Pitching outside the box

This was written the day that marked the end of the Mike Aviles era in Toronto (still longer than a Britney Spears marriage!), and the start of the Esmil Rogers, er, reign.

Which led, in my twitter timeline, to a certain refrain about the need for more pitching not of the relief variety. A lot of folks, 16 hours or so into free agent season, think that the Blue Jays haven’t waded in quickly enough to snatch up some quality starting pitching.. (Wherefore art thou Anibal Sanchez?)

As is my custom, I’m not that concerned about whether or not the Jays have roster they need to win. Not yet. Probably not until January. Or later. But the addition of another hard throwing, high strikeout pitcher got me to thinking about Alex Anthopoulos and how he might be setting up for an unconventional bullpen usage pattern.

Shi Davidi tweets the bullpen as it (potentially) lines up right now.

That’s a lot of 95mph heat in there. And no doubt there will be more arms lurking in AAA Buffalo. Which got me to thinking… about bullpens and rotations.

What I came up with would be this:

1. Often bullpens are credited with ‘shortening the game’. A closer like Mariano Rivera is said to make the game only 8 innings long. Venters and Kimbrel gave the Braves a lot of certainty for a year after just 7 innings.

2. Bullpen arms are easier to acquire with cost controlability attached. Lincoln, Delabar, and now Rogers all have multiple years of club control left. These guys have often failed at starting, diminishing their value.

3. The Blue Jays ran with an 8 man ‘pen for much of the year last year. The GM ultimately decides how the roster is composed, though would certainly take input from his manager. Maybe AA likes a 13 man staff.

4. AL teams do not often have much use for their bench players, the Blue Jays especially so in recent years. The instance of more pitching being required seems to be much more frequent than the need for a pinch hitter. Great pinch hitters don’t really exist anyway, great hitting tends to put you in the starting lineup.

So what I propose is as follows:

A 5 man rotation and 8 man bullpen. 2 starters are ‘expected’ to go 7 to nine innings on their nights.

The other three starters are only being asked for 4-6 innings a night, with the rule of thumb that they never see a hitter for the 4th time in a game.

The eight man pen has two setup men and 2 closers, ready to alternate closing out every night if the team is playing well and winning. They can also be used regularly when not leading, as there is no need to ‘save them’ for the next night.

With the reduced pressure on the starters to go deep, the bullpen also gets regular chances to work the 6th and sometimes the 5th. Opponents are always facing a fresh arm late in the game.

If a young pitcher is slotted into the 4th or 5th slot, the ‘short starter’ role, he’s still able to keep within an innings limit by simply lifting him early in starts, even if he’s performing well. This allow him to continue through the year.

All of this reduces the chances of any of these pitchers being put into a situation where they have to grind it out. Pitching tired means struggling with mechanics. Mechanical problems lead to injuries. Let’s avoid that.

So, I say, with a little less focus on getting ‘5 aces’ in the rotation, there might be a way to make the 8 man bullpen a full time, hard working bunch, and protect young arms from injuries in the process.

So… am I crazy, or what?


2 thoughts on “Pitching outside the box

  1. It makes a lot of sense! Really as much a necessity as a great idea by the Jays. They will be lucky to get one good enough starter this year and don’t want to give up the great young kids before they’re ready!

  2. Do you know of a way for those of us in the burgh to fololw the games down there? It would be nice to fololw live. Anyway, hopefully all the work you’re putting in starts to pay off in terms of surviving the grind. It’s progress, even if you aren’t at the final destination yet.seems like a lot of movement in the system these days. Is it tough to get to know new people that come in? Or are you guys stuck together enough that you can’t help but get to know them. That’s one thing that those of us in the 9-5 world have a hard time understanding, I think. Not only the turnover, but the fact that at any minute you could be uprooted to a new city, or even organization. As a creature of habit, that would be a little unsettling to me.

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