A Six-Man Rotation: A Winning Strategy For The Mets And Yankees

Six -Man Rotation: Why Not?

The six-man rotation has been tried in baseball, but it’s never been committed to full-time. For the Mets and Yankees, it can be a win, win.

The six-man rotation is kicked around as a possible strategy here elsewhere by almost every major league team in any given season.

Within the past week, the Pittsburgh Pirates, with the signing of Trevor Cahill, are seriously considering using a six-man rotation.

Similarly, the Detroit Tigers are seeking another starter with the intent to move to a six-man rotation.

The argument for a six-man rotation instead of your best five pitching every fifth day has met with opposition lately when the number of innings pitched by starters these days is on a steady decline.

The five-inning start is fast becoming (or we can even say is) the bar that pitchers are valued. Pitching into the sixth and even beyond is considered a bonus.

So, the theory goes, why pay an extra starter (usually big money) to pitch every sixth day when your best five can’t give you more than five innings – and still cash their checks?

Six-Man Rotation Shouldn’t Be A Negative Argument

But that shouldn’t be the argument, because if we go there, why should hitters like Gary Sanchez, Joey Gallo, Reggie Jackson, Jim Thome, and a host of others be paid big bucks to hit occasional home runs while striking out at alarming rates?

At some point, though, and the time seems to be now, all the stars line up that suggest to teams like the Mets and Yankees (in this case) – can benefit by using a (permanent) six-man rotation throughout the regular season.

Six-Man Rotation And The Regular Season

If you noticed in that sentence, the keyword is the “regular” season, and that’s because there’s another season that follows the regular season in which starters will make an additional three to four more starts before the ultimate goal is achieved – a World Series Title.

The idea, of course, is not only to get there (the Postseason) in the first place but also and remembering that pitching is everything in the playoffs, to have enough juice left in the batteries of your top starters to make those extra and all-important starts.

Six-Man Rotation: When More Is More

The Mets and Yankees have tough decisions to make in the next two weeks regarding the competition among three pitchers on each team vying for that coveted fifth spot in the rotation.

For the Mets, Joey Luchessi continues to impress this spring, and Jordan Yamamoto and David Peterson are not far behind him in a quest where one makes it, and two don’t.

But what if two of the three make it because they’ve earned it, allowing the Mets to relieve predetermined starters (like Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carasco, Taijuan Walker, and sooner probably than later, Noah Syndergaard.

The same conundrum exists for the cross-town Yankees who are shouldering a choice to complete a staff headed by Gerrit Cole.

Yankees Corey Kluber set to revitalize his career (ESPN)
Yankees Corey Kluber set to revitalize his career (ESPN)

Employing a high-risk, high reward strategy, Brian Cashman will pay Corey Kluber $11 million to (hopefully) escape from two injury-plagued seasons to recapture his twice named Cy Young status among elite MLB pitchers.

Similarly, Cashman took a flyer on James Taillon, mlb.com says is locked into a reward situation: He’s ready to pick up where he left off with a new, modernized pitching style – or a risk result where two Tommy John surgeries take too big a toll on his arm.

Jordan Montgomery, another Yankees attempting to bounce back from arm surgery, continues to impress five innings of no-run ball yesterday.

Deivi Garcia refuses to let the door close easily behind him as well, putting up string appearances that demand the attention of the Yankees, despite his young age and lack of experience anywhere in pro ball.

And then, of course, there is Domingo German, the “wife-beater” who is trying to assimilate himself back with the Yankees and their clubhouse, following a suspension that kept him idle all of last year, leaving a 2019 18-4 season in the dust behind him.

Mets And Yankees Rotations – The Common Denominator

What is the common denominator between both teams, except for deGrom and Cole, among the starters named above?

Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole - New York's Elite (NY Post)
Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole – New York’s Elite (NY Post)

You see it, don’t you? They are all vulnerable, either arriving on the 2021 scene from injuries or having minimal experience at the major league level.

Either case presents risks that can alleviate by reducing the stress over the course of the regular season by placement in a rotation that provides for an extra day’s rest – i.e., a six-man rotation.

Subject to debate is whether or not to include staff aces deGrom and Cole.

Again, with an eye to the postseason, when their value rises over the top, the answer should be – yes!

Carlos Carrasco: Mets Sore-Armed 2021 Starter (Alejandra Villa Loarco)
Carlos Carrasco: Mets Sore-Armed 2021 Starter (Alejandra Villa Loarco)

Either Cole or deGrom can win a Cy Young making 25 starts as easily as they can if they make the typical 30-35 starts over the course of a 162-game season.

But the benefit to their respective teams (obviously) goes beyond individual awards, and chances are both know that and will grudgingly accept the decision to limit their regular-season innings if that’s the choice made.

Along the way, the Mets and Yankees will need to monitor the benefit (or not) of each pitcher on their staff’s resulting performance with the extra day off.

A self-professed “bull” like Carlos Carasco can become a pain in the butt for Mets manager Luis Rojas if he can show this “shoulder thing” is (as he says) only a momentary and seasonal glitch.

Starting Pitching: A Long-Range Look

Looking at this long-range, there needs to be an adjustment to monies paid to starting rotation pitchers based on the number of innings they hurl in a given season.

The five-innings measure of a “good” start is not acceptable. Like deGrom and Cole, some view the fifth inning as merely a half-way point to getting their job done for the day.

But for the majority of starters, retiring 15 batters and keeping your team in the game is (in their mind) enough to satisfy a raise in the next contract dialog.

Unfortunately, too many teams seem to agree with them.

Atlanta Braves Big Three
Atlanta Braves Big Three

Closing the door on the starters who consider it a good day’s work when they make it through five innings to earn their inflated salaries is not a good answer either.

Rather, it seems more sense to reward those who excel beyond the five-inning bar, thereby negating the need for a six-man rotation to do the work of once was four men (cataloged here by the Society Of American Baseball Research).

We needn’t go back to a time that once was and will never return, though. Instead, it should be enough to look at baseball as it’s played today.

Complete games are as rare as a lunar eclipse, and a trail of relievers make the trot from the bullpen to pitch (now) to a minimum of three batters before they can be “relieved” by another teammate.

Let’s put it this way. If you or I could get away with reporting for work and delivering half of what was expected that day…well… you get the idea.

Beyond the debate about a six-man rotation, each case is a separate instance pertinent only to a particular team.

The Six-Man Rotation: The Jury Should Still Be “Out”

In the Mets and Yankees case, the discussion about a six-man rotation should be a major consideration as both teams move forward to Opening Day in two weeks.

My guess is it won’t happen for either team, and the “extras” will be deposited at each team’s Triple-A affiliate as “insurance” against future injuries or COVID-related catastrophes once the season gets underway.

That’s the way in baseball these days and many days before – but should it be the way? The jury regarding a six-man rotation should be “out” and not just thrown away as an idea never quite fulfilled.

Here’s What Readers Think

I see the future differently. I believe at some point, all pitchers will be going three innings. Teams will have four sets of pitchers who throw three innings, along with one or two closers. I also believe the rosters will expand, or they’ll do something similar to the NBA where they have a few inactive roster spots to rotate players. But this philosophy of throwing as hard as you can on every pitch is not sustainable.
I’m a big proponent of the 162-man rotation. I double-dog dare any team to face my roster of fresh arms 😉

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Steve Contursi
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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.