Friday, August 28, 2009

Rotating the (Pitching) Tires

Well, I was going to post this in the comments on this blog entry by Rob Neyer, but it won't let me. Anyway, I'm realizing that for some reason, I'm politics-heavy recently, so let's lighten it up a bit with analyzing the five-man rotation in baseball.

From Rob:
Let's say these magical evaluations tell you that you've got two starters who will thrive on just three days of rest, two who will do better with four days, and one old left-hander who's most effective with five days of rest.

Let's call them 3A, 3B, 4A, 4B, and 5 (or you can call that last one 6, if he's the new Ted Lyons and is going to just pitch every Sunday afternoon). OK, now try to slot those guys into an actual baseball schedule. I fooled around for a few minutes, and I couldn't do it. I couldn't come close.

From me:

If a team really wanted to implement this, I imagine that instead of pigeonholing each starter into a number of days rest, they'd create a chart of how effective (in terms of both duration and quality) each starter is on 3, 4, 5, and 6+ days of rest. Sure, CC might be best on 3-days rest, but if there's only a slight drop-off pushing it to 4, maybe Girardi should do that so Pettitte doesn't go 12 days between starts or Brett Tomko doesn't get a fill-in start.

As far as creating a pitching schedule, that's what a computer is for. Maybe the ideal pitching schedule is impossible, but there's a good chance it would find something better. In fact, the worst thing it would come up with is the current 5-man rotation, since we know that already works.

One interesting thing is we're assuming the best starters are those that would thrive with the fewest days off. But maybe Wakefield (on the Red Sox) goes every 4 days and Lester goes every 6.

I think it could work in theory. I think it will fail in practice, because:
  • Pitchers would not be convinced this is the best for them, and for the team.
  • Injuries would upset the rotation much more than they do now (if your 3-day starter goes out and your replacement is a 5-day starter, that won't work).
Oh well, I guess this will remain in the realm of baseball simulations.

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