Major League Baseball's new market inefficiency is the reliable middle reliever.

The art of the complete game has long been in a state of radioactive decay with a half-life of roughly a decade. There were 734 in 1982, 419 in 1992, 214 in 2002, 128 in 2012 and just one thus far in 2022.

Even the pursuit of perfection isn't enough for complete games anymore. Already this season, we have seen both Sean Manaea (no-hitter) and Clayton Kershaw (perfect game) pulled after seven innings.

If you've followed baseball at all over the past quarter century, though, this is nothing new. Pitch count is constantly on display, both in the stadium and on your television screens. And save for a few select workhorses like Madison Bumgarner, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander or Adam Wainwright, you rarely see anyone trot back out to the mound for a new inning of work having already reached triple digits in pitches.

What is new, however, is that the average starting pitcher doesn't even make it through five full innings anymore.

Before we dive into the data, a quick heads up that all references to fractional innings pitched will be expressed a bit differently than usual. Normally, five full innings plus two outs in the sixth inning (five and two-thirds) would be expressed as 5.2 IP, but it will instead be 5.67 for this piece. You'll see why shortly.

As of Tuesday morning, there had been 244 games played in the 2022 season. Double that number to account for each game having a starting pitcher for each team, and you've got 488 starts. Per FanGraphs, those 488 starts yielded 2,302.67 innings pitched, or 4.72 per start.

That is shockingly low, even by recent March/April standards.

One could easily argue that number is artificially low as a result of pitchers not staying in game shape during the lockout and not getting properly stretched out during a truncated spring training. That number will likely increase during the regular season and may well be slightly higher in April 2023.

However, between the increasing use of openers and batters incessantly working the count, Major League Baseball has been trending in this direction for a while.