Part 2 of this amazing interview…just some nuances that are the ambrosia of baseball.
2) What was the day like when you took the photo for the Sports Illustrated cover, and how did that come about?
I am going to answer this two part question in reverse order: How it came about…
SI decided to put us on the cover for two reasons. First was our performance during the 1980 season. We went from 54-108 in 1979to 83-79 in 1980. That’s a remarkable 29 game turnaround. We racked up 94 complete games, which I believe is the modern day record. I don’t know though, does 1980 qualify as modern day or does it seem rather ancient to the readers of your blog? It was the most complete games since 1946, and
if you look below at the innings pitched per start, it was quite an aberration from the norm!
The second reason was that we started off the 1981 season 11-0 which was an MLB record at the time.
Only 20 teams in modern history (since 1901) have produced a season in which five players logged at least 200 innings. All but three of those seasons occurred before 1930.
1. 1980 Oakland Athletics (Matt Keough, Brian Kingman, Rick Langford, Steve McCatty, Mike Norris)
Finish: 2nd in AL West
Runs scored: 686
Runs allowed: 642
2. 1977 Los Angeles Dodgers (Burt Hooton, Tommy John, Doug Rau, Rick Rhoden, Don Sutton)
Finish: Lost World Series (4-2) to Yankees
Runs scored: 769
Runs allowed: 582
3. 1957 Detroit Tigers (Jim Bunning, Paul Foytack, Billy Hoeft, Frank Lary, Duke Maas)
Finish: 4th in American League
Runs scored: 614
Runs allowed: 614
So, how do the 1980 A’s fair when compared to the teams from long ago? Well, incredibly, Oakland’s 1,261.1 innings logged by their starters stills tops the field. Ye, gods.
That isn’t really fair because the season is longer now. Besides, I already noted IP/GS is a better way than raw IP. When you look at innings per start, a handful of teams do nose out Martin’s bunch, as the chart below reveals:
Year Team IP/GS
1923 NYY 8.03
1922 NYY 7.99
1920 CWS 7.96
1920 BRVS 7.90
1920 PIT 7.81
1932 NYY 7.81
1920 CIN 7.81
1920 BRK 7.81
1980 OAK 7.78
Notice something there? They are almost entirely made up of teams from the early 1920s. That’s interesting. There have been three periods in baseball history when workloads for starting pitchers declined noticeably: 1) In the 1890s when the pitchers were pushed back to 60 feet, 6 inches; 2) In the early 1920s when the lively ball came out; and 3) In the 1990s when pitch counts became all the rage. In each instance, the game changed in a few years, causing managers to adapt to how they used pitchers.
So how did Martin run the 1980 A’s? Like someone who hadn’t fully realized the Dead Ball era had ended.