Monday, August 6, 2012

Should the Braves go to a 6-man staff?

So, as I am prone to doing, I brought up DOB's twitter account and looked for any interesting news.  Typically, there isn't much, but a retweet caught my eye.  AJC's Jeff Shultz contends that "Medlen should give Braves reason to consider 6-man staff."  Oh, really?

After explaining that Kris Medlen can do everything short of solving the debt crisis, Shultz says...
There is one option the Braves should consider, at least in the short term: a six-man rotation.
It’s a little out there, and not something a team would do in the season’s final pennant-chasing weeks (when you want your best pitchers to get as many starts as possible). But it makes sense now, both because of the circumstances of those in the Braves’ rotation and because there is an upcoming stretch of 20 straight games without an off day (beginning Friday in New York).
I like how Shultz explains the idiocy of the option and then contends how it makes sense in the next sentence.  The reason why you "want your best pitchers to get as many starts as possible" is because that helps your team win games.  And for the record, every single game counts the same.  They may mean more on September 25th than they do on August 12th, but they count the same.  In addition, yeah, it's 20 games in 20 days, but that's just four trips through the rotation and half of those games will be against sub-.500 opposition, including seven against the Padres.

Listen, I get why Meds is loved and if the decision is to let him start, that's not a terrible decision.  I think Atlanta has to explore every option under the sun to better their bullpen and that's with Medlen.  The urgency to pull a nice August trade for a good relief option (or two?) becomes all that more important.  However, if the choice is to make sure Medlen stays in the rotation, adding a sixth starter simply isn't an answer.

Shultz knows that will be the contention made by folks who have ever paid attention to baseball.

Now, there are those ruled by “numbers” in baseball who might think this idea is ridiculous.
“Six-man rotation? You sir are a moron. According to Chapter 17, subsection 12, paragraph 2 of the Sabermetrics Guide To Pitching Rotations …”

But consider:

• No. 1 starter Tim Hudson has bone spurs in his ankle. He already has received two cortisone injections. The rest would help.
• Perceived No. 2 starter Ben Sheets has started four games after not pitching in two years. Wear and fatigue could be issues.
• No. 3 Paul Maholm would be taken out of his every-fifth-day rhythm. If you consider that potentially catastrophic, raise your hand. (Anybody?)
• No. 4 Mike Minor has long surpassed his career single-season high with 116 2/3 innings (he threw 82.2 last year). Another off day should be welcomed.
• No. 5a Medlen isn’t going to complain.
• No. 5b Hanson is in no position to complain.
All valid points, but not for the argument you are making.  Because of the flimsy nature of the staff, the Braves need their bullpen at full strength.  I assume the argument here is that one of the bullpen spots would go to a starter and that would stretch a bullpen to six relievers.  Activating Hanson and installing him into the rotation would probably take Cory Gearrin or Luis Avilan's spot and if Peter Moylan makes it back all the way, he likely gets the other spot.  Your bullpen, at that point, has one long guy in Lispy Martinez to cover any time where Hudson has an episode, Sheets shows the wear and fatigue, Minor forgets to trust his stuff, and really...Hanson needs a full pen every night he pitches.  The wear and tear on the bullpen would be immense.  And what happens after August 30th off-date?  Do the Braves switch back to a five-man rotation?  Oh, wait, I'm sure we will cross that bridge, right?

And I didn't even need to access my Sabermetrics Guide to Pitching Rotations or, as we call it, common fucking sense.  By the way, Minor pitched 183.1 innings last year when you combine his Gwinnett work.  He topped 160 innings the previous season.  Why cherry-pick only his MLB numbers from last year?
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he hadn’t thought of a six-man rotation until it was brought it up.
Great.  Now you gave this bad idea to a guy who thinks because it's quirky, it must be a good idea. Thanks a heap.

Then he said, “Yeah, I could see that. Those guys have pitched well enough and they could use a breather. Minor has some issues. Hanson has issues. There’s Huddy’s [ankle]. Sheets — who knows? We could do it. The only downside is we have to go at least one short in the bullpen or with a position player.”
Those are pretty significant downsides, especially in the National League.  Maybe in a DH-heavy portion of the schedule in the AL, giving this idea shot if you have a very flexible bench wouldn't be the worst idea.  Hell, I would rather do the Rockies' inane idea of a four-man rotation on 75 pitch limits than a six man staff.

By the way...in case you missed it, that wasn't a suggestion.

Schultz finishes the article by talking up Meds.  Really, I'm not against demoting Hanson either to Gwinnett or to the bullpen to work through his problems and leaving Meds in the staff.  I think Atlanta is better off with Meds in the bullpen simply because, if Hanson is your fifth starter (provided Minor's success continues), he's not a terrible fifth starter and Meds' value is higher to the bullpen, especially in close games.  Take today for instance.  Albeit, maybe Hanson doesn't give the bullpen the ball in the sixth with no outs, two runners on...but for argument's sake, if Hanson did that and looked cooked, you don't feel as skittish going to Medlen like you do when Fredi calls on Gearrin (for the FIFTH time in SIX days, mind you).  You have a level of comfort that Medlen, as Schultz contends, can "rescue a teammate in full mound meltdown mode."

However, the choice is either Medlen or Hanson, not BOTH.  Let's not screw around just cause it's different.

No comments:

Post a Comment