Baseball Starter

baseball starter

In baseball, starters are the stars of the bullpen. They earn the biggest salaries and have some of the biggest personalities. Keep reading to learn more about the role of the starter in baseball.


Starting pitchers, also known as starters, are the game's main pitchers who pitch starting from the first inning. They often pitch the majority of the game, typically about five to seven innings per game. Of all the pitcher types, starters have the most stamina (since they pitch for several innings) and are usually the most well-rounded since they must face many batters and situations.

Role and Responsibilities

If a starting pitcher pitches the entire game without being substituted, they have achieved what is called a complete game. However, in modern baseball, complete games are becoming more and more uncommon.

Often, the manager will know or sense beforehand that the starting pitcher needs to be replaced, so they call a reliever or two to warm up in the bullpen. The bullpen is slightly off the field and contains a pitcher's mound and a home plate so relievers can warm up and simulate real pitching situations, often while a pitching coach acts as the catcher. When the reliever is needed, they exit the bullpen and enter the game.

Types of Starters

baseball types of starters

The different types of starters are mostly based on their skill. Most teams carry a rotation of four or five pitchers. There are three types of pitchers, and they’re arranged specifically in the rotation. The three types of pitchers are aces, workhorses, and offspeed pitchers.


An ace is the best pitcher on the team. The ace is also usually called the number one starter. In the pitching rotation, they are the first pitcher. An ace will usually win 15 to 20 games in the season. When it gets to the playoffs, you usually want the ace to start the first game.

In a seven-game series, like the World Series, the ace usually will pitch Game 1, Game 4, and, if needed, Game 7. In terms of skills, the ace will usually have a strong fastball (most throw 95 to 102 mph) and a great secondary pitch like a changeup, curveball, or slider. Examples of aces are Gerrit Cole, Jacob DeGrom, Max Scherzer, and Chris Sale.


A workhorse is a starting pitcher that might not be as talented as the ace but does their job well and works very hard. These will usually be middle of the rotation players, typically the three and four spot, sometimes the number two, depending on the team. Workhorses usually get around 10 to 15 wins during the regular season. During the playoffs, the workhorse might pitch game three and game five or six of a series, depending on the situation.

Workhorses get their name because they usually pitch longer innings than other pitchers. Managers want workhorses to take up lots of innings and save their bullpen from having to pitch a lot. Examples of workhorse pitchers are Masahiro Tanaka, Zack Greinke, Corey Kluber, and Sonny Gray.

Offspeed Pitchers

Offspeed pitchers are rare in today’s game, as players are throwing harder and harder. These are pitchers that don’t rely on throwing hard, usually because they can’t. The most common type of offspeed pitchers are knuckleball pitchers. Knuckleballs move and dance a lot, making them very hard to hit, despite being slow. 

Offspeed pitchers will usually be the fifth rotation pitcher if they are on the rotation at all. This is because they often are not as good as other pitchers. Today, offspeed pitchers will usually be older and have weaker arms. Offspeed pitchers will usually win five to 10 games in a season. They will either be cut from the roster before the playoffs or pitch maybe one game. Some offspeed pitchers are CC Sabathia, RA Dickey, Steven Wright, and Felix Hernandez.

Starter Equipment

baseball starter equipment

The only thing you really need to be a starter is a glove. However, there are a few extras you can get.

  • Rosin Bag: a bag filled with chalk that helps dry your hands
  • Spikes: help your grip on the mound and help you push off the rubber
  • Uniform: usually provided by the team, this includes a hat, shirt, pants, and socks

Starter History

baseball starter history

Pitchers have always been a crucial part of baseball. In the very beginning, pitchers were called bowlers, and their job wasn’t to throw the ball hard past the batter; they actually wanted the batter to hit the ball to the field. Quickly the bowlers realized they could optimize the game by throwing the ball harder and with a different spin.

In the early years of pitching, starters would be the only pitchers. Sometimes teams would only have one starter. That one pitcher would pitch every game for the entire game. As years went on, only special pitchers were capable of throwing that many innings. Other starting pitchers would only last for a little bit. Then, the rotation was born. Today, starters will only pitch 30 to 40 games and may only pitch all nine innings once all season.

Starter Statistics

The statistics for starters are the same as almost any other pitcher. There are quite a few statistics for pitchers.

  • Wins: if the pitcher pitches at least five innings, leaves the game with the lead, and the team wins, they get a win
  • IP: Innings Pitched
  • K/BB: ratio of strikeouts to walks
  • ERA: Earned Runs Average
  • OBA: Opponents’ Batting Average
  • WAR: Wins Above Replacement

Starter Strategy

baseball starter strategy

The basic strategy around starters is pretty simple: pitch as long as you can and give up the least amount of runs. Outside of that, it gets a little more complicated. One new strategy has been the opener.

The Opener

This is a strategy where teams will start the game with a relief pitcher for one or two innings before then putting the starter into the game. This is based on analysis that shows that the more times that batters face pitchers, the better they hit. If you wait until the best batters have hit once, they might only face the starter once.

Starter Skills and Techniques

baseball starter skills and techniques

To be a starter, you have to be able to throw hard and accurately. Throwing hard is the most important skill for a pitcher. When scouts are looking for a young pitcher the first thing they do is measure their fastball with a radar gun. For a high school pitcher anywhere above 85 miles per hour is good. 90 and above is great and over 95 is almost guaranteed some scouting attention. After that, the ability to throw strikes is what a scout will look for. If you throw hard as a pitcher but can’t throw strikes you may get attention but you will not get any contracts and will not survive at the higher level.

Hall of Fame Starters

The following lists some of the most famous starters of all time in baseball that were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Walter Johnson Washington Senators
Nolan Ryan Houston Astros
Whitey Ford New York Yankees
Satchel Paige Cleveland Indians
Bob Gibson St. Louis Cardinals
Cy Young Cleveland Spiders
Greg Maddux Atlanta Braves

Best MLB Starters

The following lists some of the top starters in Major League Baseball by team:

Gerrit Cole New York Yankees
Jacob deGromNew York Mets
Justin VerlanderHouston Astros
Max Scherzer Washington Nationals
Clayton Kershaw Long Angeles Dodgers
Tyler GlasnowTampa Bay Rays


What is a starter in baseball?

A starter in baseball is the pitcher that starts the game and pitches the most innings. A starter is one of the most important players on the field. Starters have good arms and get outs.

What does a starter do in baseball?

A starter pitches the first innings of a baseball game, and goes as long as they can. A starter gets as many outs as they can, hoping to prevent runs until they can win the game.

What are the types of starters in baseball?

The types of starters in baseball are aces, workhorses, and offspeed pitchers. Starters are split into these categories based on their skills.