By now, you know that Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton will be on the New York Yankees’ rotation. J.A. Happ will, as well, according to General Manager Brian Cashman.
That means Jordan Montgomery and Domingo German, when he returns, won’t have a spot. How about going with a six-man rotation to keep everybody involved? Is it an idea worth considering?
Pros of using a six-man rotation
- It reduces injury-risk
Rob Arthur, back in 2015, made a study and concluded that the injury risk for pitchers decreases as more rest days are added after starts.
He wrote that 1.7 percent of pitchers reported an injury within the next two weeks after pitching on three days’ rest. The number would go down to 1.0 on four days’ rest and 0.8 (about a 20 percent drop) on five days’ rest, which would be the case on a six-man rotation.
- The starters will be well-rested for the stretch run and (potentially) the playoffs
It’s not the same to go to the playoffs with 210 innings on your arm than doing it with 170. If the Yankees were to implement a six-man rotation in 2020, all of their starters would be fresher to take on teams such as the Houston Astros, the Boston Red Sox, the Minnesota Twins, and other possible contenders.
- Every talented, deserving candidate will be involved
Leaving Jordan Montgomery out of the group of starters would mean that a deserving pitcher would not be in the rotation.
If you are wondering why Montgomery deserves it, well, he had a very good rookie season in 2017, is young, controllable, talented and is now healthy after a couple of years lost because of Tommy John surgery. A six-man rotation would ensure that Montgomery won’t be left out.
- Happ will have a longer look
The Yankees may be eyeing the trade deadline by including Happ in the rotation. If he pitches decently, he may bring back something of value come July 31st. And he may be expendable because Domingo German would be back from suspension and, well, Jordan Montgomery exists.
If the Yankees want to increase Happ’s value, they might as well put him in the rotation and hope he resembles the 2018 version, or at least the late 2019 version. There is a chance, and if he fails, he could simply be removed from the group of starters.
At the same time, Montgomery is a talented arm that could take off if given the chance to be in the rotation. If the Yankees want to have both of them starting regularly, the best way to achieve that would be using a six-man rotation. Monty has minor league options left, but he has nothing left to prove there.
- It would limit Montgomery’s load and keep him starting in a competitive environment
Yes, Montgomery could start in Triple-A, but we already know he can thrive in an MLB rotation. He could go to the bullpen – which will be the case to start the season, apparently – but he showed he can be a successful starter. Going with a six-man rotation would mean that he can have a starter’s workload, but his arm won’t be abused.
Cons of using a six-man rotation
- Players care about personal stats and totals
Having a six-man rotation for a full season will decrease the innings total of a starter by between 30 and 50. Sexy milestones such as 200 strikeouts or frames may not be realistic, and pitchers like those even if they won’t admit it.
Pitchers (and agents) may feel that a six-man rotation would cap innings (and totals), which may affect future contract negotiations. Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton, for example, are slated to be free agents after the season. In the life of an athlete, every dollar counts.
- It would mess with a lifelong routine
Several major league hurlers have publicly said that they dislike the idea of a six-man rotation.
Cole Hamels, for example, is firmly against the concept: “It’s not part of baseball. I know that’s the new, analytical side, trying to re-invent the wheel. ... that’s just not what MLB is to me. That’s not how I learned from my mentors. That’s not the way I’m geared to pitch,” he said in the past, back when he was with the Texas Rangers and they were considering the idea.
Pitchers, in fact, have a routine that they have been following for all their lives since little league, high school and even college. Here is something that Steven Ellis, a former pro pitcher, wrote on the matter:
Game day: Pitch 7-9 innings or throw 90-115 pitches on a pitch count.
Day after: Full stretching and medi-ball program. Jog 10 polls; 10 sets of 60 yard sprints, run 2, walk 1; 25 pick ups. Light weight maintenance work. Toss easy on sidelines.
Two days after: Full stretching and medi-ball program. Jog 10 poles; 10 sets of 60 yard sprints. Light weight maintenance work. Play catch and drill work.
Three days after: Jog - Stretch - Warm Up. Bullpen work at 3/4 speed or 8-10 minutes of BP. Run sprints.
Four days after: Day previous to next start. Jog - stretch - shag B.P for pitcher. Short bullpen work for 5-6 minutes, 1/2 speed, at 52-55 feet. No running or sprint work.
Pitching on three days’ rest, or in this case, five days’ rest will mess up a pitcher’s routine. Some of them will be on board with the extra rest, but others won’t.
- It would minimize the effect of Gerrit Cole in the rotation
Having a true ace in the rotation makes the idea of a six-man rotation less enticing, because your workhorse, all-world talent won’t even pitch 180 innings. Gerrit Cole cost the Yankees a lot of money, and using him like this would minimize the impact he can have on the team’s season.
Should the Yankees consider the idea?
While the idea may seem attractive from a health standpoint, it is unlikely that the Yankees adopt it.
The veteran starters may not be on board and it would minimize the impact of the top four (Cole, Severino, Tanaka and Paxton.)
Montgomery will likely be on the outside looking in to start the season, but he will be prepared to replace any of them in the event of an injury.