous for some ok food, but some are worth the wait. These pitchers are those lines. They are the “good food” worth to wait, and I would keep an eye on them when they come to the mound because in this scenario they can go 5-plus IP with an ER lower or equal to 2.

Player Long Rest Starts n Average Pitches ERA Average ER
Shohei Ohtani 16 10 96.3 1.85 1.3
Carlos Rodón 12 9 90.77 0.97 0.56
Alex Cobb 12 6 89.66 0.99 0.67
Alek Manoah 6 5 95 0.96 0.6
Andrew Heaney 12 5 94.2 1.51 1
Brett Anderson 9 5 66.6 2.52 1.4
Corbin Burnes 8 5 97.8 1.17 0.8
Lance Lynn 8 5 88.4 1.16 0.8
Lance McCullers Jr. 5 5 103.2 2.09 1.4
Max Fried 7 5 86 1.38 0.8
Steven Matz 7 5 85 1.11 0.8

Pitching every five days may be too much for some of these guys to handle, but when they get the ball well-rested, we can see some of them dominating.

The sample is indeed small, but some guys can perform very well a good amount of times when rested. If you are looking to stream someone, maybe a long-rested pitcher could be someone to take a closer look at.

Also, pairing some of these guys with the more steady ones we saw earlier is never a bad idea. You may not get the volume you want from some of these guys, but sometimes it’s good to have a solid production in a mid-volume guy, then an average production with a high-volume pitcher.

As it is with everything in life, balance is key here.

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