How many starters does a MLB team really use?

Twins beat-writer Phil Miller wrote in past Sunday’s edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the Minnesota Twins could have as many as 12 different pitchers fighting for the five spots in the Twins 2017 starting rotation. Keep that number 12 in the back of your mind as you read this. Here are the pitchers Miller listed as possible starters in 2017.


Ervin Santana (R), 34: 7-11 last season, but his 3.38 ERA was 10th-best in the American League.

Phil Hughes (R), 30: Missed most of last season because of thoracic outlet syndrome. Gave up league-high 29 home runs in 2015.

Kyle Gibson (R), 29: Fourth year in rotation (98 starts), but ERA rocketed to 5.07 in 2016.

Hector Santiago (L), 29: Acquired from Angels last season. Another starter who gives up lots of home runs.

Jose Berrios (R), 22: Team’s top young pitching prospect has been bombed in majors (8.02 ERA).

Tyler Duffey (R), 26: In 26 starts last season his 6.43 ERA was worst among pitchers with more than 130 innings.

Trevor May (R), 27: Back injury hampered him last season, when he was a reliever. He wants to start.

Adalberto Mejia (R), 23: Picked up from Giants in Eduardo Nunez trade last season. In 566 minor league innings he has 487 K’s.

Nick Tepesch (R), 28: Had 39 starts for Texas in 2013-14. He missed 2015 because of shoulder issues; he’s on a minor league deal.

Ryan Vogelsong (R), 39: Grizzled veteran has 179 starts in 12 seasons; 3-7, 4.81 ERA for Giants last year.

Justin Haley (R), 25: Proven starter in Class AAA was picked up in the Rule 5 draft, meaning he’s likely to make the team.

Stephen Gonsalves (L), 22: Twins minor league pitcher of the year in 2016; was dominant at Class AA Chattanooga.

It would be nice to have quality over quantity but one has to play with the cards they are dealt or the starters they might have. In 2016 the American League teams used 157 different starters an average of 10.47 starters per team. The Toronto Blue Jays used only seven starters in 2016 while the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim sent 15 different starters to the mound. The Twins marched out 11 different pitchers to start their games in 2016.

The National League teams used 176 different starters in their quest for wins and that comes out to an average of 11.73 starters. The St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants only required eight starters each while the Atlanta Braves had double that, they needed 16 starters to get through the season. 

The Twins have used as many as 13 different starters in 1962 and 1995 and as few as six starters in 1972 but they only played 154 games that year. If you look at the Twins average number of starters used over the years per season you end up with 9.68 so even though the battle for the starting rotation will take place this spring and there will probably be five winners by Opening Day, there is no assurance they will be starting games at Target Field come September. Starting pitchers will be lost due to injury, performance, trades, and personal reasons so the more pitchers the Twins have ready to start big league games the better. The message to the pitchers who won’t be Twins starters on Opening Day is to hang in there because your turn is coming, be ready.

You can see the entire list of players by year that started games for the Minnesota Twins by going here.

Number of starters used by the Twins from 1961 through 2016


Now, on to something that shocked me, I had to run the numbers several times to make sure I had it correct. 

Number of different starters used by MLB teams between 1961 -2016

Rk Lg Tm #Matching
1   Texas Rangers 303
2   Cleveland Indians 270
3   New York Mets 264
4   Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 263
5   Chicago Cubs 263
6   New York Yankees 261
7   Oakland Athletics 261
8   Boston Red Sox 248
9   Cincinnati Reds 247
10   Detroit Tigers 246
11   Chicago White Sox 244
12   St. Louis Cardinals 240
13   Philadelphia Phillies 237
14   San Diego Padres 237
15   Milwaukee Brewers 224
16   Pittsburgh Pirates 224
17   Houston Astros 223
18   Baltimore Orioles 222
19   Minnesota Twins 222
20   Washington Nationals 220
21   Kansas City Royals 215
22   Atlanta Braves 213
23   Seattle Mariners 207
24   San Francisco Giants 203
25   Los Angeles Dodgers 193
26   Toronto Blue Jays 175
27   Colorado Rockies 140
28   Miami Marlins 119
29   Arizona Diamondbacks 102
30   Tampa Bay Rays 84
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/19/2017.

Who would have thought that with the Minnesota Twins pitching history that if you take out the expansion teams (Rays, Jays, Mariners, and Royals) from this list that the Twins would be tied with the Orioles in having used the fewest “different” starters in the American League. Remember that this list has nothing to do with starters used per season, it just shows that they have used 222 different individuals to start all their games from 1961 through the past season.

The number of starters required by MLB teams has grown over the years with 180 different pitchers starting games in 1961 to a peak of 313 in 2015. Last season 310 different pitchers started games for the 30 teams in MLB.

 Starting pitchers used in MLB 1961 thru 2016

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