Major league baseball roster rules have changed now and then over the years. Beginning in 1957, teams were required to reduce their active rosters to 28 players by opening day, with the final reduction to 25 players coming 30 days later. Starting 1968, the 25 man limit was in effect from opening day, although teams were allowed to carry 40 players after August 31. There was an exception in 1990 due to the spring training lock-out and that year teams were allowed 27 players until May 1 and then had to reduce the roster to 25 through August 31.
In today’s game we know that teams often carry more pitchers on the 25 man roster that they have in the past. I was curious to see what impacts we could find on Twins rosters going back to 1961. Would I find the Twins carrying more pitchers now then they did back then? Would I find any correlation to roster make-up based on if the team did well in the standings or had a bad year? Did certain managers want more bench players versus pitchers? What did I find?
I found that in the 51 years that the Twins have played ball that the least amount of hitters that the team has had in a single season on the active roster is 17 and that occurred in 1978 and again in 1994, the most hitters that the Twins have had on the active roster in any single season was 25 in 1993. That averages out to 21.18 different hitters/position players each season. As for the pitchers, the fewest pitchers the Twins used any season was 12 back in 1967 and again in 1972. The most pitchers taking the mound in any season in a Twins uniform was 24 and that happened twice, in 2009 and 2011. The average number of pitchers used by the Twins since 1961 is 16.92 per season. If you look at the chart below you can make a case that the number of hitters/position players used each season is staying relatively constant but the pitchers line seems to clearly indicate that the numbers of pitchers that major league clubs (at least the Twins) need each season is a steady upward trend.
Between 1965-1981 the Twins always used between 12 to 15 pitchers with one exception and that was 1978 and that year they used 16 pitchers. The DH came into play in 1973 but that rule change had very little to no impact on Twins pitchers. The Twins used just 16 pitchers each season from 1973-1977.
Why is the number of pitchers needed each season going up? Your guess is as good as mine. Is it pitchers pitching less innings? Are pitchers getting hurt more often? Are managers giving pitchers fewer opportunities to work themselves out of jams? Are teams just less patient with pitchers now then they were in the past? Is it pitch counts? Does it have to do with how the pitchers work out in the off-season? Who knows.
I find it interesting too that there have only been three years when the Twins have had more pitchers on the roster that hitter/position players and that was in 1989 and again in 2009 and 2011. In 2010 the Twins used 21 pitchers and 21 hitters.
Another thing that comes to mind is that “back in the day” there were double-headers being played all the time and the number of pitchers the teams used was down compared to now when there are no schedule double-headers. Strange but true.
So what conclusion can I draw here? Not much other than the fact that the numbers of pitchers used by teams today is greater than what was used in the past but we already knew that, didn’t we?
Something else that we can take away from this is that we need to understand that no matter what the 25 man roster may look like on Opening Day, you can be assured that by the time the season comes to and end, regardless if the Twins finish first, last, or somewhere in between that the Twins roster will change as the Twins use an average of 38.09 players each season.
Still, it was a fun thing to research on a cold January day as the snow falls on the great state of Minnesota. We have not had very much snow or cold weather for that matter so I have little to gripe about there.