Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo
- 36 position players have now pitched in 2018 — the most since the Expansion Era (1961).
- The Cubs even used two position players to pitch in a 7-1 game in the 8th inning.
- This developing trend will inevitably burn under bettors at some point.
After this past Sunday, 32 position players had pitched in 2018 — the most in the Expansion Era (since 1961). And we haven’t even reached August yet. Well, four more position players took the mound on Monday to bring that record total to 36, and it should be a concern for anyone betting MLB totals.
Monday, the Rangers sent outfielders Carlos Tocci and Ryan Rua to the hill in a traditional situation — trailing 15-3 in the eighth.
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I actually agree with the strategy. Why waste your bullpen with the game out of reach? Especially in an era when starters just don’t give teams the same length they once did. Unless a struggling arm needs work in a game situation, why not save your arms for a fight worth fighting?
Additionally, a few days after using three position players to pitch in the same game for the first time since 1979, the Cubs used two more to close out a 7-1 loss against Arizona. That total was 8.5.
Unlike the Rangers, Joe Maddon decided to use backup catcher Victor Caratini (technically on three days’ rest) and then first baseman Anthony Rizzo in a much less-traditional scenario. Chicago trailed only 7-1 in the eighth inning at the time.
What makes that situation unique? Well, for one, I don’t think a six-run lead is insurmountable with two innings remaining. We’re talking about a Cubs team that erased a double-digit deficit earlier this season against Atlanta.
More importantly, the total of 8.5 had yet to be decided. I don’t remember a position player ever pitching in a game with only eight total runs, but nothing surprises me anymore in 2018. We already saw the Diamondbacks use a position player to pitch in the fourth inning at Coors Field earlier this season.
Luckily for under 8.5 bettors (myself included), Caratini and Rizzo somehow didn’t allow a run over 1.1 innings. In fact, the duo needed only seven total pitches to record four outs — a small miracle for two guys throwing absolute junk, and not in a good way. Rizzo retired A.J. Pollock on two pitches — a 53-mph curve followed by a 61-mph meatball.
That under somehow hit — despite six runs in the first two innings and two position players pitching. But it won’t be much longer before a position player ruins a total. Especially if this record pace accelerates because managers want to have “fun” by putting in position players who really want to pitch. We saw that at Wrigley last night with Maddon laughing as he called for Rizzo, who has lobbied to pitch for quite some time.
While this will potentially occur only in one-off situations, mark it down as another reason to bet the first-five inning under instead of the full-game under — especially with fatigued bullpens late in the year.