Will Red Sox Lead MLB to 6-Man Rotation?

by AdamWhite

Are the Boston Red Sox are preparing us for next step in baseball pitching evolution – the six many rotation?  This is from Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com:

Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona and pitching coach John Farrell devised a creative way to use five starters despite the scheduling oddity of three off days in the season’s first 10 days, a plan that paid great heed to rest management, maximizing effectiveness and, just as important, rewarding all five pitchers.

But what happens when Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is scheduled to pitch Monday afternoon in a minor league game, joins the starting mix?

The club has not ruled out using a six-man rotation, Farrell said Sunday, but stressed that any discussion is purely hypothetical until Matsuzaka is ready. And that is still weeks away, as Matsuzaka tries to make up for time lost to what the team called an upper back injury.

“Where we go from that point, who goes to the bullpen, does it bring back in the thought of a six-man rotation? I know for the fan or a baseball person who looks at the situation, it’s why don’t you just do that? On paper, [a six-man rotation] seems to be the elixir that will answer everything.”

I think this makes sense for the Red Sox.  If you have six solid starters, you might as well use them all, especially when Josh Beckett and Jon Lester would benefit from some extra rest.

But we’re not going to see a six man rotation for most teams, or even a few teams, for the foreseeable future. The six man only makes sense (and I’m assuming that teams operate via logic, which can be a faulty assumption), if a) the value of the six starter exceeds that of the player previously occupying that roster spot and b) the extra cost of a starter is justified by the extra value.

Most teams have trouble filling their fifth rotation spot, or even their fourth. Heck, Pittsburgh has Paul Maholm as their number two! And starting pitching is more expensive than a seventh guy in the bullpen or a utility guy. So, I expect the six man rotation to be the exception rather than the rule.

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41 Responses to “Will Red Sox Lead MLB to 6-Man Rotation?”

  1. Jim Says:

    No.

  2. Adam Hardy Says:

    That makes zero sense. I would like to see some statistical evidence that pitchers like Beckett or Lester benefit from an extra day of rest. Otherwise, all your doing is giving more playing time to inferior players.

  3. Raul Says:

    I wonder how much pitchers would be paid today if there were 4 man rotations.

    Seems to me you should command more money if you’re going to make 40 starts per year.

  4. ThomasWayne Says:

    If they do it will do one thing and one thing only….lead to more arm injuries.

    Pitchers are babied way to much these days…mainly in an effort to protect the investment in them….but this babying has done little more than bring up an entire generation of pitchers whose arms have been cared for so much that they simple aren’t strong enough to endure the rigors of a MLB season.

    20, 30, 40 years ago and longer pitchers through more pitches, pitched more innings and through more on their days off then they do now. The result was fewer injuries, stronger arms, and less departmentalization.

    I like Nolan Ryan’s approach in Texas. He has the young arms throwing all year long, endorsing strong fundamentals and technique.

    You don’t have to throw hard…just often and the right way. Repetition.

    This builds the arms muscles and tendons to be prepared for the work required of a big league pitcher.

    It’s only common sense. If you really think about it, no other sport or faction of a sport has anything even remotely resembling a pitch count.

    We would never tell a hitter to cut down on his swings. Just the opposite, take as much BP as you can.

    We would never tell a QB to not throw in the off season. Better still, when was the last time Tom Brady was taken out of a game because he had thrown 56 or so passes?

    You would never tell a sprinter to cut back on his running to save his legs. The knee is just as complex and fragile as the elbow or the shoulder. We don’t tell NBA players to not run, you might overwork your knee. Just run a little.

    As long as GM’s and Owners buy into this you are going to have more and more Jordan Zimmermans and fewer men with the arm strength to log 220, 250, 275 or more innings.

    Throw. Throw often. Throw properly. That’s the name of the game. Make your arm strong when you are young and it will last until you are Jesse Orosco.

    TW

  5. Jeff Says:

    “20, 30, 40 years ago and longer pitchers through more pitches, pitched more innings and through more on their days off then they do now. The result was fewer injuries, stronger arms, and less departmentalization.”

    And guys who are burned out by age 32. Is there any evidence that there are more injuries now?

  6. ThomasWayne Says:

    Jeff…
    I seem to remember more guys pitching into their 40’s in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s than now.

    Not as many burn outs as you might think.

    Having said that…no…I do not have any numbers or evidence to show there are more injuries now than when pitchers through more. However, I also do not have any evidence that shows babying pitchers arms works.

    Take away the possibility of injury….what do you have? You have one of two options….A….pitch and throw smartly and consistently to make your arm stronger and more prepared to be a successful ML pitcher…or B….be restricted on a pitch count or inning count starting in Little League…then in high school…then college and or the minors…and then by the time you reach the big leagues people are more scared than ever that you will blow your arm out if you work to hard because your arm isn’t strong enough to log any significant amount of pitches or innings.

    Injuries can happen to anyone at anytime for any reason. But it only makes sense to smartly strengthen your arm so that it doesn’t get hurt because of weakness.

    Like I said…no one tells anyone else to not do to much of this…or too much of that because you don’t want to strain this muscle or joint to much.

    Its quite the opposite. We beg hitters to be stronger, and take as much BP as possible.

    Could you imagine what would have been said to the guy who came to Ted Williams and told him to cut back on his swings. His swing count is to high. He could hurt his wrists or elbows….maybe pull a back muscle. The Splinter would have whacked him in the skull.

    Now picture a pitching coach telling a Bob Gibson in the 6th inning that he’s hit the 100 pitch mark…gotta take you out of this one run game.

    Gibby would have told him to go screw and thrown 30 or 40 or 50 more pitches if needed and he could do so on 4 days rest because his arm was strong from years of playing catch and throwing.

    I will look for some numbers on the injuries….I’d honestly like to know myself. But I’ll bet you there have been more elbow and shoulder injuries in the last 10 years with pitchers under the age of 25 then at any other time in big league history.

    We shall see…
    TW

  7. Patrick Says:

    I don’t know what the numbers are but I’m inclined to agree with TW.

    It’s ironic that this debate begins with Dice K because he blames the american way of training pitchers for his injury. He says that the Redsox don’t allow him to get his routine throwing in that he’s done his entire life to keep his arm in shape.

    Every fifth or sixth day is too long of a span for any physical exercise. When you consider their days off, a six man rotation could make it 7 days between starts.

    A four man rotation with a spot starter always seemed best to me. Not everybody can do it, but that’s what makes those guys special. Guys like Sabathia who throw 95 effortlessly. Pitch and catch all day.

  8. Alex S Says:

    “Seems to me you should command more money if you’re going to make 40 starts per year.”

    Thank you scott boras.

  9. Cameron Says:

    Meh… I’d only support this if you had a rotation with like, all 4 and 5 guys and you didn’t want to tax the talentless bastards any more than you have to. Then again, even the Royals don’t have a rotation that bad. …Yet.

  10. Jim Says:

    @Patrick: Interesting that you bring up Dice-K, in Japan he only pitched once a week a concern was how he’d adapt to pitching every 5th day.

  11. brautigan Says:

    A 6 man rotation is cutting edge? That’s almost funny. What you WILL have is a burned out bullpen.

    Warren Spahn, Early Wynn, Mickey Lolich. Yeah, their wheels fell off at age 32, didn’t they?

  12. Hartvig Says:

    I think there is something to be said for pitch counts but drawing the line at 100 is just silly in most cases. Most pitchers should be able to throw 120 pitches with little problem & some could do more, depending on their delivery. I think a large part of the problem now relates to the length of games & all the BS that goes on between pitches. Any batter who called time out to watch the clouds pass by like they do nowadays would have had a 95MPH fastball in his ear if he tried that crap with Gibby or Don Drysdale or Early Wynn on the mound.

  13. Caveman Says:

    @ Thomas Wayne, Did you just get finished reading something Nolan Ryan Wrote?

  14. Hossrex Says:

    Adam Hardy: “I would like to see some statistical evidence that pitchers like Beckett or Lester benefit from an extra day of rest. Otherwise, all your doing is giving more playing time to inferior players.”

    THAT! For the love of the baseball gods… THAT!

    Just because you have six pitchers who could technically be called starters, doesn’t mean you’re better suited by stealing starts from your GOOD pitchers to give to your BAD pitchers.

    Adam White: “If you have six solid starters, you might as well use them all”

    No.

    If you have six solid starters, you might as well trade one of them to one of the shlub teams (I’m looking at you Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Oakland) in effort to turn that useless arm around into some potential prospects.

    Basically…

    If the guy is good enough steal starts from Lester and Beckett, he’s good enough to get a fair amount on the trading block.

    And…

    If the guy isn’t good enough to get a fair amount on the trade block, he isn’t good enough to steal starts from Lester and Becket.

    162 games divided by five is 32.4 starts (about what a healthy starter does). 162 games divided by six is 27 starts.

    You’re talking about taking away a combined ten starts from Lester and Beckett. I would be very interested in someone explaining to me how that makes any sense.

  15. brautigan Says:

    I recall in 1985, Whitey Herzog looked at the numbers……and the numbers told him Joaquin Andujar was lights out with 3 days rest, and got lit with 4 days rest. The numbers told him that Bob Forsch got lit with 3 days rest and was lights out with 4 days rest. So he pitched them accordingly with positive results.

    It makes me wonder if anyone follows that logic anymore. I suppose the major problem is, are there enough numbers out there to follow, especially since pitching on 3 days rest only occurs during the post season? (I am assuming no one these days pitches on 3 days rest except for the post season)

  16. Hartvig Says:

    I think in the last few years of his career Ted Lyons was a “Sunday starter” back when most teams played double headers on Sunday. He started 1 day a week, it kept the other starters on their regular rotations and it seemed to work pretty well. Absent something similar to that, I think going to a six man rotation is a waste of resources at best. If you’re not sure who’s the better pitcher between your last 2 or 3 let one of them get regular starts in the minors & if someone on your ML rotation falters bring ‘em back up. I’m not sure if any of these guys would have to clear waivers but if they all would have to than it’s into the bullpen or on the trading block for one of ‘em.

    Hoss
    “You’re talking about taking away a combined ten starts from Lester and Beckett. I would be very interested in someone explaining to me how that makes any sense.”

    It makes sense if your other four guys are Bob Gibson, Warren Spahn, Lefty Grove & Greg Maddux. Otherwise, not so much.

  17. brautigan Says:

    Check out the 1967 Phillies stat line. It is such an abnormality, I really don’t know how to explain it. (Basically, this team went 9 deep with the pitching staff.) It’s hard to explain where the innings went with this team.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/PHI/1967.shtml

  18. Chuck Says:

    Example.

    CC Sabathia pitches on Monday, and is scheduled to start again on Friday.

    On Tuesday, he does nothing baseball related. Gets a sauna, maybe does some stationary bike, but he doesn’t throw.

    On Wednesday, he has a light pen, maybe 20-25 pitches at about 70-75% which follows a mid range (90 feet or so) long toss. Maybe shags balls during BP, maybe does a little bike or some stretching.

    On Thursday, he does the same routine as Wednesday except his pen stretches out to about 40 and he goes 80-90%.

    The way a five man rotation works, Sabathia would start Monday then on Saturday, with the only difference being Thursday’s pen would be as if he was warming up for a start. About 20 minutes at 90-100% with maybe 50-60 pitches, with Friday being the same as the other two days.

    The main difference is those 50-60 pitches are wasted in the bullpen instead of using them in the start on Friday. Maybe I’m wrong, but if I had an ace like Sabathia or Halladay or whomever, I want those pitches in a game and not pissed away in the bullpen.

    The difference between a #1 or #2 starting on three days’ rest instead of four is eight starts per season. At seven innings per start, that’s 56 innings per season, or about two a week.

    Wow, I’m calling my agent and filing a grievance claiming overwork. Greg Maddux could throw two innings and not break a sweat.

    Take those wasted 400 bullpen pitches and put them towards those extra starts and you save 3.5 starts worth of meaningless pitches.

    That’s asinine.

  19. Hossrex Says:

    Hartvig: “It makes sense if your other four guys are Bob Gibson, Warren Spahn, Lefty Grove & Greg Maddux. Otherwise, not so much.

    I know you meant that tongue in cheek, and I know you’re agreeing with me… but I STILL disagree with that.

    Regardless of how you would organize those four guys (along of course with Lester and Beckett)… there would still be five “BEST” pitchers, with one guy who isn’t as good, and shouldn’t be stealing starts from the five “BEST” pitchers, who would have more value being traded for a lefty hitting left fielder to bat third.

  20. Cameron Says:

    …Whatever happened to the swing starter? Buccholz and Wake are both good out of the pen. Why not have a 4-man for most of the week? Matsuzaka will most likely go back into the rotation, man him at the 4 hole. Every fifth day, switch off between Clay (who could benefit from major league starts) and Wake (who is good, but old and has shown signs of slowing down IMO) and still have both as viable bullpen options (granted you don’t overwork them, but they’d be good middle relief).

    One guy goes down, boom, you’re back to five men. …As much as I hear Francona get praised, this really seems kind of simple.

  21. Jim Says:

    Cameron, the swing starter aka the Sunday starter went the way of the scheduled double header. Now if a double header finds its way into the schedule due to whether, teams bring up a pitcher from the minors.

  22. joebaseball Says:

    i would love to see a team try a 3 man rotation where each starter goes 5 innings max, each pitcher getting about 50 starts with a max of 250 innings. there would be a few spot starts in between for other pitchers. there would be 3 designated pitchers to pitch the 3 innings until you get to the closer. thats 7 good pitchers needed and maybe 4 more for mopups and blowouts and spot starts. We might get to see a 30 game winner again.

  23. Lee Says:

    I do NOT want the Red Sox to go to a 6-man rotation, and I agree with most of the posters that pitchers are babied enough these days, were more manly in the ’60s and ’70s etc. BUT Joe McCarthy was using 6- or 7-man rotations for the Yankees back in the ’30s and winning the World Series every year. And two of those pitchers he may have been underusing were Hall of Famers Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing. So there is precedent.

  24. Raul Says:

    Yeah,

    But how many teams have line-ups like the Yankees of the 1930s?

  25. Raul Says:

    BTW, the Yankees scored more than 1,000 runs four times from 1930-1940. They averaged 955 runs per season for the decade.

    When you do that, you could have a 162-man rotation and still kick ass.

  26. Raul Says:

    Well, 156…

  27. Raul Says:

    crap, 152….this is bullsh&t

  28. Chuck Says:

    The number of pitchers making double digit starts for the Yankees in the ’30’s isn’t all that different than any other team, and, besides, anything happening 70 years ago could hardly be considered a precedent.

  29. Kevin Says:

    I recall at least 3 or 4 times in the last decade or so where the Sox supposedly went 6-7 deep in the rotation during spring training, and more often than not it worked itself out for one reason or another. Everyone seems to forget that they supposedly had an abundance of starters last year- until Dice-K got hurt, Smoltz, Bowden, and Penny turned worthless, and Masterson got traded. After all the talk of a 6-man rotation they had to sign Paul Byrd off the street to even get to 5 starters.

    All of the talk of a 6-man rotation this year stems from the idea that they will be able to have a healthy Dice-K and Wakefield along with an effective Buchholz all at the same time… which I just don’t see happening. It’s going to end up being a moot point.

  30. ron Says:

    Been there, done that. Same arguement as to when they went from 4 man rotation to 5 man. Same arguements, same stupid answers.

    In the 60’s, baseball went from the 4 man rotation to the 5 man. Never understood then, why take 25% of Koufax’s starts and 25% of Drysdale’s starts, away from them and give them to someone who couldn’t carry their jockstrap!

    Makes even less sense today. But, you’re only taking away 20% of the starts by Lackey, Lester and Beckett and giving them to whom? Who is good enough on Boston’s roster to take 20% of their starts away from them?

  31. Kerry Says:

    Cameron: “Whatever happened to the swing starter? Buccholz and Wake are both good out of the pen. Why not have a 4-man for most of the week?”

    Patrick: “A four man rotation with a spot starter always seemed best to me.”

    Jim: “Cameron, the swing starter aka the Sunday starter went the way of the scheduled double header. Now if a double header finds its way into the schedule due to whether, teams bring up a pitcher from the minors.”

    You can still have a 4-man rotation plus swing starter due to days off (of which there are about 3 per month). Check out the
    1993 Braves — they had Maddux, Smoltz, Avery, and Glavine (wasn’t that a sweet rotation?) with Pete Smith or Kent Mercker filling in where needed to give everyone 4 days rest.

    The top four got 35/36 starts, and the swing men 20, so the “fifth starter” got 12 fewer starts than he would have with a strict 5-man rotation. And your top four don’t have to be good as the ‘93 Braves, just better than #5, to make it worthwhile.

    Even if you don’t go to a strict 4-man rotation, why not a 4+ if it still preserves the 4-day rest. And if some (not necessarily all) of your more durable pitchers can adapt to 3-day rest, you could eliminate some of the #4 starts as well.

  32. Kerry Says:

    Another comment, the only “perfect” 5-man rotation (all five got at least 32 starts) is the 2003 Seattle group of Garcia, Franklin, Moyer, Pineiro and Meche. No other pitcher started a game. You’ve got to have some non-injury luck to do that.

    Meche was the weak link of that group; you wonder if they had tried a 4+ instead, would the increased strain on the others have caused an injury?

  33. Raul Says:

    Question –

    If teams went with a 4 man rotation today, what effect do you think it would have on pitchers?

    Would pitchers start breaking down in higher numbers?
    Would it force pitchers to strengthen arms and mechanics?
    Would pitchers alter their strategy?

    I’m curious as to what you guys think the overall effect would be, and in what ways it would change the landscape of the game.

  34. Chuck Says:

    “Would pitchers start breaking down in higher numbers?”

    No.

    “Would it force pitchers to strengthen arms and mechanics?”

    Yes, which is why the answer to question one is no.

    The more you throw, the stronger you get, the tighter and cleaner your mechanics become, and the longer and deeper into games you can go.

    “Would pitchers alter their strategy?”

    Most definitely.

    If they are stronger, they would automatically become more efficient because their 95 gas would be thrown with less effort. Like Kansas State the other day, they’re a better team than Butler but couldn’t hang with them because they were gassed from the double OT game two days earlier. Pitchers aren’t conditioned to throw more than 100 pitches anymore.

    The flow of the game determines the pitcher’s approach, but if a pitcher is stronger he has more options to play with, more bullets in the gun.

    If it’s late in the game and there is a couple runners on and you need a strikeout, you’d have enough in the tank to get the job done. As you get tired your command suffers, needing to snap off a good slider in the right situation instead of having to go to a lesser option.

    I was watching the Cardinals game the other day and the announcers were saying Chris Carpenter was getting tired because his elbow was dropping during his delivery, which in itself is a sign of a weakness and also a sure sign of a future injury if he doesn’t correct it.

  35. Mike Says:

    @Raul: It would dramatically hurt the guys who rely on fastballs over 95MPH. All of this babying came about for a reason. As hitters have increased their bat velocity, fastballs need to be faster to be effective.

    My guess as to the likely result would be more “finesse” pitching: sliders, curveballs and maybe even a resurgence of the knuckleball. The problem is these pitches take longer to master, so these pitching staffs would suffer more inconsistency than ones who can put a stream of under 25 fireballers on the mound.

  36. Raul Says:

    Thanks Chuck.

    Any others with thoughts?

  37. Hossrex Says:

    Mike: “It would dramatically hurt the guys who rely on fastballs over 95MPH. All of this babying came about for a reason. As hitters have increased their bat velocity, fastballs need to be faster to be effective.”

    I disagree.

    You could throw a fastball 110mph, and if it didn’t have any life to it, batters would always be able to turn on it. You might be successful for a while, but batter WOULD learn what you throw, and they WOULD turn on it.

    There’s never been a pitcher in the history of the game survive exclusively on a flat fastball.

    You need the 85mph changeup to make the 100mph fastball look 150mph… or you need some healthy late life on your fastball. One or the other.

    Any major league caliber batter can turn on a fastball.

  38. Chuck Says:

    Tim McCarver

    “A major league hitter could time the Concorde”

  39. brautigan Says:

    I remember when I played, there was always the guy that had the deceptive fastball. Other players threw harder, but there was always the guy that when he threw, the ball just waited and then EXPLODED across the plate. It’s one of those WTF moments that can just freeze the hitter.

    Even a pitcher with serious heat can be timed if the ball comes in on a flat plane.

  40. Raul Says:

    That’s a slippery slope to start quoting Tim McCarver.

    Careful. We can get into some really crappy comments, lol.

  41. Chuck Says:

    McCarver’s a blow-hard and talks to much, but he knows baseball. He picks up stuff not alot of people see.

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