Remember when pulling a pitcher in the middle of a no-hitter was a big deal? Like, it was so unusual that there was a whole passage in The Baseball Codes about Padres manager Preston Gomez doing it to Clay Kirby in 1970, and I’ve blogged about the topic again … and again and again. And again, and then another five times.
Boy have things changed. Welcome to Baseball 2021, where starting pitchers average 5.1 innings and complete games are a near-impossibility. Take Saturday, for example, when Corbin Burns no-hit Cleveland through eight innings, and was pulled prior to the ninth owing to having thrown a career-high 115 pitches. In his second full years as a starter, Burnes is one of the NL’s best pitchers. He’s averaging six innings per start. With Milwaukee on the cusp of the playoffs, management figured that his long-term health was not worth the risk.
Think about that for moment. Burnes was at 115 pitches, not a huge number for a stress-free game, generally speaking. With three outs to go he was virtually there. Burnes was, in fact, the first pitcher EVER to have been pulled while allowing no hits and only one baserunner across the first eight innings of a start. (That stat courtesy of The Athletic, which offered a nine-point list explaining why Burnes was yanked. One detail not mentioned in the Athletic: Major League pitchers have reached the 120-pitch threshold all of five times this season.)
When Burns’ manager told him that he would not be going out for the ninth he didn’t even seem to view it as unusual. Maybe it was such new territory for him that Burns didn’t have an instinctive frame of reference. Maybe the Brewers just really respect manager Craig Counsell’s decision-making. Or maybe this is the way baseball is now.
This is interesting mainly because of how little interest it actually holds. This kind of thing is the new normal.