All-rookie series matchup first since 1913
Reds, Brewers meet in Milwaukee with young arms lined up
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell usually has little use for the statistical oddities that occupy others, but this one actually piqued his interest: The Brewers are Reds are poised to play baseball's first three-game series stocked entirely with rookie starting pitchers since Oct. 3-4, 1913 -- a few days before Henry Ford implemented his moving assembly line.
"That's interesting, I'll give you that," Counsell said. "That's an interesting stat."
The probable pitching matchups at Miller Park were thus: Cincinnati's Brandon Finnegan vs. Milwaukee's Zach Davies on Friday, Josh Smith vs. Taylor Jungmann on Saturday and Anthony DeSclafani vs. Ariel Pena on Sunday. Finnegan bested Davies in the series opener, working five innings of one-run ball for a 5-3 win his first Major League start.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, baseball hasn't seen all-rookie series of three or more games since the Red Sox (with starters Dutch Leonard, Earl Moseley and Fred Anderson) traveled to Washington to play three games in two days against the Senators (Jim Shaw, Joe Boehling and Mutt Williams). The last name is not a typo; David Carter "Mutt" Williams pitched in six games over two seasons with Washington.
For the 2015 Reds, this is nothing new. They have employed an all-rookie rotation since Mike Leake's final Cincinnati start on July 28, before he was traded to San Francisco. Friday marked the team's 48th straight game started by a rookie, the longest such streak in Major League history. They broke a record held by the 1902 Cardinals, who started rookie pitchers in 41 straight games.
"It is valuable in many ways," said manager Bryan Price, a former pitching coach. "The evaluation process, No. 1. No. 2, you can see if guys get better while they are here. If you are here long enough to have successes and struggles and then reassess what you need to do to be successful, then put that toward what you need to do to get better. Certainly we like to see a trend of our young pitchers pitching better with every opportunity, as opposed to finding more struggle. That will in large part help define where we head going into 2016."
The Brewers, meanwhile, have gone young since bouncing struggling veterans Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza from the rotation. Jungmann has cemented his spot in the club's 2016 rotation, while Davies and Pena are auditioning.
"The fact that we have rookies ready to pitch in the big leagues, that's the positive way to look at it," Counsell said. "[That a series like this has not occurred since 1913] is a sign that being a rookie pitcher in the big leagues is hard, so it doesn't happen that often. Very rarely are three rookies in a rotation for a Major League team."
Asked what he thought the anomaly said about the Reds and Brewers, Brewers GM Doug Melvin joked, "It says we're both having bad years."
But seriously, he added, "I think it's a credit to the scouting and player development that they're getting that opportunity. [The players] get a chance to capitalize on that."