A 4-Man Rotation? Can It Really Work?

 

Being a Red Sox fan, I watched all four games this weekend as they played the Rays. I was fascinated with the Rays because they are using a four-man rotation to start the season and relievers are throwing multiple innings. But my question for Kevin Cash and the Rays is where are the innings going to come from.

The Rays rotation options as of now consist of Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Jake Faria, and Matt Andriese. My question of where are the innings going to come from is based off of looking at their career numbers. The Rays starters are all young and Archer is the only pitcher who is a work-horse (190+ innings last 4 seasons). Here are the most innings in the Big Leagues from the remaining 3; Snell (129), Faria (86), and Andriese (127). 200 + innings used to be the target for starters but last year only 15 pitchers in baseball reached the 200-inning plateau. The Rays do not need multiple starters with 190+ innings but I would think they need at least 3 starters with 160+ and other than Archer, there isn’t a player on their roster who has the track record of doing that. In the past decade, only one team has had its starters fail to reach 800 innings and that was the Colorado Rockies in 2012 when they lost 98 games. If you add up the four starters career high in innings during their time in the majors, it adds up to 554 innings. The Rays will need some of their starters to set career highs in innings pitched and other starters to step up in order to avoid setting an all-time low for innings pitched by a starting rotation.

Over the first 4 games, the Rays had two relievers throw 2 innings and two relievers throw 4 innings during a game. This is an interesting strategy but what happens when a starter has a rocky outing. Let’s say Chris Archer has a bad outing and only throws 3 innings. That means the Rays need to find six innings from their pen. The following night is one of their bullpen games and they need to find 9 innings from their pen. I just do not believe you can consistently get 4+ innings out of your bullpen during the course of a 162-game season. I know that I am throwing out hypotheticals, but a bad start will happen this season, especially playing in the American League East. I won’t say that the Rays will be one of the worst pitching staffs in the majors because I like a lot of their arms. I just do not believe this style will be successful for 162. I will be interested to see how long Cash decides to keep a 4-man rotation and how the relievers look come July and August. Time will tell.

Mick

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A ROUGH Start

Could there be a worse start to a manager’s career than Gabe Kapler’s first three games? Kapler is making moves that has casual baseball fans scratching their heads and making mistakes that you just don’t see managers make. Let’s dive in and look at the first three games.

Game 1: Gabe Kapler doesn’t start the newly signed Jake Arrieta on Opening Day. Alright, maybe not a huge deal. Aaron Nola got the nod on Opening Day and threw well. Nola threw 5.1 innings only giving up 1 run on three hits while only throwing 68 pitches. I know that pitchers aren’t stretched out yet but 68 pitches is a JOKE! I hate that managers who rely on analytics to make game decisions refuse to allow starters to try to navigate through a lineup for the third time. I understand that batting averages and exit velocity go up when a team sees a pitcher for a third time, but managers need to use their eyes. If a lineup is not getting good swings off a guy and not hitting the ball hard, why make a move when no move is needed? Kevin Cash is big on pulling his starters before they face a lineup for the third time. I felt so bad for Jake Odorizzi because he never had a chance to go deep into games. It appears Kapler believes that starters cannot go deep into games but the problem is he doesn’t have a bullpen like the New York Yankees. The Phillies’ pen blew the game as they gave up 5 ER on 6 hits and 3 walks. That was just game 1.

Game 3: Gabe Kapler made a pitching change without anyone warming up in the bullpen. Kapler made a change for Hoby Milner even though Milner was not getting loose in the pen. Milner entered the game and the umpires decided to give Milner a chance to warm up properly because they felt like an injury could have occurred if they did not allow Milner to warm up. I cannot tell you the last time I have seen that happen, if it has ever happened. But that isn’t the worst thing that happened in Saturday night’s game. Because Kapler took Nola out on Opening Day after 68 pitches, he used 5 pitchers to blow a 5 run lead. On Saturday, his pitchers got crushed and gave up 13 runs and Kapler decided to pitch an outfielder, Pedro Florimón, for the 8th inning. It’s the third game of the season and a position player pitches!!!!!! THAT’S EMBARRASSING!!!!!!! That cannot happen and Kapler has only himself to blame for it. Philly fans are already calling for Kapler to be fired and it’s the Opening weekend of baseball.

I think Philly fans need to relax a little, although they have every right to be upset. It will be interesting to see what decisions Kapler will make over the next couple of weeks.

Mick

A Possible Predicament

 

 

I will warn you that this post could be completely irrelevant in a week. But I do think it’s worth stating because I am not completely convinced that dead arm is the reason for why Josh Donaldson is throwing a baseball like he has T-Rex arms. Now there are reports out stating that Donaldson was working on throwing before today’s game and that he feels better and could return to third base in the next couple of days. Dead arm is a common injury for pitchers coming out of Spring Training but rarely do position players get it. But if you watched the Blue Jays on Opening Day, Donaldson was nowhere near what he normally is when he throws from the hot corner. Here are my concerns for Donaldson and the Blue Jays moving forward.

Right now, Donaldson is just the DH for the Blue Jays but Donaldson unable to play third base takes Kendrys Morales out of the lineup. Morales is a middle of the order bat that can only DH. Even if you wanted to try him at first base, you would have to take another middle of the order bat out of the lineup in Justin Smoak. This lineup is not nearly as intimidating as it was a couple of years ago when it had Edwin Encarnación and José Bautista. On Friday, Curtis Granderson hit fourth and today Yangervis Solarte hit cleanup. Donaldson taking Morales’s place really shortens the Blue Jay’s lineup and takes a major power bat out of the lineup.

The Blue Jays are one of a few teams in the American League that could go either way. Most of the American League is either playoff teams or bottom feeders this year. There aren’t a lot of 80 to 85 win teams. The Blue Jays could possibly compete for a Wild Card spot or sellers at the deadline. It’s imperative that the Jays get off to a strong start. The only way the Blue Jays sniff Wild Card contention is if Josh Donaldson plays like an MVP candidate. Donaldson and his right shoulder is definitely something to keep an eye on early in April.

Mick

Sheet of Integrity

          Every year my brother, my dad, and I do our sheets of integrity or what most people call their predictions. There is a lot riding on these predictions as the winner is treated by the other two for wing night. Any time wing night is on the table, it’s a big deal.                                                         

                                                           Sheet of Integrity 2018

A.L. East (5)                                          A.L. Central (5)                                   A.L. West (5)

  1. New York                                         1. Cleveland                                           1. Houston
  2. Boston                                               2. Minnesota                                          2. Seattle
  3. Toronto                                             3. Chicago                                               3. Los Angeles
  4. Tampa Bay                                       4. Kansas City                                         4. Texas
  5. Baltimore                                         5. Detroit                                                 5. Oakland

A.L Roy (10): Willie Calhoun       A.L. CY (10): Chris Sale        A.L. MVP (10): Carlos Correa

A.L. Wild Card Game (1 Pt. each team / 10 for winner): Boston over Seattle

N.L. East  (5)                                          N.L. Central (5)                                  N.L. West (5)

  1. Washington                                       1. Chicago                                            1. Los Angeles
  2. New York                                           2. St. Louis                                            2. Arizona
  3. Atlanta                                                3. Milwaukee                                      3. San Francisco
  4. Philadelphia                                      4. Cincinnati                                        4. Colorado
  5. Miami                                                 5. Pittsburgh                                        5. San Diego

N.L. ROY: Ronald Alcuna               N.L. CY: Clayton Kershaw              N.L. MVP: Kris Bryant

N.L. Wild Card Game (1 Pt. each team / 10 for winner): New York over St. Louis

A.L. Divisional Round (Games) (10 / +1):                             A.L. Divisional Round (Games) (10 / +1):

Houston over Boston (5 Games)                                        Cleveland over New York (4 Games)

N.L. Divisional Round (Games) (10 / +1):                             N.L. Divisional Round (Games) (10 / +1):

Washington over New York (4 Games)                            Chicago over Los Angeles (5 Games)

A.L. Championship (Games) (20 / +1):                                  N.L. Championship (Games): (20 / +1):

Houston over Cleveland (6 Games)                                  Chicago over Washington (7 Games)

World Series (Games) (30 / +1):

Chicago over Houston (7 Games)

World Series MVP (10): Kyle Schwarber

1 MORE DAY!!

MICK

From Below .500 to the Playoffs

Every year there is at least 1 team that has a great turnaround from the previous season and makes the playoffs. Last season, the Minnesota Twins won 85 games after losing 103 the previous season. I predict there are two teams that will go from below .500 to claiming a Wild Card spot.

  1. The Seattle Mariners

The Seattle Mariners have not been to the playoffs since 2001 and I truly believe this is their year. Normally, I go with the mentality of, “I have to see it before I will pick them.” For example, I won’t pick Sean Miller and Arizona to get to the Final Four until they do it and I won’t pick the Cleveland Browns until they win again. This season, I am going to go against my rule and pick the Mariners to finally make it to the playoffs. The Mariners finished last season 78-84 but they have added Dee Gordon and Ryan Healy to going along with a strong core in their lineup. In the past, the Mariners have struggled to score runs in Safeco Field. Seattle’s offense ranked 7th in runs and adding a guy who can get on base like Gordon for Cano, Seager, and Cruz should increase their run production. I like Mike Leake to have a big year in his first full season in Seattle. In his 5 starts as a Mariner last season, Leake went 3-1 with a 2.53 ERA. Safeco Field could be exactly what Leake needs to have a big season. Obviously, the success of the Mariners will boil down to the health of starters Felix Hernandez and James Paxton. Hernandez only made 16 starts and Paxton made 24 starts. For the Mariners to break their playoff drought, the top two guys in the rotation will have to stay healthy and have big years. I like the Mariners to end their streak and earn one of the Wild Card spots.

  1. The New York Mets

The question every year with the Mets is will the rotation hold up. That’s a question that I cannot answer but I like the depth that the Mets have in the rotation. The Mets finished 72-90 but their record was only that bad due to the team selling at the All-Star break. The Mets went out and signed Jason Vargas to give their rotation a steady arm. This rotation has two guys who I could easily see winning the CY in Jason DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard but Syndergaard only made 7 starts last season. The Mets have plenty of options in Lugo, Gsellman, and Wheeler to be able to survive if there is an injury in the rotation. The bullpen is a little of a concern as the Mets had the second worst bullpen ERA in baseball. A healthy Familia and adding Swarzak should help bolster the pen. The part of this team that is most predictable is the offense. The Mets ranked 7th in runs scored in the NL and they did it by leading the league in home runs. Looking at this team, there are a lot of guys who could potentially hit 25+ home runs. This team will score runs and if the rotation can stay healthy, the Mets should claim a Wild Card spot and return to the playoffs.

Only FOUR MORE days until Opening Day!!!

Mick

Bumgarner Out 6-8 Weeks

 

 

The San Francisco Giants will be without their ace pitcher Madison Bumgarner for an extended period of time for the second consecutive season with a broken left pinkie. Bumgarner missed half of the season last year after a biking accident on an off day in Colorado. This time Bumgarner was struck by a line drive in a Spring Training start on Friday. The Giants acquired Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria in the off-season to bolster their lineup but this is an injury they may not be able to overcome. It will be an uphill battle for the Giants as they will have to face the Dodgers 10 times in April without their ace.

Starting Pitching Will Decide the A.L East

 

 

There isn’t a better topic to get us back into writing about baseball than the Red Sox and Yankees rivalry. Both teams made significant splashes during the off-season and brought in new managers. It’s a two-team race and the Red Sox are trying to win the American League East for the third straight year.

I believe the division title will come down to the starting rotations of both teams. Offensively, the Yanks add Giancarlo Stanton to an offense that scored the second most runs (858) in the American League. Stanton comes to New York off a career season (59 home runs) to a team that led the American League in home runs (241). There is no question that the Yankees will have a top three offense in baseball but fans should not expect there offense to be the reason they win the division. Last season, the Red Sox ranked sixth in the A.L. in runs scored (785) and last in home runs (168). If the Red Sox were able to win the division in a season where their offense was below average, they should have a good shot to win the division adding J.D. Martinez to rejuvenate their offense. Both teams should have top 5 offenses in the A.L. but the offense won’t be the deciding factor.

I also believe the two bullpens are a wash when comparing the two teams. Last season, the Yankees led the A.L. in bullpen ERA (2.67) and had a K/9 of 12.09. The Red Sox bullpen was third with an ERA of 2.73 and K/9 of 10.56. Both teams have multiple power arms and guys who can get both lefties and righties out.

So let’s look at the starting rotations. The Yankees return everyone from a year ago. They are led by a 24-year-old ace who is coming off his first full big-league season in which he finished third in the CY voting. Severino threw 193.1 innings last year and it will be interesting to see how he bounces back after a full season, but I would expect Severino to have a similar season as last year. His ability to strike hitters out (10.7 K/9) allows him to work out of trouble. C.C. Sabathia is coming off a fantastic season in which he had his lowest ERA (3.69) since 2012. With Sabathia, the question is always going to be health as he is entering his 18th season in the league. Sonny Gray was not the pitcher the Yankees thought they were acquiring as he went 4-7 in 11 starts with a 3.72 ERA. Gray has not looked like the pitcher that went toe-to-toe with Justin Verlander in the playoffs over the past 2 seasons. Jordan Montgomery is coming off a rookie season in which he made 29 starts and gave the Yankees valuable innings. Montgomery is a left-hander sinker-ball pitcher and I think he could make a big jump this season. The X factor for the Yankees is Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka had such a confusing season because he had his worst season in the big leagues. He went 13-12 with a 4.74 ERA. It was weird because Tanaka had the highest K/9 (9.8) of his career but the strikeouts did not lead to success. Tanaka had 9 games where he gave up at least 5 runs. In the post-season, Tanaka looked like a different pitcher as he threw 20 innings and had a 0.90 ERA. If the Yankees get post-season Tanaka or anything close to that, they will have a good chance to win the division.

As with the Yankees, the Red Sox return their whole rotation as well. Chris Sale is coming off his first season with the Red Sox and it was a dominant season (2nd in the CY). Sale was dominant for most of the season, but it looked like the tall lefty was fatigued in September. Opponent batting averages were the following: April (.177), May (.215), June (.205), July (.167). August (.217), and September/October (.272). Sale was just not as sharp as he was earlier in the season and it might be in the team’s best interest to try to give Sale as much rest as possible early in the season. Rick Porcello followed up his CY in 2016 with an 11-17 season in which Porcello saw his FIP raise 1.20 from the previous season to 4.60. Either Porcello ran into bad luck last year or the 2017 Porcello is more like the real Porcello than the one that won the CY in 2016. Drew Pomeranz provided the Red Sox with a much-needed top of the rotation arm as the lefty made 32 starts and went 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA. Unfortunately, 2018 is not off to a good start as Pomeranz will likely start the season on the DL with an elbow strain. Another pitcher recovering from an injury is Eduardo Rodriguez. E-Rod is coming off off-season knee surgery but there is a good chance he starts the season in the rotation. The wild card for the Red Sox rotation is David Price. Price missed almost all of the second half with an elbow strain until returning to pitch extremely well out of the bullpen in October. Price is only two years removed from finishing second in the CY. Price’s time in Boston has been interesting but if he is healthy, it will be fun to watch Sale and Price at the top of the rotation.

The best rivalry in baseball should heat up as both teams are stacked with stars and young talent. There hasn’t been this much excitement between these two teams since the 2004 post-season. If you put a gun to my head, I would probably pick the Yankees to win the division, but a case can be made for both teams. Let the games begin.

Mick