Before the season began, I wrote a piece about how the wealth of starting pitching of the Saint Louis Cardinals, combined with an emerging shift from traditional rotation management to more creative treatments (think the “Opener” role in baseball this season) combined to create a unique set of circumstances where a 10 Man Rotation made sense.
Fast forward to mid-season. As it turns out, the Cardinals rotation is over-worked. Injuries have depleted the ranks of what many thought would be an outstanding strength. And yet, the following remains true:
Baseball is changing. Advanced stats reveal liabilities of traditional roster management.
Roles are changing, as is the workload expected. Few starters face a lineup a third time through the order. Sabermetrics back up this innovation. So bullpens are depended upon more than ever.
This is certainly true of the Cardinals. And so as I reflected back on my pre-season opinion, and considered the post-trade-deadline realities of the Saint Louis Cardinals, I still think the following makes sense:
Why not a 10 man rotation?
Hear me out…
Suppose you aligned pairs of five guys each to handle split starts.
Using the Cardinals as an example, here’s how that would look:
- Miles Mikolas / Daniel Ponce De Leon
- Jack Flaherty / Andrew Miller
- Dakota Hudson / John Gant
- Michael Wacha / Ryan Helsley
- Adam Wainwright / Carlos Martinez
(If you don’t like all those combos, you can play with them — take out Martinez or Miller and insert Woodford, etc.)
No pitcher attempts to see the lineup a third time unless they have a no-hitting or something rare cooking. Upon the completion of two times through the order the second pitcher is utilized. On average, this will get you through 7-8 innings, and you still have roster space to carry three additional relievers.
- You’d get each pitcher at peak performance. Analytics has revealed that pitching statistics spike a third time through the lineup. This eliminates this possibility. A lot of starters don’t make it out of the fifth inning anyway.
- By maintaining three additional relievers, you’re covered in the event that there’s a game where neither starter is crushing it. They handle mop-up duty, and you have a closer (in Hicks’ absence, and because you need Martinez handling more innings, I think Gallegos has earned that role.)
- Proud pitchers would hate it. They’d want to carry games beyond four innings for sure. But the game is moving toward specialization, so they’d have to adjust in kind. People hate the shift, too, but it works.
- Your AAA rotation would have to be strengthened from lower levels, having been pillaged to achieve this 10-man arrangement in the bigs
My point is this — the game is changing. Maximize your advantage. Get peak performance from every pitcher. Have a lights-out eighth and ninth inning. It won’t always work, I’m sure.
But I’d love to see someone attempt a ten man rotation, compare the stats after the fact, and then discount it as a decent option. I don’t think the traditional way of managing things is going to sustain itself.