- Our SABR trip to Sugar Land brought us in touch with the news that former Houston Astro Jason Lane had just joined the Skeeters on Friday night, arriving in time to play left field in the earlier day first game of the Skeeters’ doubleheader. He went 1 for 3, but missed a chance in the 7th inning to drive in what would have been the game-winning run. Lane did not play in the second game, which the Skeeters also lost.
We also learned from the Skeeters folks that Jason has now gone back to his USC roots to combine left-handed pitching with his everyday role as an outfielder. The thought aroused interesting possibilities that I later discussed with Tal Smith during the game. If Jason Lane can handle both roles, I wondered, is there a possibility that the Skeeters might us use him for more than one “special lefty” appearance in the same game out of the pen. I could recall clubs in the Texas League doing that sort of thing “once upon a time,” but I wasn’t sure if the rules still allowed a man who never leaves the game to make more than one double position shift appearance as a pitcher in the same game. So, I asked Tal Smith about it.
Tal said that it was possible. As long as a player was double shifting from a field position spot to pitcher, he could do it as often as he proved to be effective and never left the game in between his separate appearances on the mound. (I later learned from someone else that a designated hitter is not permitted to double shift back and forth with a pitcher, but that the field position players could do so unlimited times and remain eligible to pitch again as long as they never left the game as active players.
Wow! The thought of possible success here is mind-boggling!
A good position player with an effective rubber pitching arm, especially if he were a lefty, as Lane is, could be a Godsend answer to that special pitcher you bring into certain situations to face one batter. As manager, you could do it as many times as it worked – as long as the player stayed in the game as a fielder in between these separate mound appearances.
As Tal Smith pointed out, there’s no current rule against the move, as he also noted that Paul Richards used to use the move back in the early 1950s. I’m not sure if Richards, or any other MLB manager ever used the same stays-in-game-elsewhere pitcher for more multiple separate appearances in the same game. At some point, such a practice would run crashing into the current rules for pitching wins, holds, and saves. A pitcher cannot get the “W” and a “Sv” in the same game, but the multiple times use of the same guy as pitcher in the same would set up the fun. – If a lefty-out-of-the-pen in the 6th just happened to be the pitcher of record when his team took the lead, and then left, but later returned in the 9th to retire the last man in a one-run lead game with the bases loaded, he would not be entitled to the normal “Sv” that usually goes with success in that moment because he was already on record as the winning pitcher.
It’s not just mind-goggling. It’s mind-numbing. You can almost hear the bricks falling off the great wall of baseball tradition.
It’s highly improbable that Jason Lane, or anyone else, is going to become this history-twisting guy, but it is intriguing to consider that the possibility is out there for someone to do it. It’s not against the current rules.
The wizened Mr. Tal Smith put the serious cap on this whole “what if” business. “If a club ever came up with a player who could succeed on a regular basis in that role,” Smith added, “you can bet that there would be a large group of teams who had no such player clamoring for a change in the rules that would make multiple pitching appearances by one player in the same game illegal.”
Today’s subject is like so many others in baseball. It simply proves, once again, that it’s not merely the probabilities of the game that fill our cups of interest. We baseball people also feed on thoughts of the possible, no matter how improbable these possibilities may be.