The Tampa Bay Rays Quest for the 1,000 Inning Rotation

Each season the 30 teams in Major League Baseball start their season with one common goal--win the World Series. At the end of each season, 29 teams go home disappointed. While a championship is always the ultimate goal, teams in Florida and Arizona are setting all kinds of benchmarks for the upcoming 2010 season.

Last year our own Tampa Bay Rays set a pretty lofty goal. Manager Joe Maddon said he wanted the Rays to win four gold gloves on the infield. Only Evan Longoria came away with the hardware, but sending all four members of the infield to St. Louis for the All-Star game was a nice conciliation prize.

In this year's camp, the biggest goals centers on the Rays' rotation. Whether it was the plan all along, or just fate, all five members of the 2010 Rays rotation are without inning restrictions. This means each pitcher can go upwards of 200 innings, and the rotation is shooting for 1,000 innings as a group.

In recent years, the 1,000 rotation has become a more rare accomplishment. Over the past 10 seasons, 40 different rotations have accumulated 1,000 innings in a season; however, just seven of them have come since 2006.

Year

# of teams

2009

1

2008

2

2007

2

2006

2

2005

9

2004

4

2003

5

2002

5

2001

4

2000

6

In the early part of the decade, a handful of rotations would reach four-digit territory each season. In 2005, the peak year, nine teams accomplished the feat. You can see that since that year, the number has declined all the way down to one team in 2009 (St. Louis Cardinals). The Chicago White Sox excelled at this, hitting 1,000 innings five consecutive seasons (2003-2007).

The Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays franchise has never seen a 1,000 inning rotation. The 2008 rotation holds the all-time mark at 973.1. The 2009 rotation is just behind them at 970.

Year

Rotation IP

1998

941

1999

876.2

2000

902

2001

932.2

2002

948.1

2003

891.1

2004

867.2

2005

905.1

2006

907

2007

932.2

2008

973.1

2009

970

The Rays not only hope to go over the 1k mark, but they are hoping to do it with just five starters.

Going back to the 10-year list, only one of the 40 rotations hit the 1,000 mark using five starters; the 2003 Seattle Mariners. From there, a few teams accomplished the feat with six starters including the 2005 World Champion, Chicago White Sox. Chicago is one of three teams since 2000 to win the World Series with a 1,000 inning rotation (2001 Diamondbacks, 2002 Angels).

In addition to the cumulative innings total, the Rays are hoping for 200 innings from each member of the rotation. While the 2003 Mariners hit the 1,000 mark with five starters, only four members went over 200 innings. In fact, you'd have to go all the way back to the 1980 Oakland Athletics to find the last team to boast five starters with at least 200 innings.

For the Rays to 1) reach 1,000 innings as a rotation and 2) do it with five starters over 200 innings, it will take good health and even better luck. Whether you agree with the philosophy in regards to pitch/innings limits or not, you have to acknowledge the team has escaped a major injury to a major league starter in quite some time. Hopefully, under the watchful eye of Ron Porterfield this continues in 2010.

With 200 inning pitchers in James Shields and Matt Garza anchoring the rotation, Jeff Niemann and David Price ready to hit 200 innings, and either Andy Sonnanstine or Wade Davis at the end, the 2010 rotation might not only be the most talented in Rays history, but could make some major league history as well.  

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