Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The Four Biggest Tactical Innovations We Could See This MLB Season

The five-man rotation has been a myth for close to a decade now; teams have learned to plan for multiple starting pitchers to miss time each season for reasons ranging from workload concerns to the sudden inability to find the strike zone. Competitive clubs might count on only two or three pitchers for 30 starts each, and fill in the gaps with openers, bullpen games, injury-prone part-timers, and conveyor belts full of interchangeable quad-A innings eaters.

The 2020 campaign, being as it is only about 37 percent the length of a normal season, will not be a test of endurance. Instead, this baseball season will be distilled almost entirely to the pennant race, and each team will have to adapt according to its own strengths.

The Angels, for instance, are going with a six-man rotation, because while they have numerous live arms, they don’t have a workhorse ace whose performance and durability demand that he throw more frequently. Not only is Shohei Ohtani coming back from Tommy John surgery, but Griffin Canning has been recovering from an elbow injury since March, and Felix Peña is still ramping up after blowing out his knee last season. Matt Andriese, Julio Teheran, Andrew Heaney, and Dylan Bundy have all pitched effectively out of the rotation in recent years, but all of them could benefit from a little extra rest between starts.

The Twins, by contrast, plan to lean on ace José Berríos out of the gate, and are preparing as many as a dozen pitchers to go through the order a couple times in long relief, spot starts, or tandem starter roles—Devin Smeltzer and Randy Dobnak could ultimately end up as swingmen, a throwback to the days of Earl Weaver.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 15, 2020 at 09:00 AM | 6 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: platoons

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Walt Davis Posted: July 15, 2020 at 08:40 PM (#5963226)
The excerpt is a bit of an overstatement -- and this from the guy who's been pointing this out for 15 years or so. The fully healthy and effective 5-man rotation was always a fantastical object (except for some of those White Sox teams) but so was the fully healthy and effective 4-man and 3-man rotations. So yes teams always try to have as much SP depth on hand as they can afford, they know they'll almost certainly need some at some point. But rarely is it plan A. Possibly recently there have been pre-planned moves to 6-man rotations for a few weeks or kinda pre-planned trips to the 10-day IL for "dead arm." And of course rarely can a team afford to pay a solid starter to be a spare part so it's generally only pretty poor staffs where it doesn't matter if you rotate guys in and out of the 4/5 slots.

The Dodgers of the last few years did seem to adopt a strategy of relatively high-priced, injury-prone really good pitchers (Hill, Ryu, Wood, now Kershaw) -- 6 good pitchers averaging about 25 starts each works just fine.

Point being there's a difference between (a) teams recognizing that they will probably end up needing about 40-50 starts** from guys outside of their planned 5-man rotation and planning for that likelihood as best they can and (b) teams intending to use 8 starters. But I won't rule out that the nerds may have discovered something like SP performance slumps badly over innings 100-150 (of regular usage) so ideally they would all get about 5 starts off at some point in the year.

For 2019, for their 5 most-frequent starters:

Yanks 136
Twins 146
Braves 132
Nats 135
Mets 143 (Stroman replaced Vargas at #5)
Cards 152
Cubs 150
Reds 140

Some of the other teams had 3 guys combining for about 90 starts but #4 and #5 were a mess. And of course the opener fad affects these numbers now. But it seemed pretty similar to years ago where even with some stability, those remaining 70-80 starts will be spread across 5+ pitchers. Then there are the amazing Angels with Heaney leading the team with just 18 starts.

I note an AL-NL imbalance in the above list. Maybe a thing, maybe just a product of all the tankers in the AL, maybe just random. Not that there's anything heroic about 132 starts.

** That's about where it seemed to be when I looked at it ages ago although of course "planned rotation" isn't really something you can identify consistently so I didn't try. Let's just say it was about 1.5 rotation slots filled by a group of pretty crappy pitchers.
   2. sunday silence (again) Posted: July 15, 2020 at 09:33 PM (#5963250)
Its odd to me why people arent suggesting a four man rotation. A shortened season, a really shortened season just screams out to me that you should shorten your pitching staff and get the most out of your best pitchers.

I guess I am missing something. BUt what?
   3. Mayor Blomberg Posted: July 15, 2020 at 09:36 PM (#5963251)
Yanks 136 -- But which five? Going into camp, Severino was expected to be the ace, and I thought Montgomery was expected back sooner.
   4. Adam Starblind Posted: July 16, 2020 at 12:41 PM (#5963369)
Platoons and pinch hitters -- a tactical innovation. This does get me wondering when the platoon became a thing in baseball.
   5. Greg Pope Posted: July 16, 2020 at 06:06 PM (#5963473)
Its odd to me why people arent suggesting a four man rotation. A shortened season, a really shortened season just screams out to me that you should shorten your pitching staff and get the most out of your best pitchers.

I guess I am missing something. BUt what?


I haven't looked at the schedules in any detail. Are there fewer days off and/or any scheduled double headers?
   6. SoSH U at work Posted: July 16, 2020 at 06:09 PM (#5963474)
Its odd to me why people arent suggesting a four man rotation. A shortened season, a really shortened season just screams out to me that you should shorten your pitching staff and get the most out of your best pitchers.


I imagine some teams worry that pitchers simply won't be as effective on short rest. That's definitely true in the postseason (though, in that case, they're asking pitchers to go on short rest when they're at their most worn down following the long season, so we shouldn't be surprised that they don't pitch very well under those circumstances).

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Dynasty League Baseball

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
BarrysLazyBoy
for his generous support.

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogOakland Athletics OF Ramon Laureano charges Houston Astros dugout, sparks brawl
(14 - 1:06am, Aug 10)
Last: Astroenteritis

NewsblogRules for pitcher feats in 7-inning twin bills
(16 - 12:44am, Aug 10)
Last: Mayor Blomberg

NewsblogEmpty Stadium Sports Will Be Really Weird
(8859 - 12:21am, Aug 10)
Last: Mayor Blomberg

NewsblogYankees' Aaron Boone argues with umpires about air horn being blown outside Phillies' ballpark
(1 - 11:10pm, Aug 09)
Last: The Duke

NewsblogOff the glove and over the fence! Texas Rangers’ Nick Solak homers in unique fashion.
(7 - 10:05pm, Aug 09)
Last: SoSH U at work

NewsblogWEEKEND OMNICHATTER! for August 8-9, 2010
(45 - 9:23pm, Aug 09)
Last: What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face?

Hall of Merit2021 Hall of Merit Ballot Discussion
(343 - 9:20pm, Aug 09)
Last: kcgard2

NewsblogWhat Happened to MLB's Elite First Basemen?
(10 - 9:20pm, Aug 09)
Last: Ron J

NewsblogOT - NBA Bubble Thread
(43 - 9:10pm, Aug 09)
Last: the virus could be killed by injecting 57i66135

NewsblogBA: 2020 Minor League Free Agents Will Be Eligible For Free Agency This Fall
(7 - 9:07pm, Aug 09)
Last: Ziggy: social distancing since 1980

NewsblogSource: Indians send Zach Plesac home for leaving hotel to go out in Chicago
(6 - 9:03pm, Aug 09)
Last: Ziggy: social distancing since 1980

NewsblogCubs-Cardinals series opener postponed over another positive coronavirus test
(17 - 8:44pm, Aug 09)
Last: RoyalsRetro (AG#1F)

NewsblogWhy MLB didn't use bubble plan for 2020 regular season; and what league insiders think of the decision
(7 - 8:31pm, Aug 09)
Last: What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face?

NewsblogChris Iannetta retires after Yankees send catcher to alternate site
(4 - 6:00pm, Aug 09)
Last: Tom Nawrocki

NewsblogA's bench coach sorry for 'unintentionally' making apparent Nazi salute
(86 - 5:31pm, Aug 09)
Last: Captain Joe Bivens, Elderly Northeastern Jew

Page rendered in 0.2663 seconds
48 querie(s) executed