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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

June 12, 2007 at 7:04 AM

Four-man rotation?

Hope some of you were able to sleep after last night’s thriller. Good morning to you, too, “Rampage”. No one wants you to stop contributing. Or being radical. This isn’t a dictatorship. No one is a “baseball expert” over everyone else. We’re just having civilized discussion here. Glad to see “Jim” made it back safely from Vegas. I really hope you’re wrong about a 14-13 game I’d have to write about on deadline.
Here’s a USA Today piece this morning that some of you will love, given how it tackles the whole four-man rotation question. I know that plenty of you feel it’s a possible solution for the Mariners. While I agree that, in theory, it could help them out, here are my reservations.
No. 1, I think that if any team is planning on going to a four-man starting staff, it should be done coming out of spring training so that pitchers can adjust their bodies physically to the concept. Trying to switch from four days of rest to three overnight is a recipe for trouble. Saw the Blue Jays try using Roy Halladay on four days’ rest a couple of times during his 2003 Cy Young Award season. The results were mixed and he’s one of the strongest pitchers out there. He hasn’t had a complete season since. Not saying don’t do it, just give pitchers time to think the way Bob Boone, quoted in the USA Today story, did with his Royals in 1995.
No. 2, I’m not sure the M’s would necessarily benefit. As the story mentioned, keeping the pitch counts of starters within a reasonable limit is a key part to having success. But a number of Seattle pitchers have shown the tendency this year to throw huge numbers of pitches early. I’m thinking Miguel Batista, Jarrod Washburn primarily, and those are pitchers who have had success on this team. Do you want them coming out after five or six innings? The whole point of this exercise is to have the starters last longer to help the bullpen. Then again, as Boone noted, the command of his pitchers tended to improve on only three days of rest. Lack of command is one reason the M’s starters have thrown a lot of pitches early. Sort of a chicken and egg thing, but no conclusive evidence — to me, anyway, that the Mariners would benefit making such a switch now.
Interesting side note. USA Today ran a chart showing its definition of the best and worst fifth starters in baseball. You’ll all be happy to know that Jeff Weaver was not listed as the game’s worst fifth starter, with ex-D-Rays pitcher Jae Seo earning that dubious distinction. Weaver was listed only as the “not worth it” example for a fifth starter, proving that a trip to the DL isn’t always bad for the career.
I liked the story about Billy Martin’s Oakland staff in 1980. I took Brian Kingman to a ballgame in 2003 at Toronto’s SkyDome when Mike Maroth of the Tigers was trying to avoid becoming the first 20-game loser since Kingman in 1980. Kingman was going to the game anyway, so I bought him a ticket and sat with him throughout the game in order to write a story. Kingman liked being known as the last 20-game loser and brought along his trademark voodoo dolls to try to force Maroth to win. He waved one of them around throughout the night and it looked like it would work, as Detroit grabbed a 5-2 lead by the third inning. But no, Maroth couldn’t hold on and lost. Not sure what happened to the voodoo doll. Perhaps it has since been recycled as a Texas Rangers uniform. I don’t know.
Interesting to note this morning that the odds for Seattle have pushed into double-digits in both the division and wild-card races. That’s what going 4-0 against division leaders will do to a computer.
So, how about that AL West? One of three divisions in baseball with three teams at .500 or better, the others being the NL East and West. Does that make the AL West the premier AL division? Well, let’s see. If pitching is considered the mark of success, four of the top-five AL starters in terms of winning percentage and earned run average hail in the AL West (none from the M’s). But if a division’s only as good as its weakest teams, the AL East has a .459 club (D-Rays) in last-place, while the AL West gets to feast on .365 Texas some 19 times per season. Also, the AL Central has plenty of pitching to go around, though the late-inning work in Detroit and Cleveland is suspect at the moment.
Remember though, the M’s had losing records against the top three AL Central teams until evening their season series with the Indians last night. Let’s just stick to what we can prove for now. The AL West is baseball’s hottest division, with the Angels 7-3 over the last 10 games and the Mariners and A’s at 8-2. Those marks could get even better by the end of today. Let’s see. No Aramis Ramirez for the Cubs tonight, as he hits the DL. Nice break for the M’s. Off to catch my flight to the Windy City.



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