The idea has been kicked around many places lately. With Wang scheduled to start tomorrow and Hughes pitching too well to send down to the minors, how about a 6 man rotation? The overall concept is pretty simple, just use your best arms as much as you can to win games. Hughes doesn’t help us by pitching in Scranton. The execution is easy, pitchers would take 2 days off, have a throw day, then take another two days off and pitch. When there are scheduled off days, you can skip Hughes and use him in between starts in multiple inning stints out of the bullpen to keep him sharp. If there’s a doubleheader you have a huge edge over the opposing team, who in many cases will be scrounging for a starter. The dirty little secret about 6-man rotations is most of the time, nothing changes for the pitchers. On weeks when there’s a scheduled off day (which is most of the season) pitchers are on this schedule already. On weeks when there is no off day or a double header is scheduled, Hughes gets a start. Looking at the rest of the schedule and factoring in off days, Phil would get another 10 starts this year in a six man setup. There would also be long stretches where he would be used out of the bullpen, accumulating more innings and valuable MLB experience. All totaled, he should log around 120 IP for the Yanks this season, which would put him on track to be our 5th starter next year. If the Yanks felt it necessary, they could send him to Winter Ball for roughly another 30 innings. But I doubt they would do that. 120 this year will put him on track for 150-160 next year, which is fine for a 5th starter.
I’m not opposed to it, but I’d rather do an old school bullpen as we were discussing the other day. But I’ve always been intrigued by 6 man rotations and possibly skipping guys over and using them out of the bullpen here and there. Sounds radical, but its really not. Its what you would do in the playoffs when you are trying like heck to win every game. It means you get to use your best arms more often, and in bullpen spots that could be decisive, high leverage situations. So it not only solves the Wang issue, it also lengthens the bullpen and the solves innings restrictions on Hughes and Joba for this year. Voila, all of our issues are addressed to some extent in one fell swoop.
Its the kind of thing you can do when you have a surplus of quality pitching, which is extremely rare but happens to be the case with the 2009 Yankees. But its not the first time the Yankees have an an excess of quality starters. Believe it or not, the 1939 Yanks had a makeshift SEVEN man rotation. Nobody got more than 28 starts, most had 15-20, and they were arguably the greatest team in the history of Baseball. Biggest run differential ever, by a lot. The 1939 Yankee were +411 in run differential and the only team over 400 in Baseball history. To put that in some context, the past 5 World Series Champions were anywhere from +19 to +210. The 1927 Yanks were + 376, the 1998 Yanks were +309 and the 1975 Reds were +254 . The surplus of their quality young arms and McCarthy’s use of them was a big factor in their dominance that season.
The main thing working against this however, is that it’s different from how things are currently done across Baseball. Orthodoxies are strong in Baseball, and most of them are there for good reasons. Girardi hasn’t earned the credibility to try something this (seemingly) new. If he had a few World Series titles under his belt, people would take his word for it. But he doesn’t, so stepping this far out of the Baseball mainstream could prove fatal for his managerial career if things went badly. The media would destroy him if this failed or someone got injured.
But everyone thought LaRussa was nuts when he started the lefty-righty bullpen specialization in the 80s. Then he won a WS and everyone copied him. The fact that its not commonly done this way in Baseball could be what makes it work, having pitchers with fresh arms heading into the post season facing pitchers who are flagging after a long season. Innovators always have an edge over the guys doing things the old way, in any sport. Its the history of sports in many ways. I’d prefer to send Hughes to the bullpen, but if Girardi went with a 6 man, I’d support him.
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