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Yu Darvish thinks major league teams should go with a six-man rotation

Jul 22, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

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The New York Times reports on Yu  Darvish’s comments to the Japanese media last week about arm injuries and stuff. Upshot: he’s all for a six-man rotation:

. . . Darvish said he believed that a shift to a six-man rotation by major league teams could significantly reduce the stress on all those elbow ligaments by giving pitchers a critical extra day to rest and limiting their starts . . . Speaking to Japanese reporters in Minneapolis last week, he said, “If you really want to protect players, we should add one more spot to the starting rotation.”

He got some backup from teammate Colby Lewis who spent two years in Japan and was used to the once-a-week pitching schedule (Japanese teams play six days a week and have six-man rotations).

Eh. Could it reduce pitcher injuries? It’s possible. There is some, albeit no definitive evidence that elbow injuries are less frequent in Japan. But there are also tradeoffs in terms of (a) giving less effective pitchers more innings; and (b) requiring teams to devote yet another roster spot to a pitcher. This in an age when teams are already frequently playing games with only two position players on the bench plus a backup catcher they won’t use unless they’re forced to. Sure, ideally you’d think teams would get rid of a reliever for an extra starter, but when was the last time a manager gave up a reliever even when it made sense? Heck, they’d sooner play infielders in the outfield than get rid of that 13 or 14-man pitching staff/security blanket.

There would have to be major roster rules changes to accompany such a thing, as they have in Japan. There rosters are 28-men deep instead of 25 and a couple of players are activated/deactivated on a game-by-game basis. If you do that here maybe it helps, but it still doesn’t solve the problem of using a guy who, today, couldn’t crack your rotation as a once-a-week starter.

If the injury/start frequency evidence got more definitive, sure, you do what you do in order to save your resources. But until then it’s a pretty tall cost to go with a six-man rotation on the regs.

  1. clydeserra - Jul 22, 2014 at 10:08 AM

    Regardless of the 6 starters, I like the idea of active/non active players on the 25/8 roster.

    • homerunheroics255 - Jul 22, 2014 at 10:24 AM

      I am the owner of a baseball message board, and I think you would be a good fit to join the site. URL is http://www.homerunheroics.com free to register etc and a great place to talk some baseball.

    • SocraticGadfly - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:12 AM

      Kind of per Ayase and his notes about NPB, one could make a grand bargain here.

      Expand rosters to 26. Whoever is currently the team’s “mop-up” man, or else top starter at AAA, comes up.

      The 40-man expands by two players, at least, to 42. Maybe 45.

      In exchange? We get rid of the DH.

      • Ayase Yano (綾瀬市 矢野) - Jul 22, 2014 at 7:24 PM

        “In exchange? We get rid of the DH.”

        How about just “flip-flopping” the DH rule?

        The Central and Pacific Leagues are thinking about flip-flopping the designated hitter rule during Inter-league play to mark the occasion. This will mean games played at Central League stadiums will use the designated hitter rule while games play at Pacific League stadiums will not.

        The Pacific league have no DH rule same to the National league
        The Central league have the DH rule same to the American league

        Probably won’t make sense to some here, but, who cares?

  2. Ayase Yano (綾瀬市 矢野) - Jul 22, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    As much as I want to agree with Darvish here, I see no possibility this happening in the MLB.

    A 6 man starting rotation may be suitable for a three game series, 1st squad worth of 3 for a 3 game set and the other 3 for the other one… NPB games are mostly 3 games here “NPB Interleague games not included cause it’s somewhat more of a wheel call, we somethimes call 2 players from Ni-gun (Minor League) to play the Interleagues cause we play just a 2 games series and 16 overall in a single season”. a 6 man rotation can also be helpful for pitchers cause of the 7 days of rest (day-off included).” Injuries are a rarity here probably because of it.

    If the MLB wants to change it to a 6 man rotation (which probably wont happen) then they’d better change the schedule and put it to a just 3 game series.

    • homerunheroics255 - Jul 22, 2014 at 10:23 AM

      I completely agree, but I also agree with Darvish here. I def. think MLB should have 6 man rotations.

      I am the owner of a baseball message board, and I think you would be a good fit to join the site. URL is http://www.homerunheroics.com free to register etc and a great place to talk some baseball.

      • Ayase Yano (綾瀬市 矢野) - Jul 22, 2014 at 10:27 AM

        A 6 man rotation won’t happen, unless the MLB changes the format to a just 3 game series.

    • renaado - Jul 22, 2014 at 10:37 AM

      The NPB roster is composed of 70 players and the most dominant are pitchers, If I’m correct… There is still a high chance of possibility that the MLB can adjust without changing the series format.

      • Ayase Yano (綾瀬市 矢野) - Jul 22, 2014 at 10:50 AM

        Yes, the NPB is composed of 70 players. Just like the MLB it’s more like of a 40 man roster, 35 players are active when the regular season starts here. Most players from that 70 man roster is with the developmental squad when not active.

        “There is still a high chance of possibility that the MLB can adjust without changing the series format.”

        There’s no balance then if they won’t change it, It’s as is, If they have the 6 man rotation in a 4 game set especially when there is a day-off after it then it would be somewhat complicated.

        We’ve never had any 4 game series format before, so I’ll stick on what I say with the current format on what we have here. And if the MLB wants to change the rotation to a 6 man then they should really change the schedule if they want this to happen.

    • nomoreliesfortoday - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:05 AM

      No. They two have very little to do with each other.

    • nomoreliesfortoday - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:06 AM

      No. The two have very little to do with each other.

      • Ayase Yano (綾瀬市 矢野) - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:15 AM

        You mean the 2 players from Ni-Gun?

        MLB is different from the NPB on how they handle the players… VERY, these players are still part in the roster however they’ve been put to the developmental squad for reserve and gets called up when the Interleague starts.However when they pitch in games when the roster expanded they won’t be starters cause the team already have the original 6 man rotation, but rather their role in the team are relievers.

    • dan1111 - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:54 AM

      This argument doesn’t make sense. There is no need for a squad of three pitchers to always pitch a series together. MLB has five man rotations, even though they don’t have series that break into five game sets.

      The six man rotation is just about adding an extra day of rest, which could happen without any changes to the schedule. If some team wanted to try it, they could just unilaterally go with a six man rotation–as long as they didn’t mind sacrificing a reliever or bench player.

      I tend to agree with Craig, though, that the benefits are not clear.

      • Ayase Yano (綾瀬市 矢野) - Jul 22, 2014 at 7:08 PM

        The statement I deliver probably just doesn’t make any sense ( Need to expand my English vocabulary a bit more), The NPB league we have here values balance, I just state the format on how every team in the NPB handle things here. I’m not just that very familiar with the MLB type of scheduling.

  3. rmfields - Jul 22, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    Six man rotations could conceivably work in MLB today.

    Teams just need to cut down on the number of relief pitchers, or convert a relief pitcher to a starter.

    The prominence of “specialists” is seriously becoming a detriment. You have relief pitchers coming in, pitching 1/3 or 2/3 of an inning every two or three days. What the heck is that about? I read how a closer has to “take a night off” because he pitched one inning in three consecutive games. Ok, so he pitched three innings in three days. Now he needs a break? I understand the concept of fatigue and stamina, but as a professional pitcher in the best baseball league in the world, you should not be gassed after pitching 3 innings over the course of 3 days.

    • dluxxx - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:49 AM

      It’s not just the inning that he pitches, but also all the warmup, bullpen sessions, etc that are adding extra stress to a pitcher’s arm. Typically your closer is your highest paid reliever. At some point it’s a matter of protecting your investment. Statistically, closers are only a few percentage points better, or just even with a standard setup man anyway, so overworking a closer for the sake of 1 game isn’t always the wisest option.

  4. dondada10 - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    I remember the 1999 Mets went to a 6 man rotation late in the year. It ended up being the difference, IMO, in that years playoff push which resulted in a one game playoff with the Reds.

    • mikhelb - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:40 AM

      That year they went 4-8 with 7 straight loses, going from being 1 game below the Braves to 6.5 games below.

      The Reds were the ones who forced a one game playoff because they went 8-4 in their final 12 games.

  5. johnnysoda - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    If pitchers keep throwing as hard as they do, I don’t think it will matter how many men are in the rotation.

    • Ayase Yano (綾瀬市 矢野) - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:17 AM

      Yeah! Keep throwing till you break a le—, I mean arm or shoulder!

      • karlkolchak - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:27 AM

        You obviously completely missed the point of johnnysoda’s comment.

      • Ayase Yano (綾瀬市 矢野) - Jul 22, 2014 at 7:05 PM

        I was being sarcastic.

        やれやれ…

    • karlkolchak - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:25 AM

      I agree. The emphasis on velocity and strikeouts seems to be more of a problem than the number of innings pitched. Starters routinely threw 250 IPs a generation ago, but most of them were lucky to strike out half as many batters as that.

      Take a guy like Jim Kaat, for example. Dude won 21 games for the 1974 ChiSox (and lost 13), pitching 303 innings while only striking out 142 batters but posting a not too shabby ERA of 2.92. All of this at age 36. Clearly the man was pitching from a comfort zone that didn’t put too much stress on his arm. He also completed 15 of his 39 starts, as opposed to the six innings one typically sees from a starter these days.

      • mikhelb - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:43 AM

        It wasn’t luck, it is called dominating rival batters; pitchers knew what pitches to use to make opposing batters hit weak grounders and pop-outs. Nowadays pitchers just want to overpower everybody, and they end up striking more batters at the cost of using more pitches (at least 3 pitches to K somebody, 1 pitch to induce a grounder or a fly).

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 22, 2014 at 5:30 PM

        Yeah, the “three true outcomes” theory has made for 100mph pitchers … who last four years. And, has played havoc with batting skills too.

  6. geejon - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    Starting pitchers are already throwing 1/3 less innings per year then they used to throw decades ago. 300 innings in a year used to be normal for good starters. Now it’s 200 innings. Going to 6 starters would give each of the 5 starters about 5 fewer starts per year.

    Pitching is already spread so thin with so many teams. The majority of 5th starters, even for the best teams, are close your eyes and pray types. Can you imagine each team having to add another one like that to their rotation? The fans would get screwed too having to watch some guy who’d be in the minors or in the pen getting lit up every week.

    If I had to guess the PA would be for it. The rosters would probably expand by 1 or 2 players. Starters would throw less. The cost of pitchers would rise as anyone barely competent would be fought over (worse than they are now) like they were gold.

    • dluxxx - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      I can’t even imagine what the Twins rotation would look like…

      Oh wait, yeah I do, adding one of our AAA arms would probably IMPROVE it. Crazy.

      • happytwinsfan - Jul 22, 2014 at 12:52 PM

        It certainly wouldn’t hurt the Twins if Scherzer and Sale were making 20% fewer starts.

  7. pmcenroe - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    I think it may be worth a shot(bc of the rampant injuries) but will any team be bold enough to stick to it through an entire season?

    Also what if instead of starters throwing their bullpens on day 2 like in the normal 5-man rotation they throw it on day three or better yet become available out of the bullpen that day thus eliminating the need for increasing the roster?

  8. Marty McKee - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:31 AM

    I would do the opposite if I were a manager and go to a 4-man rotation. I would use the fifth starter as the long man in the bullpen (remember those?) and drop at least one reliever to add another bat to the bench.

    • dan1111 - Jul 22, 2014 at 12:03 PM

      One thing I would do is take a top starter out of the game early if your team stakes a big lead. Up by five or six runs in the third inning? Bring in your long man and pitch your ace again a couple days later.

      • Marty McKee - Jul 22, 2014 at 2:31 PM

        I’ve thought about that too. One of these days, a manager will try it and it will work. And then sportswriters will make fun of him, and he won’t do it anymore.

  9. 1590t - Jul 22, 2014 at 12:14 PM

    This whole situation is a joke.
    Will Darvish give back some of his salary since he will be pitching less?
    Maybe pitchers should be paid by the start – then you would see starters going out there 35+ times.

    • namriverrat69 - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:04 PM

      Growing up in the 50s and 60s I got to see so many great pitchers of that era. They would start 30-40 games a year on a 4 pitcher rotation. They completed 1/3 or more complete games back then after starting 30-40 games a year. With the exception of the great Sandy Koufax, these guys pitched 15-19,20 years. These pitchers included great pitchers like Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal,,Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Whitey Ford, Jim Bouton among so many others. These guys pitched on 4 days rest usually or more with a break between series. They threw just as hard as current pitchers. Koufax pitched on 2 days rest in the 7th game of the 1965 World Series and won without his curveball, basically with just his fastball and change up. These guys studied batters, knew their weaknesses and strengths and pitched accordingly. It was a great time to be a kid. I saw the game where Juan Marichal hit Johhny Roseboro over the head with his baseball bat during the Dodgers/Giants rivalry. These guys took things just as serious as do players today.

      Todays pitchers just need to get to the 5th or 6th inning to get to the middle reliever who then pitches for 2-3 innings until the closer can come in. Starters should be able to handle 5-6 inning starts with proper self care.

      Players have better trainers and training regiments than ever. They are in the best shape of any pitchers in history. I don’t believe a 6 man rotation would seriously make a difference except compound the game for the fans. Fans want to see their favorite pitchers. With the care these pitchers have today and the fitness they keep themselves in, they should to just fine.

      Not looking for an argument. Just stating my experience and opinion. Good will to everyone who reads this.

  10. rcali - Jul 22, 2014 at 4:18 PM

    Ha Ha, not with the type of money you’re making kiddo!

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