|10||Grover Cleveland Alexander||5,190.0|
|* Pitched left-handed, active players in Bold|
In baseball, innings pitched (IP) are the number of innings a pitcher has completed, measured by the number of batters and baserunners that are put out while the pitcher is in the game. Three outs made is equal to one inning pitched. One out counts as one-third of an inning, and two outs counts as two-thirds of an inning. Sometimes, the statistic is written 34.1, 72.2, or 91.0, for example, to represent 34 and 1/3 innings, 72 and 2/3 innings, and 91 innings exactly, respectively.
Runners left on base by a pitcher are not counted in determining innings pitched. It is possible for a pitcher to enter a game, give up several hits and possibly even several runs, and be removed before achieving any outs, thereby recording a total of zero innings pitched.
The only active players in the top 50 at the end of the 2006 season were Roger Clemens (ranked 15th with 4,817.2 IP), Greg Maddux (ranked 22nd with 4,616.1 IP), and Tom Glavine (ranked 37th with 4,149.2 IP). This is because over time, innings pitched has declined. Several factors are responsible for this decline:
- From 1876-1892, pitchers threw from fifty feet and exerted less stress on their arms (also pitchers often threw underhand in this era). In this era, innings pitched totals of 600 innings were not uncommon.
- In 1892, pitchers moved back to sixty feet. However, they still often threw 400 innings in a season. This was because the home run was far less common and pitchers often conserved arm strength throughout the game.
- From 1920 to the 1980s, the four-man pitching rotation was well established. Pitchers could no longer throw 400 innings in a season, as the home run meant a run could be scored at any time. The league leader in innings pitched often threw somewhat more than 300 innings. Occasionally, innings pitched would spike, as in the early 1970s, when Wilbur Wood pitched 376 2/3 innings in 1972 and then 359 1/3 innings in 1973.
- From the 1980s to the present, the four-man rotation was replaced with the five-man rotation, with a weak fifth man who would often be skipped on off days. Also, managers starting using their bullpens more and more, accelerating the decline in innings pitched. Today, rarely more than one pitcher a league pitches more than 250 innings, let alone 300.