Monday, August 10, 2009

Six Starters?

Earl Weaver, the legendary Baltimore Orioles manager and co-author of Weaver on Strategy, had a simple explanation when asked why he preferred to use a four-man starting rotation in an era where more teams were beginning to use five starters. Weaver's Seventh Law was this - "It's easier to find four good starters than five."

This is still true today, of course, although there isn't a manager in baseball who would dare try out a four-man starting rotation again. I don't think we'll ever see a return to the days where Weaver's Seventh Law held sway, but I do believe that baseball teams would be better served by running their starters out in a "five-day" rotation, rather than a "five-man" rotation.

A five-day rotation is comprised of four starters, each of whom always start on four days' rest, and a fifth starter who acts as swing man between the rotation and the bullpen. When he's needed to fill out the rotation, he does so. When there's an off-day, he gets skipped in the rotation and works out of the bullpen for a week or so.

We'll talk more about this in the future, but today I want to focus on something I saw on Metsblog:

"Santana is tied with Cardinals RHP Adam Wainwright for the most wins in the National League (13); he’s 11th in ERA (3.00); and seventh in strikeouts with 138 in 153 innings pitched.

…i wonder if the
Mets will start to rest him, maybe pitching him every six days or even skipping a start… i mean, what’s the point in having johan throw 220 innings this season, when he can get rest that might save him down the road, next season and beyond…"

Normally, I would never advocate for a six-man rotation, but the 2009 Mets seem like the optimal team to try it out. The season is over, for starters. The Mets are 10 games out of first place and nine games out of a wild card spot with 51 games to go. I think even the most cockeyed optimist would have to admit that it's all over.

Loosening the reins and trying out one more starter is only going to make a difference in draft positioning, and taking two or three meaningless starts away from Santana may make him a little fresher in 2010. Mike Pelfrey may benefit from a little extra rest as well, especially if you believe that the Verducci Effect theory holds water.

Since the Mets have no one in Buffalo deserving of a recall, the Mets can alternate the sixth spot between Tim Redding and Nelson Figueroa down the stretch. Both are singing for their 2010 supper and would surely appreciate four or five starts to show off for other teams. Actually, I would shelve the Bobby Parnell Experiment until September 1, when a few more relievers can be added to the roster to cover his future three-inning starts.

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