Rethinking the rotation: Four-and-swing?

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Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan is always good for a big idea column or two each month, and his latest is one that I’ve long been arguing half-drunkenly to anyone who will listen (i.e. no one):  chucking the straight five-man rotation and going to a modified four-man thing. The idea would be to keep your four best on a firm four-days-rest schedule, skipping the fifth guy as often as possible.

As Passan shows, using the Tigers, Rangers and Angels as his examples, such a plan gives your team’s four best guys anywhere between one and three extra starts and simultaneously takes away that many starts from your worst starter.  And if you’re smart about who that worst starter is, you can give yourself something that is a vanishing breed: a bona fide long man/mopup man in the pen.

Passan notes the obstacles to this, chief among them that baseball people tend not to engage in too much original thinking unless they can help it, but he makes all kinds of sense in my view.

Problems?  Other ideas?  That is, other ideas keeping in mind that no one is going to go to a straight four-man rotation in this day and age.

Adam Eaton sustains leg injury after tripping over first base

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Nationals’ outfielder Adam Eaton was carried off the field after stumbling over first base on Friday night. In the ninth inning of the Nationals’ 7-5 loss to the Mets, Eaton appeared to catch his ankle on the bag as he ran out an infield single, suffering a leg injury on the fall. He was unable to put pressure on his left leg after the play and required assistance by two of the Nationals’ athletic trainers as he exited the field.

Eaton is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday, but Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker told reporters that it “doesn’t look too good.” It’s the first significant leg injury the outfielder has sustained since 2014, when he went on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring strain. He’ll likely be replaced by Michael Taylor in center field for the next couple of games, though that could be a temporary fix as the Nationals seek a better solution during Eaton’s recovery process.

Madison Bumgarner likely sidelined through the All-Star break

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It’s been just over a week since Giants’ left-hander Madison Bumgarner got a serious scare after a nasty dirt bike accident. He escaped with bruised ribs and a Grade 2 strain of his left shoulder AC joint, but there was some speculation that the injuries would cause a significant, if not permanent, setback in the southpaw’s career. Thankfully, things aren’t looking quite so bleak today. Not only will Bumgarner not require surgery, but he could return as soon as the week following the All-Star break, the Giants said Friday.

Of course, that timeline is wholly dependent on how smoothly the recovery process goes, so nothing is set in stone yet. NBC Sports Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic estimates 2-3 months of rest and rehab, including “two months before he can get back on the mound and then another three to four weeks of throwing and rehab starts before he’s big league-ready.” It’s a long and laborious schedule, but still looks much better than any surgical alternative.

Prior to the accident, Bumgarner was working on a solid start to the 2017 season. He maintained a 3.00 ERA, 1.3 BB/9 and 9.3 SO/9 through 27 innings with the club, though his average 1.75 runs of support per start fed into an 0-3 record.