Hello fitness friends! The Brunch is back! I'm sure you're delighted. I mean, everyone's delighted when I walk in a room.
We haven't even hit March and we're already talking about how drama- and narrative-free the Cubs are. There's really not much to discuss. The 25-man roster is basically set. You can't see any upsets there. I thought about getting a bit cranky about the showbiz and hoopla surrounding whatever "motto" Joe Maddon comes up with for the year. But if I'm going to rant and rave about some contrived collection of words that really are only meant to sell t-shirts to benefit a charity (and give Maddon a platform which he loves), then I'm probably going to have to make some changes in my life.
So let's talk about pitching rotations.
When the Cubs signed Yu "A Donut With No Holes Is A" Darvish, they were quick to point out that at points this season, the Cubs will go with a six-man rotation, with Mike Montgomery swinging in from the pen. We've seen this the past two years, to varying effect.
On the surface, you see the reasoning. The Cubs are basically planning for a seven-month season when most teams plan for a six-month one. The four starters that were here before Darvish arrived all had DL time last year, and pitching injuries are what baseball managers and GMs see when the shadows creep across the bedroom late at night before falling asleep. Less innings, less risk, better rest, fresher pitchers for October. You get it.
Of course, isn't it a bit strange that teams are trying to keep their starters fresh for October when they're likely to yank them after four or five innings anyway? Strange, that.
We know the Angels, in order to bend their routine to accommodate Shanei Otani and what he's used to, will be using a six-man rotation all year. In Japan, that's what they do, and they always have Mondays off. I'm sure the MLBPA would love to find a way to have a day off per week, and they're moving closer to that this year. There's an extra four days off for the player now, so we're close to it, with 25 days off over 27+ weeks.
And yet, you'd struggle to see your team go to a six-man rotation the whole time. Because it means your most important players, say your top two or three starters, are only affecting a game once a week. This is where it gets funny, at least a little, about what teams will and should pay Jake Arrieta, when he might only be leading your team to victory 30 times a year with the way things are going in a year or two.
It doesn't quite scan that on the other side of the ball or plate or whatever you want, teams are trying to find ways to get their best players involved more. That's why we've seen team's best hitters moved into the #2 and #3 spots in the lineup instead of the clean-up spot, sometimes even moving them into the lead-off spot, because teams know over a season they'll get more ABs that way and have more of a chance to affect games. Rizzo coming up one more time in the 8th or 9th can make a big difference, no?
And yet with pitchers it's the opposite. Teams are trying to find a way to have them involved less, with six-man rotations and 13-man pitching staffs. Obviously, the fragility of pitching arms is what lords over all, but I can't help but think some brave team is going to see this one day and go to the tandem-model. When even trying to protect relievers from having to do more than throw 40 pitches a week, you have to figure the wave is going to crest back the other way soon.
You already now about it likely, and many teams use it in the minors. One starter goes four or five innings, and then another backs him up for two or three innings. The next time through, they flip.
I'm not sure how you' do this at the major league level, but I know it's going to happen one day. Maybe you have six or seven guys who can take starters' loads, or just about. You run three and three and then flip, making sure no one throws more than seven innings in a week. You'd still end up with pitchers coming in at around 200 innings, but they'd be partaking in two games per week instead of one. With the same number of innings, do I want Jon Lester or Jose Quintana in 30 games or 50?
The more we talk about players as "assets" and "investments," the more you'd think the idea of "maximizing" your investment will be tossed around. Maybe pitchers now who have always been brought up as once-per-week starters could never adjust, even if they day in relief would be what their side-day is now.
Think about how that could alter bullpen usage, though. If every game, or most of them, has seven to eight innings covered by starters, then you don't need eight guys out there. Teams could have actual benches again, instead of four guys where one is a backup catcher that a manager is terrified of using. Teams might combat tandem starters by having something like one and a half lineups for games with their elongated benches. When the second starter comes in managers would have the flexibility to sub in three or four different players to get platoon advantages or better matchups. It would be kind of fascinating to watch.
I don't know who's going to be brave enough to try this one day. You'd think it would be something the Rockies, who have the most unique circumstances to deal with and have never rally gotten their pitching right, would try. In the end, your starters are better than your relievers, other than maybe one or two on your team. You want them taking more innings than your third-eighth relievers. Some team is going to get there.