Why The Opener in MLB is Imperfect

by Alex Garrett

We all want to see a pitcher throw a perfect game. Kids become pitchers and they can only dream of doing what Don Larsen, David Wells and Cone achieved ! I don’t believe Don Larsen would have had a perfect game in this era of baseball.

On October 8th, 1956, Don Larsen threw a perfect game for the first and only time ever in the World Series. The Fall Classic kind of afternoon in the Bronx featured game five between the Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers . The funny thing is , Larsen got pulled after starting just 1 2/3 innings in game 2, by the great Casey Stengel. He walked four batters and allowed four runs and oddly enough gave up just one hit in a 13–8 game two loss.

If that game five decision was made with today’s analytics department, I truly believe Stengel would have been told to start an opener in a World Series game and then hand the reins over to Larsen! We all saw how amazing the opener worked for the 2020 Yankees in ALDS game two, right? I hope the Pinstripes never throw away a playoff game with a literal opener again .

Yet, I find it fascinating to think how much of a trajectory the Yankees franchise and baseball would have been on if they followed the ‘opener’ logic from the beginning. In our generation , we would have seen Mariano Rivera be an opener , not a closer for starters .

If you threw guys like Andy Pettitte or Roger Clemens or David Cone after an opener, they would shake their head at what the organization was trying to do in crucial postseason games!

Imagine if Whitey Ford was told he had to wait until the second or third inning because of an opening act of a start ? The Chairman would not be too pleased and would definitely be rattled . Imagine the late Tom Terrific being told he could not start against the Orioles in the 1969 World Series? It’s laughable ! Would Cardinal great Bob Gibson have been a HOFer if an opener started instead?

Our beloved baseball pitchers we praise and then mourn when they pass on became beloved because they’d gut it out game in and game out, not sit around waiting for someone else to start their start !

I’m not sure what the benefit of the opener is, it’s quite confusing ! When they adopted it in the regular season , I thought it was ridiculous . Now, it’s just malpractice to the game of postseason baseball , especially when your team is up 1–0 in the ALDS! Here are some recent stats on openers! While in 2019, Yankee baseball won 11 times with Chad Green, the playoff atmosphere is not the time to play tricks! ( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opener_(baseball))

A few years ago, Billy Beane’s ‘Beane Ball’ was immortalized in ‘Money Ball’. For him, stats, not watching a guy play in person totally, mattered more ! It brought success in the regular season, but the A’s never moved passed the ALDS against the dominant Yankees.

Personally, I don’t believe it’s all about the stats to save arms . By not starting a starter and throwing them in in the 2nd or 3rd inning,you throw them off their rhythm. By limiting a pitch count on them, it does something psychologically I have to believe while on the mound.

If we could get back to regular ball that would be fantastic and it starts with getting rid of the opener!