Two years ago, the Cincinnati Reds finished the season by starting rookie pitchers in 64 straight games. Overall, rookies made 110 starts for the Reds that season, third most in history behind the 1998 Florida Marlins and the 2009 Oakland Athletics. The ’98 Marlins team featured the dismantled remnants of the previous season’s World Series title team and lost 104 games. The A’s team finished .500, as Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez made solid debuts while Trevor Cahill, Vin Mazzaro, and Josh Outman also pitched. As might be expected, the 2015 Reds were bad, but given their reliance on rookies, we might think the staff might prove to have more veterans in 2016 and 2017. That hasn’t been the case at all.
After getting 110 rookie starts in 2015, the Cincinnati Reds followed up with another 56 rookie starts last year. In the last 100 seasons, only 24 franchises have ever had 81 games or more started by rookie pitchers. Of those teams, the 1934 Philadelphia A’s, the 1936 Philadelphia A’s, the 1978 Oakland A’s, the 2009 Baltimore Orioles, and the 2015 Reds were the only ones to follow up the season questions with another 50 starts by rookies. For the Orioles, Brian Matusz barely avoided losing his rookie status in 2009, so his 32 starts in 2010 comprised the bulk of the Orioles’ 50 rookie starts, with Jake Arrieta nabbing the other 18.
As for the A’s, there have been 234 team seasons over the past 100 years in which rookies started at least 50 games; the A’s alone are responsible 12% (28) of them. Whether in Philadelphia, Kansas City, or Oakland, the organization has almost always been a spendthrift operation, and from 1935 to 1967, the club finished in last place or second-to-last place 25 of 33 seasons, never placing higher than fourth. Only 30 times in history has a team started rookie pitchers in 50 or more games at least two seasons in a row, and the A’s organization is responsible for seven of those times, encompassing 19 seasons.