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Articles Tagged Five-man Rotation 

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Another look at whether the five-man rotation makes sense.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to answer a question. Fifty years ago, it was routine for teams to carry only four starters, and for those four starters to complete a good chunk of their games. Pitching on three days’ rest was common, and pitchers regularly posted pitch counts that would get a manager fired today if he let it happen once. What happened?

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July 5, 2011 9:00 am

Painting the Black: Six-Man Mania

4

R.J. Anderson

Does a recent rash of experimentation with six-man rotations make sense, and is it likely to be emulated in future seasons?

People love to label phases and eras, so few periods in baseball have gone without names. The 2010 season will be known as the Year of the Pitcher, if last year’s coverage is any indication, just as the Dead-Ball Era lives on nearly a century later. If the first half of the 2011 season comes away with a nickname, history will have to choose between three compelling options: the Year of the Pitcher II, the Summer of Geriatric Managers, and the Invasion of the Six-Man Rotations. Sequels suck and demographics matter, leaving the latter as the most logical choice. The Yankees have thought about going to a six-man rotation, and the Athletics will use one—at least for a week—and when the rich and smart kids are thinking about making a particular move, then it’s time to talk about it.  

The most effective means of using starting pitchers has always been a hot topic in the sabermetric community, and it’s inextricably tied to workloads, which in turn inevitably leads back to a discussion of optimal rotation size. In Baseball Between The Numbers, Prospectus alum Keith Woolner wrote about the advantages in going to a four-man rotation—citing, among other reasons, fewer starts going to poor fifth starters and an extra roster spot (Rany Jazayerli hit on similar points during his series in 2002). Another sabermetric publication, The Book (by Tom Tango, Andrew Dolphin, and Mitchel Lichtman), also addressed the topic. Within, the trio suggests that the optimal rest period is five days, while the worst is three days—concluding that four days of rest, the amount currently employed by most teams, is a good compromise.

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August 10, 2005 12:00 am

Transaction Analysis: August 5-9

0

Christina Kahrl

Waiver deals are just getting started, as are the contract extensions for next year and beyond. Chris has the details on all the latest transactions.

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In the beginning, there were no rotations. There were no relievers. There was only one pitcher, and the term "everyday player" had no meaning. In 1876, George Bradley started all 64 games for the St. Louis Brown Stockings, completing 63 of them; his teammates combined to throw four innings all year. Of course, in the early days of the National League, the task performed by the pitcher bore little resemblance to what we call "pitching" today. At various times in the first two decades of professional baseball, the distance from the pitcher to home plate was less than 50 feet; a walk required nine balls; bunts that landed in fair territory before skidding to the backstop were considered fair balls; hitters could call for a "high" or "low" pitch; pitchers could throw the ball from a running start; and curveballs and overhand pitches were illegal. The game changed quickly, and it quickly became impossible for a team to rely on a single pitcher for its entire season. And once that point was reached, the question of how best to maximize each pitcher's usage was born.

Of course, in the early days of the National League, the task performed by the pitcher bore little resemblance to what we call "pitching" today. At various times in the first two decades of professional baseball, the distance from the pitcher to home plate was less than 50 feet; a walk required nine balls; bunts that landed in fair territory before skidding to the backstop were considered fair balls; hitters could call for a "high" or "low" pitch; pitchers could throw the ball from a running start; and curveballs and overhand pitches were illegal.

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To wrap up our series on the merits of the four-man rotation, let's look at some of the ancillary benefits of making the switch: The four-man rotation simplifies a starter's between-start schedule. Most teams have their starters throw on the side once between starts, but no one really knows whether it's better to throw on the second day after a start, or the third. It's not even clear whether starters should throw only once. In Atlanta, Leo Mazzone has had continued success doing things his way: he has his starters throw twice on the side between starts instead of once. (He does this because he feels it gives the starter the same increased sharpness that comes from working on three days' rest.)

Part One
Part Two


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To answer the question I ended last week's column with, it is very important to understand that my support of the four-man rotation is not, in any way, mutually exclusive with my belief in the importance of limiting pitch counts. It is fairly well-established (albeit not as well as I would like) that high pitch counts increase the risk of pitcher injury. But it does not follow that starting on three days' rest is more dangerous than starting on four days' rest. This is not a paradox at all, as both phenomena can be explained by one simple principle, which is important enough that it ought to be named and capitalized. Let's call it the Principle of Pitcher Fatigue:

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I don't mean to be overly dramatic here. I'm not trying to frame 'failure' in a pejorative sense, the way we might describe Tony Muser, or airport security pre-9/11, or Bud Selig's ceaseless efforts to acquire a human soul. I use the term "failure" in a purely literal sense. How else to describe a concept which has not succeeded in accomplishing the precise objective for which it was created?

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ANAHEIM ANGELS Placed RHP Al Levine on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis), retroactive to 6/27; recalled RHP John Lackey from Salt Lake. [6/28] I don't disagree with the idea of bringing up John Lackey to move into the rotation. Lackey is the organization's best upper-level prospect, and he's obviously ready to go.

Recalled RHP Matt Wise from Salt Lake; optioned RHP John Lackey to Salt Lake. [6/25]

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