What Would Baseball Look Like Without Starting Rotations?

Tampa Bay Rays v Seattle Mariners

So on Wednesday night, I had just gotten home from work and was having a few beers while my brother and I watched a replay of the Edge vs Mick Foley Wrestlemania 22 Hardcore match. You know, this one:

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After we got done watching that, I was scrolling through Twitter and noticed a user pointed out that on mlb.com’s depth chart page for the Tampa Bay Rays, Chris Archer is the only starting pitcher listed. I thought that was weird and sent it to a buddy who said “looks like Archer will be getting his innings in.”  I then went and watched the James Cameron movie “Aliens,” which was badass, but the Rays’ pitching situation wouldn’t leave me alone. So finally, when the movie was done, I got to thinking: what if ALL of baseball did away with pitching rotations?

A little background first on why Tampa’s depth chart probably looks the way it does. So at the start of the season, manager Kevin Cash announced that the Rays would go with a 4-man rotation and would make the 5th day an all-bullpen day. A pitcher that usually comes out of the bullpen will get the start, go as long as he could (typically no more than 4 innings) before other bullpen arms got in the mix. It led to the creation of the term “opener,” rather than “closer.” Tampa opened the year with a starting rotation of Chris Archer-Blake Snell-Jake Faria-Nathan Eovaldi (who didn’t debut until a little over a month later). Snell and Faria are currently on the DL while Eovaldi was just traded to the Boston Red Sox for pitching prospect Jalen Beeks. So right now, of those four, only Archer is currently standing. As for who the “openers” are, the Rays have sent out Ryne Stanek, Ryan Yarbrough, Matt Andriese, Johnny Venters, and Sergio Romo among others. All in all, 14 pitchers have made a start for the Rays.

So how well has it worked? Well the Rays currently sit in 3rd place in the AL East at 52-50 (this blog was written before the start of play on July 26), 18.5 games behind the Red Sox in the division and 9 games behind the Seattle Mariners for the second Wild Card spot. However that’s due in large part to the fact the Rays have struggled to score runs, as they’re 22nd in all of baseball in runs scored. Their pitching has put up very good numbers, though. Right now they’re currently 9th in pitching WAR at a combined 10.6 with the 7th best ERA at 3.70. That’s the main contributing factor for why a team as untalented on paper as the Rays has a winning record in late July. In fact, if the Rays were in the weak AL Central rather than having to face the Red Sox and Yankees a million times every year, it wouldn’t shock me at all to see them battling the Cleveland Indians for the top spot in the division (they currently trail Cleveland by just 3.5 games overall).

So how would Major League Baseball look if they took Tampa’s formula a step further and did away with starting rotations? Well, for one, there would be a lot more opportunities for managers to get creative. I’m going to use the Red Sox as my example team in order to simplify things for myself. The pitchers at manager Alex Cora’s disposal are, in alphabetical order: Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Eovaldi, Heath Hembree, Brian Johnson, Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, David Price, Chris Sale, Tyler Thornburg, Hector Velazquez, and Brandon Workman (this is not accounting for the injured Eduardo Rodriguez, Carson Smith, and Steven Wright). Assuming each staff follows Tampa’s model, the Red Sox could send any one of these guys out to start and go up to four innings. Not only that, but they could appear in back-to-back games and pitch in more games overall over the course of a season. As if we couldn’t get enough Chris Sale already, now he could be pitching back-to-back days and 70 times in a season as opposed to now where he only pitches every 5 games and about 30 times in a season. We could also see David Price come in relief for Sale, meaning teams will have to face two Cy Young-caliber pitchers back-to-back. Which sounds pretty menacing to me. Or Hell, the Yankees could start the game with Aroldis Chapman, go to Luis Severino for the second-fifth inning, then send out Dellin Betances. The combinations managers would have at their disposal are endless. Plus, we won’t have to think of bullpens as having just 7 or 8 options available to choose from. When you add guys who normally start to the mix, that gives teams 11 or 12 guys to choose from.

New York Yankees vs New York Mets

We will also definitely see a rise in fastball velocity. The reason some of these starters aren’t hitting 100 mph on every fastball is due to the fact that they’re preserving some energy in case they need to go deep into the game, whereas relievers put everything they have behind every pitch because they know they’re probably only going the one inning. So take this into account: a few years ago, the Cincinnati Reds toyed with the idea of making their superstar closer Aroldis Chapman into a starting pitcher. They tried him out in the role in Spring Training. Chapman’s fastball in his career has topped out at an MLB record 105.1 mph. Chapman’s fastball as a starter never got over 94 mph. The 105.1 mph pitch is obviously an outlier, but Chapman’s fastball still is routinely clocked at around 101 mph. Now let’s take into account what some guys are throwing despite the knowledge that they’re going to have to go multiple innings. Luis Severino, Noah Syndergaard, Mike Foltynewicz, and Eovaldi’s fastballs all average about 97 mph. By the logic of Chapman’s dropped velocity as a starter of -7 mph (typical 101 to 94), we can imperfectly assume that these guys’ fastballs would rise by about 7 mph (the math that got me to that assumption is probably very wrong, but you get what I’m trying to say here), meaning we’d have four dudes averaging a 104 mph fastball. I’m not sure how teams would manage to hit that on a day-to-day basis, especially when you consider that guys who normally throw 91 are now throwing 98.

We would also see the absolute annihilation of the pitching wins stat. As if it wasn’t already useless enough in today’s game, now it will pretty much only favor the second pitcher to be used, since in order for a starter to qualify for a win, he has to go 5 innings and his lead can’t evaporate. If the first pitcher used only goes 4 innings with a 10-0 lead, whomever replaces him first will vulture his win even if he struck out all 12 batters he faced. However other stats would likely be significantly improved, such as the ERA and opponent batting average stat. Think of it this way. In seemingly every game where a pitcher is going deep into his outing, the broadcast shows a graphic that showcases how a pitcher does each time through the lineup. Usually, the hitters will have the pitcher figured out by their third time seeing him in the game. With this type of pitching staff, you deny hitters the opportunity to see a pitcher for a third time, thus relinquishing that late-inning value at their disposal, leading to potentially fewer runs being scored. Now, of course, bringing in a bunch of relievers makes it more likely that you’re going to bring someone in who is having an off-night, but I think overall the number of runs scored is going to drop substantially.

Seattle Mariners v Colorado Rockies

There will also be more talented pitchers take the next step and become studs than before. Consider the fact that Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, Archie Bradley, Wade Davis, and Brandon Morrow all began their careers as starting pitchers but flamed out and failed to realize their great potentials. Then consider the fact that they became dominant bullpen arms upon their move to that role. Well now everybody will make that switch so we could see extremely talented guys such as Kevin Gausman, Lucas Giolito, or Tyler Glasnow be given the opportunity to reinvent themselves. David Price even looked like his Cy Young-winning self during his brief stint in the Red Sox bullpen to finish the 2017 season, as he didn’t give up a run in his 9 relief outings.

Sadly, though, the individual no hitter would cease to exist as any future no hitter would be of the combined variety. The most exciting outcome for a pitcher where nothing happens has been something that has always been a goal of mine to see from start to finish would be a thing of the past since the starter would likely be gone by the third or fourth inning. However I’m sure there are plenty of managers out there who don’t really care, as long as they got the win, which is ultimately what really matters.

There will be a few changes that will have to happen, though, in order for this change to work. For one, guys who are currently starting pitchers need to COMPLETELY overhaul their routine. Starting pitchers have routines they do on their off days to get ready for their next start, but without the certainty that comes with being a starting pitcher, that will change dramatically and will more than likely affect some guys for the worst. Another change will be MLB’s requirement of teams announcing who will start each game. If a manager is going to run with this type of pitching staff, they’re going to have to give a few days’ notice for each pitcher. If this type of staff were to be rolled out, I’d personally be more invested in a surprise starter for every game, keeping opposing teams on their toes. Though I guess managers typically fill out their batting orders based on who the opposing pitcher is so that would probably cause a problem. Damn, thought I was on to something or a moment.

In short, I think that taking the Rays’ formula for a pitching staff a step further and doing away with starting rotations could potentially be a very innovative way to go about pitching and re-think the way teams construct their staffs. Did I just break baseball? Or did I have way too much to drink and this idea is stupid? Let me know what you think of the idea of no pitching rotations in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: April 10

Sorry for there not being a blog yesterday, I spent basically the whole day watching Wrestlemania (because it was 7 hours long) and I was several beers deep so I wouldn’t be able to go in depth with sports topics. It was a good show, though. More highs than lows. Luckily for me, Monday didn’t really have a ton of sports going on so I can talk about stuff that happened Sunday in addition to Monday. So I think this works out. Anyway, on to the topics.

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-Giancarlo Stanton went 0-for-7 in an extra innings game against the Orioles and struck out 5 times. This is the second time this season he’s struck out 5 times in a game without any hits. This is the first time in the Live Ball Era that any player has had such a game twice in 1 season. It was done by April 8 by Stanton. To be fair, Stanton had never struck out 5 times in a game prior to this season, but his strikeout rate is cause for early-season concern. He’s striking out 41.7% of the time, which somehow isn’t the highest rate a week and a half into the season. That belongs to Ian Happ, who is striking out 56.7%(!) of the time. Now, obviously, those numbers are going to go down. You just don’t strike out that frequently and continue having a job in the Majors. But still, those numbers for Stanton and Happ are cause for concern.

-The Red Sox once again stole a win from the Rays, this time coming back from down 7-2 in the 8th inning to win. It was basically just double-after-double. This was the first weak performance by a starting pitcher this season, as Eduardo Rodriguez made his 2018 debut after recovering from injury. He went 3.2 innings, allowing 3 runs and his stuff just looked a little off. But the offense exploded in the 8th inning to save the game and push the Red Sox to an 8-1 start, their best start in franchise history (since 1901). This makes them the hottest team in baseball headed to their first matchup with the Yankees on Tuesday.

-Aldon Smith got arrested AGAIN, third time in 2 months, this time for violation of a protective order after he was arrested for alleged domestic violence. He’s being held on bond for half a million dollars. Smith was one of the brightest young stars in the NFL with the 49ers, recording 44 sacks in his first 3 seasons, but he has been arrested an uncountable number of times, including things like the domestic violence incident to yelling “bomb” in an airport. I really hope for his sake that he gets the help he clearly needs because when someone gets in trouble as frequently as Smith does, there’s something not quite right with them.

-Shohei Ohtani’s second start as a pitcher was spectacular, as he carried a perfect game into the 7th inning. His final line was 7 shutout innings, 1 hit, 1 walk, and a dozen strikeouts. Like I mentioned on multiple occasions, Ohtani had a miserable Spring Training but his regular season has been nothing short of amazing. As a hitter, he’s batting .389 with 3 home runs and 7 RBI while on the mound he’s 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 18 strikeouts over 13 innings pitched. Through 11 games, Ohtani has been well worth the hype.

-Indiana baseball hit a walkoff home run in extra innings against Purdue a day after beating the Boilermakers 14-1. Nothing really else to go off of there, just wanted to leave that there for all the world to see and appreciate(ignoring the fact Purdue won the series opener).

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-The Alliance of American Football, which is a football league that will start in 2019 that is being headed by Charlie Ebersol and former Colts GM Bill Polian, made news over the weekend, particularly as it pertains to their Orlando-based franchise, which I don’t think has an official name yet. The Orlando team landed Steve Spurrier as its first head coach. Spurrier was a Heisman trophy winner in the 1960’s and was a very successful coach with his alma mater Florida and with South Carolina and he earned the nickname the “Ol’ Ball Coach.” Just ignore his tenures in the NFL as a player and a coach. The man has accomplished pretty much everything there is to accomplish at the collegiate level and I guess trying his hand at an upstart football league is another thing he wants to try his hand at. He’s 73 years old, a time when many are staying retired, but it’s been hard living in a world where Spurrier isn’t patrolling a sideline, so this is welcome news.

 

-Watching Wrestlemania, I thought Ronda Rousey looked REALLY good in her debut. The former UFC superstar looked right at home alongside former Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle (that’s not just a part of his gimmick, he actually does have an Olympic Gold Medal for wrestling) in her match against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. The story is basically Rousey embarrassed the Power Couple with the help of the Rock at Wrestlemania a few years ago and they signed her so that they could get revenge on her, but Angle, who is an authority figure as RAW General Manager, was having none of it and revealed their intentions to Rousey, setting up a Mixed Tag Team match at Wrestlemania. Rousey looked like she belonged and won the match by getting McMahon to tap out in an armbar. It was awesome.

Sorry about the wrestling update, but there really isn’t any more else to talk about in sports, as there was a lot less going on than I thought there would be. There are other stuff outside of sports, like the Simpsons basically saying “fuck you” to the people who get offended by Apu’s stereotype, to which I say, calm down, people. The Simpsons stereotype EVERYBODY, Apu’s only getting hate from the Indian community because he’s so popular and recognizable that he’s become the poster boy for Indian stereotypes. In fact, let’s go down the list of other characters that the Simpsons stereotype.

Homer: stereotypical middle-aged American man

Lisa: stereotypical leftist

Groundskeeper Willie: stereotypical Scot

Chief Wiggum: stereotypical cop

Ned: stereotypical Christian

Fat Tony: stereotypical Italian (also Luigi, that cook with the broken English)

Bumblebee Man: stereotypical hispanic

Barney: stereotypical alcoholic

Otto: stereotypical junky

That Old Jewish Man that Grandpa Abe Simpson is friends with: kinda speaks for itself

I could probably go on but I think you get the point. Though now that I think about it, I don’t think there’s a stereotypical black character. Now that I think about it, black characters are pretty well off in that show. Dr. Hibbert is a medical doctor, there’s that judge who was white for the first few seasons, Lou’s a cop who seems to be more competent than his superior, Chief Wiggum but just goes with his shenanigans, Drederick Tatum the boxer who is clearly based on Mike Tyson, etc. But anyways, that’s a ramble if I’ve ever written one so I’m going to shut this one down. Thanks for reading, let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

General Sports: April 8

-So remember how I wrote yesterday that Phillies manager Gabe Kapler was on the hot seat after only 6 games? Well…

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It seems that Kapler survives another day. The Marlins got out to a quick 1-0 lead thanks to a wild pitch by Vince Velasquez, then things imploded for Miami. Maikel Franco hit a grand slam in the first inning, Altherr hit another grand slam in the third, then an 8-run 4th inning. A few factoids from reading the box score:

  1. Everybody who had a plate appearance for the Phillies got a hit (with the exception of relief pitcher Jake Thompson). Even starting pitcher Velasquez recorded 2 knocks and scored a run.
  2. 4 players in the Phillies lineup drove in at least 3 runs. This was spearheaded by Franco driving in 6. Altherr drove in 4, Rhys Hoskins drove in 3, and Carlos Santana drove in 3.
  3. Jake Thompson actually managed to record a save despite the fact the Phillies won by 19. A little known fact about the save statistic, you are eligible to record a save if you relieved the starter and went at least the final 3 innings, even if the deficit is greater than 3 runs. Thompson went the final 3 innings and only allowed 1 hit.
  4. 7 of the 8 Phillies position players that started this game recorded an extra base hit. Leadoff second baseman Cesar Hernandez was the lone exception.
  5. 2 separate Marlins pitchers allowed at least 8 runs in this game. Starting pitcher Dillon Peters allowed 9 runs on 9 hits in 2.2 innings. His replacement, Jacob Turner, allowed 8 runs on 6 hits in his lone inning

As if we didn’t already know it was going to be a long year for the Marlins, they get hit with this shit storm of a game. These things can be miserable. I would know. I attended a Red Sox game in 2016 when the Angels came into Fenway and beat their asses 21-2. CJ Cron went 6-for-6 in that game. The Angels managed to score 11 runs in the 7th inning. That 7th inning got so bad that when Red Sox fans finally lost hope, we started trying to see how many runs the Angels could put up. That game ended up turning around the slumping Red Sox’ season, as they got hot shortly after that game and it propelled them to the division title. But these Marlins don’t have the talent the 2016 Red Sox did so 2018 is going to suck for them.

-Speaking of the Red Sox. I mentioned a couple days ago that there would come a time when the starting pitching would need to get picked up by the bats. Little did I know that it would come the very next game. I’m not going to sit here and say Rick Porcello struggled on the mound. It’s hard to call 7.1 innings allowing 3 runs and at one point retiring 17 batters in a row “struggling.” But he got off to a shaky start, allowing 2 runs in the top of the 1st, which for a while to start this season meant a long day for the Red Sox, who have struggled to score runs. Well they shook that REAL fast, as they answered with a 4 spot in both the first and second innings, which included a grand slam by Xander Bogaerts, who had 6 RBI through 2 innings. JD Martinez recorded his first homer as a member of the Red Sox and Rafael Devers also got in on the longball action and the Sox took home their 7th straight win by a score of 10-3.

-I know wrestling is scripted and it’s more a show than a sport, but it’s Wrestlemania tonight and I’m very excited for it and I think it’s the one time where you can put wrestling in your sports blog. I’m just going to go ahead and give my predictions. Samoa Joe returns from injury to win Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, Bayley wins Women’s Battle Royal, Cedric Alexander wins Cruiserweight Championship, Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle beat Stephanie McMahon and Triple H, Braun Strowman and mystery tag partner (I’m predicting Big Show) win RAW Tag Team Championship, Bludgeon Brothers win Smackdown Tag Team Championship, Finn Balor wins Intercontinental Championship, Randy Orton retains United States Championship, Nia Jax wins RAW Women’s Championship (Carmella tries to cash in her Money in the Bank contract but fails), Asuka wins Smackdown Women’s Championship, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn beat Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon to keep their jobs through some shenanigans, Undertaker beats John Cena (not officially a match yet, but come on), Shinsuke Nakamura wins WWE Championship, and Roman Reigns wins Universal Championship. *Pant, pant.* There. Let’s see how I do.

-Not to blow up Conor McGregor’s spot, but…

 

His bail was $50K, which I’m sure he easily could’ve paid out of pocket, so I’m not surprised to see he’s not in jail anymore, but that’s pretty ballsy to sneak into a UFC event after the stunt he pulled. This just adds fuel to the “it was a work” fire that people have been speculating as I doubt McGregor could’ve have just snuck in, being the most recognizable man in UFC right now.

-Well this is one way to get a walkoff win.

I’ve overrun the ball before in my lifetime, but I really have no idea what Eric Hosmer was doing there. It’s not like it was windy, the Astros play in a stadium with a retractable roof and even when that thing is open, the stadium is structured in a way that wind has a tough time getting in and out. You can probably just chalk that up to early season rust, which I guess is an excuse even though spring training began in February. But this must have been the worst game ever to watch. 0-0 in the 10th inning and the only run that scores comes across on a botched popup. Astros fans are probably just happy with the win whereas Padres fans could be just happy they competed with the world champs. But damn that’s a tough box score.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports. Let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.