Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It’s back! It’s back! The six-man rotation is…oh crud

The gals at Coyote Ugly didn't believe in the six-man rotation, either. Photo from this site.

We all have our weaknesses—a penchant for chasing something that’ll never work no matter how good it might sound, or liking something we know is no good for us. In lieu of pondering how the first analogy might symbolize my career pursuits, I’ll just say that any time Coyote Ugly is on, I’m watching. What? I like it for the crackling dialogue and non-wooden acting! Until my wife pointed it out, I didn’t even know that the women in the movie spend it in various stages of undress.

Anyway, if you’re among the handful of loyal readers here, you know I have a major crush on the idea of a six-man rotation. So I have to admit my heart skipped several beats Sunday when I heard Terry Francona line up the Red Sox’ rotation following the All-Star Break, one that features Clay Buchholz as well as five other starters.

Here it comes, I thought. My big break! Francona’s going to say he and Theo got the idea from reading some rambling blogger and that they thought it was a great idea and they’re saying the hell with baseball convention, we’re turning it on its head!

Alas, there will be no reinventing the rotational wheel, at least not now. And as fond as I am of breaking down how a six-man rotation would work, I do understand that the vast majority of teams in baseball have a hard enough time finding five passable starters, never mind six, and that a true six-man rotation would limit starters to 27 turns apiece. Do you want Josh Beckett taking the ball only 27 times a year? Or Jon Lester?

And for all the pixels I wasted writing about the six-man rotation last month, the benefit of hindsight suggests the Sox were never all that worried about it actually occurring, not with Daisuke Matsuzaka’s inability to resemble a competent big league starter.

But while the Sox aren’t going with a permanent six-man rotation, their decision to implement it for the first two series following the All-Star Break is more proof they’re better prepared and more forward-thinking than anybody else in baseball.

Using the All-Star Break to give everyone in the rotation a mini-vacation is a great idea. But I wonder how many teams would take a look at their 25-man roster and scratch the idea, declaring that they don’t have six starters.

Along those lines, I doubt it’s coincidence that Buchholz has been pitching every fifth day since June 17. Bringing Buchholz up for one start doubly benefits the Sox, who get to reward a top pitching prospect (well, technically he’s not a prospect since he’s no longer a rookie, but you know what I mean) while also helping out the five pitchers who should construct the rotation the remainder of the season.

An eight-day break—which Brad Penny, Lester, John Smoltz and Beckett each get—is a lengthy respite, but not so long that they’ll begin to collect cobwebs on the shelf. Tim Wakefield gets 13 days, which seems like a good move given the injuries he’s battled in the second half of each of the last three seasons

“We wanted to line everybody up and not have anybody have to tell Smoltz ‘Watch the All-Star Game, and if Wake pitches, you throw a side’ after the game,” Francona said. “It just didn’t make a lot of sense. We are trying to incorporate rest, trying to keep everybody on a consistent [pattern], not just one guy [gets] 10 days and one guy 15 days. We are real comfortable with the way this is setting up.”

They should be. A phenom gets another taste of the big leagues and the rest of the rotation doesn’t miss a start yet gets the type of extra rest that should come in quite handy down the stretch. Savvy, at levels even Coyote Ugly cannot hope to match, no matter how often I watch it.

Email Jerry at jbeach73@gmail.com.

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