Success of Nationals and Astros revives interest in starters


Washington went against the trend in baseball, which privileges bulky bullpens. The Nationals spent 39% of their payroll expenses on three openers: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin.

That stellar trio led the franchise to the first World Series title in its 51-year history.

The Houston Astros were left to a victory of what would have been their second championship in three seasons, thanks to a rotation headed by Gerrit Cole Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke.

In a sport where teams often mimic successful formulas, will starters recover prominence within the majors?

“It's my favorite question at all general manager meetings. It's the narrative that won the World Series, ”said Andrew Friedman, president of sports operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday. "I think that if they look at the World Series champions in the last five or 10 years, they are all great teams and they got there in somewhat different ways."

Openers averaged 5.2 innings of labor this year, the lowest figure since 1925, when baseballreference figures began to be released. The average was between 5.8 and 6.1 entries in each campaign, from 1993 to 2015, but has fallen for five consecutive seasons.

The New York Mets and the Nationals were leaders, with an average of 5.8 innings this year, followed by Cleveland with 5.7 and Houston with 5.6.

"If people are going to imitate us, we must be doing something right," said Washington general manager Mike Rizzo. “Starting pitching has been our philosophy. I hope we continue to use that formula for sustained success. ”

Cole and Strasburg are in the free agent market, along with Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Jake Odorizzi. Cole, a 29-year-old right who holds a 35-10 record during the last two seasons, would obtain an unprecedented contract for a pitcher, surpassing the one signed by David Price for $ 217 million and seven years with Boston before the campaign 2016, and the average salary of Verlander, of 31.33 million dollars, under a three-year agreement with the Astros, effective since 2019.

Jeff Luhnow, general manager of Houston, described elite starters as millionaires talk about luxury yachts.

“They are difficult to acquire and preserve. And there aren't so many out there, ”he said.

Washington recruited Strasburg as the first amateur draft pick of 2009, and retained it through a seven-year, $ 175 million deal, which the pitcher rescinded this month, with four campaigns and 100 million remaining. Scherzer signed for seven seasons and 210 million dollars, as a free agent before the 2015 campaign, and Corbin agreed for six years and 140 million in the open market, in December.

Houston followed a different route, acquiring its aces in exchanges and then signing long-term agreements. Verlander was obtained in a barter with Detroit on August 31, 2017, by three prospects. In March, he entered into a contract that added two years and 66 million until 2021.

Cole landed from Pittsburgh in January 2018, for four players, and had two years under the control of the club, which cost the Astros $ 20.25 million. Greinke arrived from Arizona in July, before the deadline for redemptions expired, in exchange for four prospects.

It will cost Houston almost $ 50 million for two seasons and a third.

"In general, the more flexibility we give ourselves for the future, the better we will be as an organization," Luhnow said. "Having said that, there are certain players that cannot be acquired through short-term exchanges."

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