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Here's One Way To Speed Up Games, Particularly In September

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Teams are carrying massive numbers of relief pitchers. This idea is intriguing.

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

There have been quite a number of proposals to change roster sizes, as well as possibly change the rules on September callups. The argument on the latter is -- and the point is valid -- that it changes the way games are played in September after they're played with one roster size for the season's first five months.

In an ESPN Insider article, Buster Olney sums up the issue:

[Last] Friday, television cameras panned the San Francisco Giants’ bullpen, with the pitchers sitting shoulder to shoulder, seemingly struggling to find enough room for all of the bodies, and Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper mentioned that the Giants were carrying seven left-handed relievers. Now almost a week later, San Francisco's bullpen is composed of 14 pitchers.

They aren't alone with that high volume. The Dodgers will carry 13 relievers for the rest of the month, and Washington started Wednesday's game with 37 active players.

You saw some of that maneuvering during last weekend’s Cubs/Giants series, where Bruce Bochy put a parade of relievers on Wrigley Field’s mound, resulting in a 3-2 game with 11 total hits lasting 3:13.

Olney proposes the following solution:

Here's one idea that is rooted in conversations with people in the sport: Limit the number of relievers available to managers at the outset of every September game, perhaps to six or seven, with others becoming available in cases of extra innings.

The rule could work this way: At the start of every game, managers would pick six relievers (or seven, depending on the number that teams settled on) active for the start of the game. All players with the major league team would get credit for service time, but they wouldn't necessarily be on the active roster at the outset of every game.

With credit for service time, the MLB Players Association would certainly sign off on this, as players on active rosters wouldn’t lose any time just because they weren’t active for any particular game. It would also create strategic decisions for managers — and we know how much the Commissioner’s office seems to like that, given that they’ve made replay review strategic with the challenge system.

I suspect the number of relievers available in such a system might even be set at eight for nine-inning games, since many teams (including the Cubs) now carry that many during the time of the 25-man limit, before September 1.

But this would make managers like Bochy think about how they want to use their bullpens. Even with callups resulting in 13- or 14-man bullpens (the Cubs currently have 11 active relief pitchers), this would help managers as they could deactivate guys who have thrown, say, three days in a row, to give them rest.

Joe Maddon has occasionally been creative with his bullpen usage in extra-inning games, using Travis Wood in the outfield. He could still do this under such a system if he felt the relievers he had active were the guys he wanted in the game (as opposed to someone from the “inactive” list).

I’d like to see this idea adopted. How about you?