It is becoming more and more evident that quality pitching is the hub of a pending baseball renaissance in New York’s Citi Field. Win or lose, a cadre of young pitching arms have kept the Mets competitive in Flushing for some two months now with Met pitching underlings tearing up the minor leagues at every level. The pitching uptick has many of the Met faithful thinking their turn in the sun may arrive sooner than anticipated.
With pitching the thesis of a winning Met essay, it may make sense in 2014 for the Mets to employ a six-man starting rotation. Imagine how a six-man rotation might look: Matt Harvey, Dillon Gee, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, Noah Syndergaard, Jenrry Mejia or Rafael Montero. That combination anchors power pitching every other day with contrasting styles and assets on the in-between days. It’s a full range of starting pitching that promises to electrify the Met faithful and propel the Metropolitans into the National League playoff conversation.
A six-man rotation is all about rest and recovery, a huge baseball issue in the modern game. Anyone who has suffered through too little sleep knows a little extra rest is rarely a bad thing.
Gone would be talk about shutting pitchers down toward the end of the season. Gone would be the “Strasburg Dilemma” where the Nationals shutdown their young fireballer refusing to allow him to pitch in the post season last year. A six-man Met rotation would increase the likelihood the young Met starting pitchers would reach the end of the season rested and healthy.
There are other benefits of a six-man rotation than limiting season innings totals. Longer rest and recovery would allow modest upticks in single game pitch counts aiding the bullpen, an added benefit. As former Met pitching coach and Director of Pitching Development for the Orioles Rick Peterson pointed out, in a piece advocating six-man rotations in the minor leagues penned by Steve Melewski, a six-man rotation allows young pitchers two bullpen sessions between starts.
“Having two bullpens, you can really specify. Maybe one is just a fastball command bullpen. Maybe one is a fastball-change-up combo bullpen. Maybe one focuses on put-aways. We start with 0-2 and then how are we going to expand the strike zone? You have so many options of teaching points with two bullpens,” noted Peterson.
With two-thirds of the rotation I suggest at or near the beginning of their major league tenure, an added bullpen to address the fine points of the pitching game makes a lot of sense. And, a six-man rotation adds extra flexibility. Should injury occur to a starting pitcher the rotation could easily be adapted back to the five-man format should no starter of quality merit be ready from the minor leagues. That, too, could be a plus.
Nobody has ever tried a six-man rotation in the major leagues as a solid game plan. The scheme has been put into place for short spurts for various reasons. Here’s Angels’ skipper Mike Scioscia talking about the occasional use of six starters.
“I think any time you can give a starter an extra day, hopefully they will catch their breath a little bit. I think it helps the whole group if you can do it periodically. It’s like throwing an off day in there.”
Why periodically? Why not allow that extra day on a regular basis?
The big reason a six-man rotation has never caught hold is the fact that your top two pitchers would get fewer starts. That’s a fact, but when you’re worrying about limiting innings of young starting pitchers as the Mets are with all their young arms, and you have the advantage of six young stud starting pitchers, why not forego all the drama and speculation. Of course, especially early in the season, the schedule many times allows a sixth day naturally. On those days the rotation would be tweaked to allow Harvey and Wheeler or Gee some additional starts.
Admittedly, a six-man rotation is not for every team. But, every team does not have all the young stud starting arms we should see in New York next season. There was a time in baseball when the idea of a five man pitching rotation was considered a radical idea. Now it’s the norm. For once, let the Mets be the baseball pioneers blazing a trail to the playoffs as they do.