Category Archives: Boston Red Sox

Experimental Baseball :Is it Time for a Six-Man Rotation?

Over the past thirty years, the emphasis of pitching with a five-man rotation replaced the old guard of four-man rotations with the feeling that the extra day rest would improve performances of the starting pitcher. This idea is at least tempered by one study done by Keith Woolner in the Baseball Prospectus book: Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game is Wrong (Prospectus Entertainment, 2006, pg. 74)

After reading this, and feeling those results at least support it is no longer tried-and-true to believe this additional rest is better than managing pitchers better “in game”, in holding down pitch counts and assessing the effort a pitcher expends in getting those late-inning hitters out, the possibility of a new paradigm (that infamous word in the business world) struck: the six-man rotation.

First, this is not a year-long idea, but rather a month-to-month adjustment of the pitching staff to maximize the benefits received from the pitching staff in general. Due to scheduling of games, the ability to adjust the staff only makes sense and reverts back to the prior usage of pitching in the 1930’s and 1940’s to some degree. (Additionally, the 2007 World Champion Boston Red Sox considered this rotation planwith SP Daisuke Matsuzaka being a long-time user of this in Japan. (Fantasy Sports, April 2008, pg. 17.)) (Theo Epstein, GM of Red Sox pictured.)

The best way to explain ‘this version’ is by month.

April. 6 starters are used throughout the month, with 4 starts per man. With spring training typically not garnering enough work for the some to round into form, the extended spring training of April allows managers the ability to decide better on the 5th man in the rotation. More importantly, all starters are available for relief work, a couple times in the month. Since many have scheduled side sessions, the usage in bullpen assistance can get them the ‘required’ sessions. The ace of the staff, will see three 1-inning appearances. Others will see possibly longer stints, but no more than two appearances.

May and June. 5-man rotation. The sixth man goes to the bullpen as a long reliever. Bullpen set ups as usual.

July. 6 starters. #1 starter goes one game extra than others in the rotation. Does not pitch out of the bullpen. Every other starter goes four times and makes bullpen appearances.

August, September and October. 4 Starters till the end of the season. Saving the best for last. 5th and 6th starters work half-dozen appearances out of the bullpen. Leveraging extra starts down the stretch, gives the team an opportunity to win the pennant as the games matter more. If the pennant is in hand, revert back to a 5-man rotation, or other manageable scenario.

The Innings per season for the Starters are as follows:

#1 Starter – 239 IP

#2 Starter – 225 IP

#3 Starter – 204 IP

#4 Starter – 195 IP

#5 Starter – 143.6 IP

#6 Starter – 88 IP

The partial goal is to get 35 starts for the no. 1 pitcher – which is still a light total compared to the 1970’s workhorse examples of Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Gaylord Perry, Jim Palmer or Fergie Jenkins. But more importantly, between the no. 1, 2 and 3 starters they will see 11 relief appearances that could be in key situations. The trade up between their stuff and the typical middle reliever/closer could be important to win one, two or more games that were lost due to a poor bullpen. Leveraging these key innings with better pitchers, who are throwing anyway, could be worth exploring as a way to improve marginally a 90-win team to a 93-95 win team.

Realizing pitchers’ quirks, this may not be possible. However, given a young staff that has been moved around a great deal in the minors, this could be a legit, rotational organization that pitchers adjust to, thrive in and prefer above all, after a period of adjustment. (Which might happen in a down season – allowing for a realistic time for experimentation throughout the organization.)

The way they pitch needs to be monitored much more than when they pitch.

Consistency is rare anyway, considering DL stints of most starters. With an early season 6-man rotation, the man sent to the bullpen first may have to step in for an injured pitcher. What better way to train appropriately than to have all ready started earlier on during the spring?

And knowing the in-game scenario, that every pitcher is capable of both starting and relieving to the benefit of the team, may be a psychological advantage to a team in the long term. Managers have to maximize options with position players, why not expand that to pitching staffs, like in the yester years of baseball glory.


Baseball: Mid 2007 Predictions for the playoffs

No, I’m not Sara Freder, so I won’t grant you insight into your future by using talismans and crystal balls for $39.99, but I figure I can look at the halfway point of a baseball season and figure who will represent both leagues in the playoffs.

Boston. It would be tough for them to lose this division, even with the Yankees in it. With a double digit lead, and the Yankees lacking a real pitching ace, it would take a collapse like 1978 for these Bo Sox to fall short. Unlikely with Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Dice-K, Beckett and a host of others battle tested and not at all afraid of the vaunted Yankee mystique.

Cleveland. At 49-32, this team has done a lot with lackluster work by Travis Hafner. But with CC Sabathia, Victor Martinez and Grady Sizemore doing their jobs well, the team has a .352 OBP, 3rd in all of baseball behind Boston and the NY Yankees. This is a primary sabermetric tool to scoring runs and Cleveland will continue to do that. On the other side of the ledger, with Sabathia only walking a couple of handfuls of people, the Indians have allowed the fewest walks in MLB. While only in the middle of the pack in ERA, the Tribe should stay in 1st or 2nd in the AL Central.

Detroit. The Tigers are at it again. They are 4th in OBP, right behind Cleveland. They lead all of MLB in SLG% and thus also lead the MLB in putting runs on the board. However, many of their players are above their lifetime heads. Placido Polanco is a good little hitter, .302 lifetime. Not much power, but he’s struggled to put together 150 games in a season. He’s on pace for that. Does he continue to hit .330? Magglio Ordonez is another .300 hitter that is pounding it at .370. Will that continue? Realistically, those two will drop off 30-40 points and the Lion share of the scoring will have to come from Gary Sheffield and Pudge Rodriguez and Carlos Guillen.

Pitching is faltering, even with Justin Verlander no-no just recently. Their bullpen is shaky at best, with 39-year old Todd Jones still getting saves with a 5.85 ERA. Jones does not strikeout batters and that’s a problem for a closer. The Tigers have been looking for answers as their number of pitchers used reflects. Eventually, these two aspects – less offense and shaky pitching – will put them in second in the AL East.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. 6th in OBP, 5th in Runs Scored and 1st in AL West. They still get mileage out of Vlad whose 31, looks older, and has been at it for a decade or more. He is a 1st ballot HOF if he does it for 5 more years. With pesky, versatile Chone Figgins, the Angels just do it well with Mike Scioscia running the show. They have better pitching, with Lackey, Escobar and Santana eating up innings as starters and likely the best bullpen, or at least a top 5 bullpen in baseball with a 25 year old K-Rod and Scot Shields as the forces.

The Angels have two problems: Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s. The AL West is a marathon usually and Oaktown is 8.5 games behind. Seattle too is only 4 games out, but managerial shakeup with Hargrove gone means likely the Mariners will not contend. The Angels are not a uber team; so, Oakland’s manuevers could get them their. But realistically, the A’s have not got much out of 3rd baseman Eric Chavez, SS Bobby Crosby and C Jason Kendall. Those parts are producing miserably and even with another Big 3 in Haren, Blanton and Gaudin, the A’s are unlikely to surpass the Angels.

AL Playoffs: Boston, Cleveland, Detroit and Los Angeles.
AL Championship: Boston vs. Detroit.
AL WS: Boston.

National League

Chicago. Yes, yes, holy mackeral, the Cubs are going to play in the post season. They have the pieces (sans a durable right fielder) in the batting order: Soriano, Lee, Ramirez, Theriot, DeRosa, and Floyd can produce runs. Zambrano, Lilly, Marquis and Hill can hold their own most nights in the National League – 5th in the NL in ERA and 2nd overall in Strikeouts of opponents.

Lou Piniella has done everything he could to manipulate this into a winning ballclub. In a weak division, Milwaukee is just not good enough. Aside from Ben Sheets and Prince Fielder, I don’t get a warm fuzzy with their players on the field. The Cubs have more experience in playoff runs with Soriano, Lee, DeRosa actually going on to play in the World Series.

New York. The city liked so much they gave them 2 teams. The Mets are star laden bunch. Coming up short last year to the mediocre WS-winning Cardinals had to put them on edge. Unfortunately, the Altanta Braves are only 4.0 games back. What gives? They have a 3.65 ERA which is 3rd in all of baseball. They have enough offense to win? Bullpen has been terrible. Aside from little lefty Billy Wagner and Pedro Feliciano, they have Mota (5.29), Sele (5.26), Shoeneweis (5.46) and Heilman (4.19) that have blown up a few games.

Mets will win – with Pedro Martinez on the mend for August/September push – but not by double digits.

NL West. It’s a good question: who will win this mess?

San Diego: 27th in OBP. 22nd in SLG%. 1st in ERA (3.03 ) by a half-run over everyone else.
LA Dodgers: 11th in OBP. 23rd in SLG%. 5th in ERA (3.73).
Arizona D-backs: 25th in OBP. 19th in SLG%. 8th in ERA (3.92).

Pitching wins championships. San Diego has veterans in Maddux, Wells and Hoffman to go with Jake Peavy. Their lineup is mediocre at best, they play decent defense and their home park is best suited for 3-2, 2-1 ballgames with a good bullpen which they have.

NL Playoffs: Chicago, New York, San Diego and LA Dodgers.
NL Championships: New York and Chicago.
NL Series: Chicago. (Biased ain’t I?)

Boston v. Chicago: Boston in 6. Cubs still sans a World Series title….