The St. Louis Cardinals saw a small glimpse of the future this weekend. Jack Flaherty took the mound and dazzled the Busch Stadium crowd with a masterful performance that has now forced the hands of Cardinals management to make a decision they had thought and possibly hoped they wouldn’t be forced to make in 2018. Flaherty has solidified himself in the rotation similar to the way Luke Weaver did in 2017, he took the decision away from them with his performance. The Cardinals now stare at a rotation that features Miles Mikolas, Michael Wacha, Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty and at the moment Jon Gant. Formidable as that is the impending return of Carlos Martinez is coming along with a prospect by the name of Alex Reyes…perhaps you have heard of him? With Gant being the guy most likely to enjoy another bus trip back to Memphis that leaves the birds with an interesting decision. Six starters, traditionally five spots. What do they do? This is a decision that is best handled the old fashion way, pros and cons list!
Six-man rotation can save innings for young starters
In a day of Tommy John surgeries being passed around like chicken pox in a kindergarten class room innings restrictions have become the new fun trend of the MLB. Bulldogs like Nolan Ryan and Cris Carpenter are no longer seemed to exist in a time where players and agents look at the long term over the short. The Cardinals will feature one of the youngest rotations in baseball with an average age of 25. They will also feature a rotation that has had its fair share of injuries. Martinez, Wacha and Reyes stand out as players that have dealt with injuries during their young careers. While Flaherty, Weaver and Mikolas have all not been featured in rotations for the length of a Major League Baseball season. A six-man rotation will allow the Cardinals to limit the innings for the starters while also keeping their starter regiment the same thus not having to worry about transitioning them from the bullpen.
Don’t have to leave an asset in the minors
There seems to be nothing worse for a fan base then to watch a young talent sit in AAA. The backlash for Jack Flaherty dominating in Memphis while Adam Wainwright was trying to “find” it at the major league level was frustrating for the fans. Carson Kelly has been another example of a young player that seems to have nothing left to prove at the minor league level but has been blocked by a veteran. Problem for him is that there is only one player allowed to play catcher per game and that one player for the Cardinals is a potential hall of famer still playing at a high level. The Cardinals have major league ready starters that have to be played. Reyes, Weaver and Flaherty cannot waste a year helping Memphis win a championship when they can help the big club bring home a World Series.
Less starts from your #1
Carlos Martinez, when healthy, is a Cy Young candidate. He has also graduated to Adam Wainwrights role as a team leader. Moving to a six-man rotation would mean limiting his games started and potentially setting him up for less opportunities down the home stretch of the season. Limiting your best pitcher is never a recipe for success.
It’s never been done.
The Los Angeles Angels talked about the potential of a six-man rotation after signing Japanese sensation Shoehei Otani. Ultimately deciding not to invest in what I am sure baseball purist see as an abomination to the game. There is no statistical proof that a six-man rotation will improve the likelihood pitcher injuries or improve overall performance. We live in a baseball world that relies on stats and with no stats to support this strategy then it may as well not be an option.
Sabermetrician Russell Carleton wrote that six-man rotations offer few obvious benefits in terms of pitching performance: The extra day of rest doesn’t seem to increase pitcher strikeout rates or reduce walk rates. And, because the extra man entails splitting up the workload among a larger group of people, it tends to dilute the effect of truly great starting pitchers. Over a full season, a six-man rotation results in about 30-50 fewer innings per starter.
The Cardinals have a great problem coming their way when their starters are healthy. They also have a mind in the dugout like Mike Maddux that can help Matheny transition into a new way of thinking. Would it be easier to have one of these guys go to the bullpen? The answer is yes, but would it make your team better to have a potential ace coming in for maybe an inning? No! I don’t see the Cardinals going with a six-man rotation based on the comments from John Mozeliak, but wouldn’t it be cool if for once the Cardinals were at the forefront of alternative baseball thinking.