Thursday, October 29, 2015

Baseball: Rethinking the Five-Man Pitching Rotation

The five-man starting pitching rotation has been a feature of Major League Baseball for decades. Maybe it's time for a change.

Consider the following numbers.

Assume each starting pitcher appears in 30 games.  If he lasts 6 innings, he will pitch 180 innings in the course of the regular season (excluding spring training and the playoffs).

Take a look at my beloved St. Louis Cardinals:

John Lackey, 218
Michael Wacha, 181.1
Carlos Martinez, 179.2
Lance Lynn, 175.1

Or their rival Chicago Cubs:

Jake Arrieta, 229
Jon Lester, 205

Arrieta, the best pitcher in baseball during August and September, ran out of gas against the Cardinals and Mets in postseason play.  Lester was ineffective in the League Championship Series.

Lackey did not pitch well in his second start against the Cubs.

Let's face it.  Arms get tired.

Your friendly proprietor suggests that at least one potentially contending team switch to a six-man rotation in the 2016 season.  If each pitcher lasts 6 innings, he will pitch 150 innings during the regular season.  At 6.5 per start, total innings will sum to 162.5.

Reduced innings will cut down on wear and tear in a pitcher's arm and enable him to pitch in the postseason with the same energy as during the regular season. Reduced innings can also lengthen a pitcher's career, benefiting both baseball and its pitchers.

Critics may point out that six starters mean one less relief pitcher or one less position player on the 25-man roster.  But quality pitching is the most important factor in determining a team's chances to win.

It's worth trying.  Let's see if any of baseball's franchises give it a shot.

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