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Three days rest: Carpenter, Spahn, Maddux, and … Loaiza?

Oct 3, 2011, 1:48 PM EDT

Chris Carpenter

For the first time in his 14-season, 339-start career Chris Carpenter started on short rest last night and it didn’t go well, as he failed to make it out of the fourth inning while allowing four runs to put the Cardinals in an early hole.

St. Louis came back to win, so rightly or wrongly few people are questioning Tony La Russa’s decision today. But mostly Carpenter making his first short-rest start at age 36 got me wondering about short-rest starters throughout baseball history.

Details from the early 1900s are often incomplete, but based on the data Baseball-Reference.com has available here are the all-time leaders in starts made on three days rest:

Warren Spahn      282
Jim Kaat          282
Gaylord Perry     280
Jim Palmer        257
Phil Niekro       255
Don Drysdale      253
Mickey Lolich     251
Jim Bunning       241
Fergie Jenkins    226
Robin Roberts     219

Warren Spahn debuted in 1942 and you’ll notice that most of those other pitchers are from the 1960s and 1970s, when four-man rotations made starts on three days rest commonplace. But how about more recently? Here’s the same list, but from 1990 forward:

Greg Maddux        30
Mike Moore         24
Scott Erickson     24
Tom Glavine        23
John Burkett       21
John Smoltz        20
Terry Mulholland   20
Tim Wakefield      19
Esteban Loaiza     19
Chuck Finley       19

Of the 10 pitchers to make 19 or more starts on three days rest since 1990, three of them were in the Braves’ rotation for most of the 1990s. And the leader since 2000? Esteban Loaiza, with 10. Obviously.

It also should be noted that knuckleballer Wilbur Wood not only made 153 starts on three days rest in the 1960s and 1970s, he also made 71 starts on two days rest. And in those 71 starts he had a 2.67 ERA.

  1. cur68 - Oct 3, 2011 at 2:35 PM

    MLB needs more knuckleball pitchers. They are a market inefficiency.

  2. mianfr - Oct 3, 2011 at 3:18 PM

    That’s why there’s such a long history of great knuckleball pitchers who were far and away staff aces.

  3. spudchukar - Oct 3, 2011 at 3:41 PM

    Didn’t Wilbur Wood pitch both games of a double-header?

    • unconventionalidiot - Oct 3, 2011 at 3:52 PM

      Yes, he did – July 20, 1973 against the Yankees. He lost both games.

  4. adenzeno - Oct 3, 2011 at 9:43 PM

    I keep wondering when MLB will return to the 4 man ritation- wi pitchers only throwing 100 pitches/7 innings anymore,why would it be hard to do?(other than agents etc) To paraphrase Weaver- 5 man rotation gives starts to your 5th guy instead of your 1 and 2 guys-you could go wi a 10/11 man pen and have more bench depth…

  5. nkappel - Oct 3, 2011 at 10:53 PM

    Can’t seem to find this list on Baseball Reference. Can someone please post the link for me?

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