Ryne Stanek of the Tampa Bay Rays boasts one of the most unusual stat lines in baseball. The pitcher has made 18 starts, which is not an unusual amount for this point in the season. He’s also finished eight games, despite throwing no complete games. In fact, he’s only thrown 45 2/3 innings all season.
Teammate Sergio Romo is also a bit of a puzzler. He has made five starts, but also has 14 saves. In all, 15 Rays have made a start this season. It’s been part of an unusual approach by manager Kevin Cash this season to start games with relievers in what would normally be the fourth and fifth spots in the starting rotation. In May, Romo became the first pitcher since 1980 to start on consecutive days after pitching at least one inning the day before.
With starter Chris Archer departing at the trade deadline, Tampa Bay found itself in a difficult spot as its other full-time starters. Blake Snell and Jake Faria were on the disabled list. For a couple days, the team had no actual starting pitchers in its rotation.
The experiment has yielded largely successful results. Tampa Bay ranks sixth in the American League in ERA and is holding its own in the tough AL East. But is this unorthodox approach sustainable? Reaction around baseball has been mixed.
“If you do something like that, first of all, when you don't have enough starters that you like, then you may choose to do something on a day, maybe two days,” said Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon. “But to see that becoming a part of the norm, I doubt it.”
“It is interesting,” said Pittsburgh Pirates GM Neal Huntington. “We'll dive into it a little bit. We like our rotation's ability to get right- or left(-handed hitters) out of the gate, but it is something that's an interesting concept.”
One of the biggest challenges is obviously that you might end up using a reliever you’ll want for a key situation later in the game. But for teams who may be a little deficient in the starter department, it could be a way of avoiding falling behind early.
What’s your take?
Take 1: The starting rotation works
You have to have starting pitchers you can rely on. It shows trust. They know when it’s their turn and are prepared to go out and attack the other team. Some days they might not get it done, but that’s baseball. You want to keep your good relievers for when you need them most.
Take 2: Relievers can work
A lot of runs are scored in the first inning. By sending up one of your most trusted relievers, particularly if they match up well with the top of the opposing lineup, you can give your team a good shot to win by keeping the opponent off the scoreboard early. Teams also won’t be able to prepare as easily for who the starter is going to be. It might not work for teams that have five strong starters, but this approach might be just the ticket for certain teams.
So should teams stick to a traditional five-man starting rotation? Or is creativity going to become the norm? Have your say in the comments below.
From GameChanger and Todd Kortemeier
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