THE SCIENCE OF BASEBALL sometimes includes mad scientists. Sure, there’s the famous shift – often employed against Big Papi – where the field is stacked on the right, leaving the entire third base side wide open. But then there’s craziness like this:
Braves manager Bobby Cox was desperate, and he was plotting an ingenious plan. He was nearly out of right-handed pitchers, and players can’t re-enter a game after they’ve been removed. If Mr. Resop, a righty, could play the outfield, that would allow Mr. Cox to replace him on the mound temporarily — and use a lefty specialist to pitch to Adam LaRoche — without losing him entirely. So after Mr. Resop pitched to three batters in the top of the 10th inning, Mr. Cox had him go to left field. When Mr. Resop returned to the pitcher’s mound one batter later, it marked the first time a pitcher had pitched, played the field and pitched again in the same game since Jeff Nelson of the Seattle Mariners in 1993, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
But if Mr. Melvin had his way, the Brewers organization might be even more progressive. He has another counterintuitive idea: using relievers to start the game, and delaying the “starting” pitcher’s entrance until the third inning or so. The thinking is that starters are typically among a team’s best pitchers, yet nowadays they often pitch only through the fifth or sixth inning, well before many games are decided. By having them pitch later, they’d be around for the higher-leverage innings.
The idea would need to be tested first in the minor leagues, Mr. Melvin says. The only problem, it appears, is that it’s too unconventional. “I can’t get anybody to do it,” he says.