The New York Times reports on Yu Darvish’s comments to the Japanese media last week about arm injuries and stuff. Upshot: he’s all for a six-man rotation:
. . . Darvish said he believed that a shift to a six-man rotation by major league teams could significantly reduce the stress on all those elbow ligaments by giving pitchers a critical extra day to rest and limiting their starts . . . Speaking to Japanese reporters in Minneapolis last week, he said, “If you really want to protect players, we should add one more spot to the starting rotation.”
He got some backup from teammate Colby Lewis who spent two years in Japan and was used to the once-a-week pitching schedule (Japanese teams play six days a week and have six-man rotations).
Eh. Could it reduce pitcher injuries? It’s possible. There is some, albeit no definitive evidence that elbow injuries are less frequent in Japan. But there are also tradeoffs in terms of (a) giving less effective pitchers more innings; and (b) requiring teams to devote yet another roster spot to a pitcher. This in an age when teams are already frequently playing games with only two position players on the bench plus a backup catcher they won’t use unless they’re forced to. Sure, ideally you’d think teams would get rid of a reliever for an extra starter, but when was the last time a manager gave up a reliever even when it made sense? Heck, they’d sooner play infielders in the outfield than get rid of that 13 or 14-man pitching staff/security blanket.
There would have to be major roster rules changes to accompany such a thing, as they have in Japan. There rosters are 28-men deep instead of 25 and a couple of players are activated/deactivated on a game-by-game basis. If you do that here maybe it helps, but it still doesn’t solve the problem of using a guy who, today, couldn’t crack your rotation as a once-a-week starter.
If the injury/start frequency evidence got more definitive, sure, you do what you do in order to save your resources. But until then it’s a pretty tall cost to go with a six-man rotation on the regs.
Retired big league pitcher Barry Zito has a memoir coming out. Much of it will likely track the usual course of an athlete’s memoir. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat and a few fun and/or sad and/or thoughtful anecdotes along the way. One bit of it, though, is not the stuff of the usual athlete memoir.
He writes that he ctually rooted against the San Francisco Giants — his own team — in the 2010 World Series. He did so because he was left off the postseason roster, felt miserable about it and let his ego consume him. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
“It was really hard to admit . . . I rooted against the team because my ego was in full control and if we lost then I could get out of there . . . It would a) prove they couldn’t do it without me, and b) take me out of the situation because I was so miserable coming to the field every day. I was so deep in shame. I wanted out of that situation so bad.”
Zito at that point was midway through a seven-year, $126 million contract he signed with the Giants after the 2006 season. Almost as soon as he signed it he transformed from one of the better pitchers in the game — he had a 124 ERA+ in eight seasons with the Oakland Athletics and won the 2002 Cy Young Award — to being a liability for the Giants. Indeed, he only had one season in San Francisco where, again, by ERA+, he was a league-average starter or better. In 2010 he went 9-14 with a 4.15 ERA and was way worse than that down the stretch. It made perfect sense for the Giants to leave him off the 2010 postseason roster. And, of course, it worked out for them.
Things would improve. He’d still generally struggle as a Giant, but in 2012 he was a hero of the NLCS, pitching the Giants past the Cardinals in a must-win game. He then got the Game 1 start in the World Series and beat Justin Verlander as the Giants won that game and then swept the Tigers out of the series. As time went on he’d fine more personal happiness as well. When his contract ended following the 2013 season Zito took out a full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle thanking Giants fans for their support. He’d leave the game in 2014 and pitch three more games for the Athletics in 2015 before retiring for good.
Not many baseball memoirs deliver hard truths like Zito’s appears willing to do. That’s pretty damn brave of him. And pretty damn admirable.