Rockies go radical: Four-man rotation, 75-pitch limit

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If there was ever a team that should be trying something different, it’s the 2012 Rockies with their 25-40 record and their 6.28 starter’s ERA. Still, this doesn’t seem like a great idea.

Manager Jim Tracy revealed this afternoon that he plans to go with a four-man rotation and limit all of his starters to 75 pitches per outing.

“We had to do something that was unconventional,” Tracy said.

Jeremy Guthrie, who is expected to be traded in the near future, was moved to the pen to set up the new arrangement. The Rockies will go with a rotation of Christian Friedrich, Jeff Francis,  Alex White and Josh Outman for now.

Rockies starters have been the worst in the NL this year, and it hasn’t helped matters that Coors Field is back playing like it did in the early part of the last decade. Of the 10 pitches to start games for the Rockies this season, only one has managed a sub-5.00 ERA. That’s Drew Pomeranz, who was sent back to the minors after going 0-2 with a 4.70 ERA in his five starts. The best ERA of the pitchers currently in the rotation belongs to White, who is at 5.56 after eight starts.

It will be interesting to see just how this affects a bullpen that has already been overworked this season. Tracy will often be getting just four innings from his starters, so he’s going to have to treat relievers Guillermo Moscoso, Matt Belisle, Adam Ottavino and Guthrie like long guys. If he starts yanking those guys out after an inning of work, he’s going to have big problems within a week or two. However, if he’s willing to let some of them throw three innings, take two days off and then come back out and throw two or three innings again, maybe the experiment will survive until the All-Star break anyway.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.