clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Wednesday Rockpile: This Four Man Rotation Is Crazy...Like a Fox!

Every Rockies starter will become Josh Outman in this new 4 man rotation strategy.
Every Rockies starter will become Josh Outman in this new 4 man rotation strategy.

So the Rockies are going with a 4 man rotation and a 75 pitch count. Of course they are. To be honest, they'll have to change their routines the least of any team in MLB to make it work. I mean, Rockies starters aren't averaging more than 16 outs per game and are allowing a .915 OPS as a unit, so the bullpen will already be used to the work load, right?

I think that the 4 man rotation idea has some merit in a couple of scenarios. The first is when you have four great pitchers and a big drop-off, like the Phillies did last year. The other is when your pitchers are all bad options and you just want to throw as many looks at opposing hitters as possible in any given game. The Rockies are obviously the latter.

I disagree philosophically with the idea of a pitch count -- I think that holding it to a hard number ignores the fact that different players have different thresholds of both effectiveness and health. If a pitcher is still effective and throwing easily, he should be kept in regardless. With that said, Colorado's starters aren't averaging too many more pitches per start (91) than 75 as is, so this isn't a large change.

Believe me, I like to see this kind of unorthodox decision-making from the Rockies. The problem I have with the change is the purported reasoning -- to save the bullpen. Look, with a 4 man rotation on a low pitch count, the bullpen is going to throw more innings. Maybe more innings will be soaked up by the two long men -- Jeremy Guthrie and Guillermo Moscoso -- but I'll reckon that Colorado's good bullpen arms will still see an increase in their workload. That's why I think the purported reason was a little disingenuous. Just say that you'd rather have your relievers throw your innings than your starters and move on.

Here's another issue: as Troy Renck writes, what happens when a starter is actually effective? This was Tracy's response:

"He has got to come out, because he has to pitch four days later," Tracy said. "But if he goes five innings, he has pitched you to the point where you can go to a bullpen with some very significant people."

If this is about saving the bullpen, you should leave a starter pitching effectively in the game as long as he is effective. If it's about saving the starting rotation...well, I don't think there's a definitive report that shows a particular number of pitches that should be thrown by young starters, or whether these arms should have arbitrary limits placed on them at all. But that's a discussion for another day.

Rob Neyer of SBNation doesn't think this experiment will last very long, and I agree with him. As soon as Colorado gets 5 pitchers it likes at the MLB level that are capable of starting, it will revert back to that format.

Lost somewhat in the shuffle of this four man rotation stuff is that Guthrie has gone from Opening Day starter to mop up reliever. That's what happens when opposing hitters are batting .339/.400/.633 against you. In any case, I doubt that Guthrie will be on the roster when Colorado returns home next Monday.


Speaking of trades, Renck writes that a Jason Giambi deal is not out of the question in his mailbag. He also appears pretty prescient with his answer to the question about what Colorado needs to do with their rotation.

In injury news, doctors don't know what's wrong with Troy Tulowitzki yet. While it's better than a diagnosis of a serious injury that will knock Tulo out for the year, the uncertainty is disquieting. Meanwhile, Carlos Gonzalez is hoping to be in the lineup today after missing the last couple of games with pain in his right knee.

Thomas Harding has an in-depth examination of how Coors Field has been more hitter friendly this year. I still think that the issue is more that the Rockies have an all new pitching staff this year and that most of those pitchers have been really bad regardless of situation more than anything. Colorado's starters have a 7.37 ERA at home this year, which would be the worst in MLB history, I believe.

Finally, Matt Lentzner of Baseball Prospectus has a great article about how hitting works -- and how big league hitters are able to see where the ball is going to go out of the pitcher's arm -- but are basically guessing once it gets within 5 feet from the plate. Highly recommended reading.