clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Colorado Rockies Pen Rotation

Reader sas723 commented in a recent diary with this statement:

For me, sabermetrics has never been about statistics, but about constant innovation - thinking outside the box and escaping static dogma.  In that vein, I would like to argue that the lowly Colorado Rockies innovate by creating a pitching staff composed completely of relievers.  I do not have the expertise, nor the time to run the numbers and see what would possibly happen, but here are my thoughts, nonetheless.
    Since the Rockies lack the financial resources to overcome this home-field disadvantage, they must overcome it by innovation, and turn it into an advantage.  The Rockies must carry 12 pitchers, with every pitcher used as a reliever.  The Rockies' roster would include 12 pitchers, each with the ability to pitch 2 or 3 innings approximately every other day.

Possible advantages to this proposal include:
-Relievers by nature have lower eras than starters because lineups see them less often in a game, and because they do not have to keep anything in reserve for the later stages of a ball game.
-Relievers that are not over-used require less recuperation time.
-Relievers are less expensive than starters - therefore the Rockies can direct more of their money to offense.
-In the NL, changing pitchers more often could have an offensive advantage - pinch hitters could be brought in earlier in games, in better situations, and more often.
-By not drafting high-priced pitchers with low-success rates, and instead solid pitchers with rubber arms, the Rockies would be taking advantage of a market inefficiency (no one else would capitalizing on such an idea), and would once again be able to save money that could be directed to offense.
-Having a large number of relievers, as well as a farm system stocked with replacements would allow a wise general manager to make a killing in the volatile reliever market.
-Long and expensive contracts tend to weigh down teams and limit their ability to make future moves.  Relievers command shorter, less expensive contracts, and therefore a mistake would be less costly to a team.

    I realize that there are possible disadvantages (there is no track record for such an idea, and the relievers could be overused, but I personally believe that when you are consistently one of the worst teams in baseball, you have nothing to lose, and should always innovate.  I would love to hear your guys' thoughts on this.

Couple of points from the onset:

-I don't think you can have 12 relievers you can use every other day for 2-3 innings at a time. Well you could, but Will Carroll might snap having to make Under the Knife Articles with 6 pages devoted to Rockies relievers.

-One good thing is that the manager may not feel pressured to leave any relievers in to get shelled, and you might be able to bring in someone better suited to squelch an offensive push with less hassle. Wins would not be looked upon as an important statistic, besides team Wins. I'll take that scenario.

-I like the idea of trading away relievers to teams who need them. You could also offer arbitration to relievers you know are desperate to get out of town, and if they have gaudy win totals the draft pick you receive as compensation could be higher than your average reliever.

-I think relievers have lower ERA's than starters not because they are seen less often in a game (that may play a smaller part) but instead because the runs they give up are inherited, and therefore charged to the starter. If Reliever A allows a bases clearing triple that only involved inherited runners, his ERA stays at 0.00, while 3 more runs are tacked on to Depressed Starter A.

-When I played Baseball Mogul 2006 with the Colorado Rockies, I started in 1999. I traded away all the high priced lineup players and starters (except Walker and Helton) and built a team where 75% of my payroll was dedicated to the lineup and defense, and the bullpen was stronger than the rotation. A quick hook philosophy to get the relievers more innings was also part of the plan. Putting so little money into the pitching staff with your plan might allow for the sort of lineup I created (which scored 1150 runs in consective seasons by the way, and my team ERA was down due to the relievers performance) and give the Rockies a shot at winning.

-My main issue with this is I think the Rockies do not really need to get creative at the moment; what they need is some actual talent. Of course, if the only way to devote so much money to the lineup is through a scheme like this, than I might be up for it. My thoughts on what has to be done with it? I agree with Grady Fuson's minor league tactic:

We have already seen at least one influential baseball man, Grady Fuson, take a different tack. In order to get his charges as much work as possible while keeping them healthy, Fuson has experimented with a modified version of the four-man rotation. In his system, eight pitchers are split into four pairs, working every fourth game, with one member of the pair starting, and the other relieving after the starter has reached a very conservative pitch limit, somewhere around 80 pitches. The two pitchers then switch places the next time through the rotation. Two or three pitchers are made permanent relievers to fill in the gaps along the way.

Some of you might recognize that from Rany Jazayerli's Four-Man Rotation Trilogy. If the Rockies could do that they would avoid a few problems, such as pitcher fatigue (supposedly 180 IP in Coors feels like 220 elsewhere) and carrying too many pitchers. If you had 8 of these hybrid starter/relievers, you could keep 2-3 pitchers as permanent relievers as well and focus your other 14-15 roster spots on hitters. If one of those permanent relievers is a swingman type as well than you are even better off because you have another reliever capable of filling in for 3-4 innings if necessary. Sharing the bulk of the wins with 8 guys rather than 5 could also drive down arbitration and future contract costs as well, and scare off a few buyers. With the cost of the "rotation" down, the offense should be able to sign some valuable players. The Rockies main problem? Vinny Castilla, Jeff Cirillo, and Jeromy Burnitz are not "valuable"; they are guys who inflate their stats at Coors and then hit poorly elsewhere. The Rockies need to stop solely trying to win at home, because half their games are played on the road. Maybe the financial boost they could get by implementing this hybrid reliever/starter type could be enough to get them some real hitters, and start to see some success. Thanks to sas723 for giving me something to write today.