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The White Sox are going with a six-man rotation

May 12, 2011, 10:00 AM EDT

peavy throws Reuters

As has been suggested ever since it became clear that, yes, Jake Peavy was actually coming back, starting tomorrow, the White Sox are going to go with a six-man rotation. Today Brett Ballantini of CSN Chicago has the complete breakdown of the schedule and the White Sox’ starters’ splits on four, five and six days’ rest.  The upshot: everyone except Edwin Jackson does better on extra rest, and Jackson does about the same. Brett also proposes some schedule tweaks that would optimize the number of starts each guy gets on his best rest period (some do better with five days off; others six).

We hear about teams messing with — or at least flirting with — the idea of six-man rotations from time to time, but the White Sox’ experiment is supposed to last a while. Scanning around the web for a few minutes I couldn’t find any comprehensive studies of the beast, so I’m not sure (a) if anyone has used a six-man rotation for a sustained period of time; or (b) if it was useful.  It strikes me that the biggest risk to it all is not what it means for the starters themselves but for roster construction. Are there enough position players on the bench? Will the manager, knowing that his starters are better rested, better-optimize his bullpen use?

It’ll be interesting to watch. And, if the White Sox go on a tear over the next month, will be something we’ll probably see more of.

  1. The Dangerous Mabry - May 12, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    There are plenty of reasons NOT to do this in general. Perhaps most compelling is the fact that one of these guys probably isn’t as good as the other five, so you’re taking starts away from your better pitchers and giving them to a lesser pitcher. If you had a guy who pitched like a Halladay and could throw every day, that’s what you’d do. The only reason to have more than one pitcher is that they can’t pitch every day; otherwise you’re best off giving as many innings as possible to your best pitchers. I’m less concerned about guys having “too much rest”, or the impact on the roster. The biggest issue for me is that it’s simply inefficient to give fewer innings to your best pitchers.

    • 5thbase - May 12, 2011 at 1:29 PM

      Agreed. In fact, usually the 5th man is only used when absolutely needed to keep your good starters at their desired rest. All the White Sox are doing is taking stats away from their top 3 and shifting them to their bottom 3. With a invariable 6-man rotation over a whole season, your ace would get 27 starts as opposed to most teams’ 33-35 starts.

      But on the positive side, the best White Sox pitchers will be well rested and ready to go for the playoffs they won’t be participating in unless they get traded before the deadline!

      • chesschum - May 12, 2011 at 3:40 PM

        I disagree. The same argument was used years ago when teams moved from a 4-man to a 5-man rotation. If they had been correct, we’d still see at least some 4-man rotations. The issue isn’t how many “good” and “bad” starters you have; it’s how effective starters are at various levels of rest. If the data shows that everyone pitches as well or better on 5 days rest than on 4, that more than offsets the “problem” of having your 6th-best pitcher in the rotation, right? I think the real issue is the one Craig raises: how this is going to affect the rest of the roster, especially the relief corps.

  2. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - May 12, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    This only lasts as long as Humber is effective.

  3. trevorb06 - May 12, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    You’ll probably see starters pitching in relief on the days they’re suppose to throw in general.

  4. gmc173 - May 12, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    They now have the best 6 man rotation in all of MLB…. granted it is the only 6 man rotation but whose counting

  5. JBerardi - May 12, 2011 at 2:36 PM

    Goodness gracious. Teams aren’t going to be happy until their bench is just one guy who plays infield, outfield and catcher, are they? Earl Weaver is spinning in his grave, and he’s not even dead yet.

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