Thursday, April 24, 2008

MSM Musings: Six-Man Rotation?

I promised you guys a while back that I would write a story about the 4 and 1/2 man rotation, but I am a liar. Eventually I'll get around to it. In the meantime, I enjoyed Howard Megdal's column in The Observer postulating that the Mets should go to a six-man rotation when Pedro Martinez returns to action. He's wrong, of course, but Megdal and Tim Marchman are my two favorite mainstream media Mets writers, so we'll cut him some slack.

I would actually go for this plan under a specific set of circumstances, none of which are likely to happen in this scenario. If you're telling me that:

* The seventh reliever in the bullpen is going to become the sixth starter (or more appropriately, that Joe Smith or Jorge Sosa will be sent to AAA to make room for Pedro), and
* The fifth and sixth starters (presumably Mike Pelfrey and Nelson Figueroa) will be used as relievers between starts, and
* Santana, Maine and Perez will skip the sixth starter whenever they would have more than five days' rest (because of a scheduled off-day between starts), and
* Resting an extra day means the manager can re-think pitch counts and let each starter go deeper into games (10 pitches? 20 pitches?)

then you may have something intriguing.

But a six-man rotation would presumably still come with a seven-man bullpen. That leaves just four bench players on the roster - and the Mets have a paper-thin bench as it is. This six-man rotation would take appearances away from the three best starters (Santana, Maine and Perez) and give them to inferior pitchers. I don't care if some starters are slightly more effective on five days' rest as oposed to four - there are enough scheduled off-days during the season that it's going to happen from time to time anyway. Finally, there's no reason to believe that extra rest will make any Met starter more efficient, so even with extra rest Willie is still going to pull a guy after 5 2/3 innings and 98 pitches anyway.

It gets bantered about from time to time, but I wonder if bringing back the old "Sunday starter" concept would benefit Pedro. It would only be useful if the Mets employed a six-man regular bullpen while deploying Pelfrey or Figueroa as the occasional long man and if it didn't negatively affect the number of starts from the front three in the rotation. I'll try to expand upon this more later in the week.


tim said...

Two years ago I was on the Aaron Heilman bandwagon. I had just watched him dominate the Florida Marlins over eight innings and was psyched. "we found our fifth stater" I thought. But he was inconsistent and we by acquiring El Duque along with the emergence of John Maine Heilman was put in the bullpen to fill a glaring need, which he performed admirably. In 2007 when we really needed another starter in the rotation he wasn't even given a shot because of the injury to Duaner Sanchez and performed well at times but was the first to self-destruct in what turned out to be a team of time bombs. This year he has been absolutely disgusting to have to watch and it is fitting in the trend, he has been getting worse every year.

He has always made it clear that he wants to start and say whatever you want about being a professional baseball player but it has to be on his mind everyday and I think we should give him his shot. How about making him a starter. Sure the bullpen would get hurt in the process but maybe it's time to give some of the kids, like Muniz (who performed well in short duty earlier this season) a chance to prove themselves. We never gave Heath Bell much of a chance but wouldn't he look good in the 7th inning before Sanchez and Wagner right now. I would actually flop Perez and Heilman if I didn't know it would psychologically crush Ollie. He has the filthiest stuff on the squad but only in short spurts. Heilman has good stuff, not filthy but over 7 innings those homeruns his propensity to give up home runs wouldn't be as much of a black flag. In fact I think he would benefit from the idea that he could always make up for his mistakes in later innings rather than knowing he was headed to the showers immediately following his mistakes. And despite his frequent blow ups in middle innings I think Perez is ideal for the late inning short stint work. I think he would thrive in it. Perez gets into trouble when he starts thinking, Heilman gets in trouble when he doesn't think.

I want my starters to go through a mind set when they are pitching, have a plan and stick to it. I believe Heilman can thrive in that type of role.

I want my relievers to have no fear and just sling it, Perez can thrive in this type of role.

The worse that can happen is already happening, the best that could happen isgetting a consistent and successful starter and a shut down reliever, if it doesn't work you send them packing next year and start fresh.

I know it will never happen, neither Minaya nor Randolph have the creativity or balls to makesuch a bold move, but the fact is that two of our glaring weaknesses is the fact that Perez can't (and Randolph's pitch counts have had nothing to do with him getting the hook) get past the sixth and Heilman can't get the big outs (even if he is being over worked). Neither of them is going anywhere this syear, we can't trade them and demoting them is not feasible so why not try and see if it works.

Judge Roughneck said...

Well now, forget about Perez as a reliever, because that's just kooky talk. His inconsistency would drive us bananas in a situation with an even smaller margin for error. This is a guy who can pitch six innings and dominate in five of them. He's always going to have an inning or two where he'll need time to get untracked. I think he is very poorly suited for relieving.

As for Heilman as starter, I'd be curious how long it would take to stretch him out to give it a shot. Are you willing to send him to New Orleans for 30 days to let him get a feel for longer outings? I would think he'd probably need at least four "starts" - a three-inning outing first, followed by successively longer stints until he could pitch six innings without noticeably tiring.

I would say this: if Sanchez could take over the eighth inning role, if Wise comes back and pitches effectively and if Joe Smith or Jorge Sosa develops into a dominant ROOGY, the Mets could give this a shot.

More likely though, the Mets wouldn't consider it until the 2008 off-season, depending on how many starters they bring back. The A's re-converted Justin Duchscherer into a starter in the off-season. Of course, he left his first start with an injury ...

tim said...

I would be very willing to give him the 30 days. I still think you're wrong about Perez. It's not the pressure of the situation that gets to him, its how he gets there that bugs him. I fully believe he would thrive. And he would get a better contract offer from the mets than he would if stays on his current pace.

All that said, Heilman as a reliever is a no-go in my book, he is only going to get progressively worse.