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Are the Twins About to Build a Radically Unconventional Pitching Staff?


As the Twins embark on the daunting offseason task of building their 2022 pitching staff nearly from scratch, it's worth wondering if their forward-thinking front office might step outside the box and take a nontraditional approach.

A revealing recent quote from general manager Thad Levine leads one to believe it's a path they're considering.

Earlier this week, Dan Hayes of The Athletic penned a piece sizing up the monumental challenge ahead of the Twins as they seek to fill the top three spots in their rotation from the outside. 

The end of the piece includes this quote from the Twins GM, which really caught my attention:

“I think with the challenge comes opportunity,” Levine said. “We’re going to be as creative as we can be in terms of not being necessarily hemmed into the notion of it has to look exactly the way it has always looked. We may end up looking at this from the lens of how many multi-inning guys can we add to a staff and how far does that take us?”

While Levine's allusion is not overly specific, one could take it to mean the Twins are envisioning a staff filled with "hybrid" pitchers – not quite starters, but not traditional one-inning relievers either – stringing together nine-inning games, without the expectation of one guy throwing six or seven. 

This is, in some respects, the direction baseball is trending, and it's been very noticeable in recent postseasons. 

For a team in Minnesota's position, embracing this revolution fully would make a lot of sense. Here are some reasons why:

  • Free agent starting pitchers are expensive and hazardous. Mid-market teams like the Twins rarely play at the highest level because it's tough to be outbid resource-intensive (not to mention more appealing) heavy hitters, and because getting it wrong on a guy you commit $100+ million to can really set you back. 
  • As Hayes notes in his article, the Twins face an especially tough challenge because the two "sure things" in their rotation, Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, are young and inexperienced starters who threw about 100 innings apiece this season. They'll surely have workload limits in place next year, and the model we're discussing would help accommodate that, while reducing a need to compensate by going out and finding proven durable workhorses on the open market (far and few between, highly expensive).
  • Theoretically this could be a way to maximize effectiveness for a multitude of pitchers. We've seen many failing starters reinvent themselves as outstanding relievers, and this would be a pivot in the same vein. Guys can let loose more in shorter stints, rely on a two- or three-pitch mix, and avoid going through the lineup multiple times.

In the not-too-distant past, it would've been difficult if not impossible to facilitate a system like this, but the expansion of rosters and the ability to continually carry 13-14 pitchers makes it feasible. 

You might ask, what types of pitchers would fit under an approach like this? There are a few names on the free agent market that catch my eye, but first, let's discuss some internal candidates to thrive under such an arrangement.

  • Randy Dobnak: He's not really built up to a starter's full workload after throwing 46 and 70 innings in the last two seasons. As a multi-inning reliever or "extended opener" type starter, he'd be able to stretch out without pushing too hard. 
  • Griffin Jax: I wrote a while ago about why I like Jax as a candidate to level-up in a relief role: he's got one really good pitch (his slider), and he held opponents to a .597 OPS the first time through the lineup this year. Limiting him to two- or three-inning stints could help unlock his peak form.
  • Lewis Thorpe: I'm not sure if the Twins will continue to try and see things through with Thorpe, and it wouldn't surprise me if he's dumped from the 40-man roster in the near future. That said, if they are committed to giving him one more shot to get healthy and show his stuff, this seems like the way to do it. Full-time starter is out the window at this point.
  • Upcoming Prospects: The Twins have a wealth of near-ready prospects in the minors, but most of them have been plagued by injury issues and nearly all will need to be carefully managed and monitored. This approach helps here, just as it does with managing young MLB starters like Ober and Ryan.

Of course, the Twins can't do it all with what they have on hand. They'll need to bring in some talent. The downside of this model is that established MLB starters are probably not going to want to sign on for such unconventional and reduced usage. The upside is that you can possibly make savvy and cost-effective moves, signing down-and-out guys and turning them around. 

To be clear, the kinds of pitchers who would likely to be signed to support this framework are NOT going to excite anyone. As you look at some of the names I'll throw out below, it's important to think of them not as they are, but as what they could be. Surely no one in Seattle was excited when they signed downtrodden starter Kendall Graveman for $1.25M last year, but now he's suddenly a hot commodity after posting a 1.77 ERA as a reliever.

Here are a few pitchers from the current free agent class who strike me as fits in the hybrid mold:

  • Garrett Richards: Struggled as a starter for Boston this year, but moved to the bullpen in mid-August and posted a 3.42 ERA with one homer allowed in 18 appearances the rest of the way. He threw two or more innings in five of those appearances.
  • Jordan Lyles: Been terrible the past two years while mostly pitching out of the rotation. But he's still only 31 and had some success as a multi-inning RP/swing-man type as recently as 2018.
  • Vince Velasquez: I don't have a specific reason for identifying Velasquez in this mix other than he's always had good stuff that has never really played as a starter. Why not try something else? He'll be extremely cheap despite a career 9.9 K/9 rate.
  • Trevor Cahill: Sort of the same deal here as above. Cahill has a good repertoire but has struggled to sustainably harness it. He has plenty of experience as both starter and reliever, so the shift to a role like this could be relatively natural for him. 
  • Josh Tomlin: There's nothing very interesting or exciting about Tomlin; I just think he'd be a likely target if the Twins were to take an approach like this. He's an experienced veteran who spent the past three years in Atlanta pitching in such a capacity – frequent multi-inning relief appearances with the occasional start mixed in – and he has Derek Falvey ties from his days in Cleveland.

I'm sure much of the response to names like these, or even to an overall experimental approach like the one being proposed, will be some variation of "Cheap Pohlads." But I'd submit that the cost efficiencies of this approach enable the team to invest heavily elsewhere – say, a star shortstop, or a high-end closer, or putting all of their chips on one workhorse type starter while using the shorter-duration usage patterns otherwise. 

Will the Twins actually lean into a radically innovative pitching staff model like this? I don't know. Would I personally advise it? I'm not sure. But you don't have to read between the lines much to see they're considering something along these lines, and you don't have to squint too hard to see the logic and potential value in it. 

"How many multi-inning guys can we add to a staff and how far does that take us?” Maybe we're about to find out.

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My idea for an unconventional staff is having three sets of three pitchers that all throw three innings each every three days. Mix and match lefties and righties in each group so opponents can't just stack their lineup to one side. Also try to mix different pitch styles, flamethrowers with guys with nasty breaking stuff, etc. Those three groups take up 9 roster spots, which still leaves you with 3-4 guys for spot matchups, or relief for someone having an off day, or just to give someone a day off every now and then. Since they're only pitching three innings they can throw a little harder than if they were trying to go six or seven innings, and they only need to have two decent pitches since they're only facing most batters just once.

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Good stuff, fun to think about this. Some team is going to do it eventually. Once one finds a way to get it right, I think it won't be long before this is just normal.

In addition to shifting guys who've traditionally started into multi-inning relief roles, it shouldn't be difficult to also stretch traditional relievers into multi-inning guys. Down in the minors, it seems more common than not that a guy records more than three outs.

Take Jovani Moran as an example. He made 40 relief appearances last year and only recorded three or fewer outs in four of them. He recorded six outs or more in 22 outings and eight+ outs in eight of his appearances.

There's been a lot of exploration in the big leagues the past decade but it's still pretty paint-by-numbers when it comes to bullpen/reliever usage.

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Good article and it really scares me.  I am not ready for this change.  I like good pitchers who pitch a lot of innings.  I am not ready for hybrids even though I drive one.  I am reading "Maybe I'll Pitch Forever" by  Satchel Paige and loving it.  I am not ready for "I pitched three innings in all my games and was considered a star."

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12 minutes ago, Tom Froemming said:

Good stuff, fun to think about this. Some team is going to do it eventually. Once one finds a way to get it right, I think it won't be long before this is just normal.

In addition to shifting guys who've traditionally started into multi-inning relief roles, it shouldn't be difficult to also stretch traditional relievers into multi-inning guys. Down in the minors, it seems more common than not that a guy records more than three outs.

Take Jovani Moran as an example. He made 40 relief appearances last year and only recorded three or fewer outs in four of them. He recorded six outs or more in 22 outings and eight+ outs in eight of his appearances.

There's been a lot of exploration in the big leagues the past decade but it's still pretty paint-by-numbers when it comes to bullpen/reliever usage.

Great point. Yennier Cano another example, pitched 2.0+ innings in 15 of his 30 appearances for St. Paul this year. You almost wonder if they've been building toward something like this for awhile and we just haven't noticed...

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1 minute ago, Nick Nelson said:

Great point. Yennier Cano another example, pitched 2.0+ innings in 15 of his 30 appearances for St. Paul this year. You almost wonder if they've been building toward something like this for awhile and we just haven't noticed...

I constantly look over stats as part of my MLB The Show home project, and every organization has multiple minor league relievers that end up with quite a few more innings than appearances. I think it comes out of necessity of having frequent roster turnover, so you need a few guys to eat up innings.

I'm not saying the idea is wrong, I just think the Twins aren't telegraphing anything here as much as it may seem. 

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I don't think it should be a concern for free agent starting pitchers. This model sounds like a variation of the opener or planned bullpen games, but those still use prototypical starters in the other rotation spots. Someone like Pineda will be relatively cheap and can go 5-6 innings consistently (when healthy). Bring him back (or sign someone similar), splash on a higher-end starting pitcher, and then the other rotation spots can be the 3-inning guys. 

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1 hour ago, chaderic20 said:

My idea for an unconventional staff is having three sets of three pitchers that all throw three innings each every three days. Mix and match lefties and righties in each group so opponents can't just stack their lineup to one side. Also try to mix different pitch styles, flamethrowers with guys with nasty breaking stuff, etc. Those three groups take up 9 roster spots, which still leaves you with 3-4 guys for spot matchups, or relief for someone having an off day, or just to give someone a day off every now and then. Since they're only pitching three innings they can throw a little harder than if they were trying to go six or seven innings, and they only need to have two decent pitches since they're only facing most batters just once.

In the perfect condition of 3 sets of 3 pitchers and 9 inning games, each pitcher appears in 54 games and pitches 162 innings and all could qualify for league leaders. Interesting symmetry.

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Adding a bunch of low to below average pitchers and hoping it works because you ask them to pitch < 5 innings (more like 2-3 as suggested, and sometimes 4 if things are going smoothly) isn’t a good strategy over 162 in my opinion. When you throw out 2 or 3 Lewis thorpe types in a game, odds are one of them is going to get lit up. I like to think outside the box as anyone, but I think as far as I’m willing to go with this is the bulk pitcher type we’ve seen many teams use. A good team still needs 3 really good pitchers who you feel good about when they take the mound, and another handful that you feel like you have a shot if you only ask them to throw 4 or 5 innings. 

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1 hour ago, Andrew Bryz-Gornia said:

I don't think it should be a concern for free agent starting pitchers. This model sounds like a variation of the opener or planned bullpen games, but those still use prototypical starters in the other rotation spots. Someone like Pineda will be relatively cheap and can go 5-6 innings consistently (when healthy). Bring him back (or sign someone similar), splash on a higher-end starting pitcher, and then the other rotation spots can be the 3-inning guys. 

This is a fun idea in theory, but you’re going to run into an overtaxed bullpen at some point when Pineda only gives you three innings and now you’re having to use those guys who you were going to use in the 3 inning games that day to cover for him. I do not think we see the end to the “bulk” pitcher for a long while, especially with the talent many young pitchers have shown. 

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This could work only under a few conditions.  

1. New CBA allows for larger roster expansion.  28 or 30 on active roster/travel with big league club like what happened in 2020.

2. Lots of decent young controllable arms who can be call up and sent down and recalled with St Paul Saints being so close.  This would decimate AAA though. 

3. You use this method as a try out for 3 guys early in season if one guy gets hurt or ineffective and eventually finding a 5th starter.

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8 hours ago, AceWrigley said:

In the perfect condition of 3 sets of 3 pitchers and 9 inning games, each pitcher appears in 54 games and pitches 162 innings and all could qualify for league leaders. Interesting symmetry.

 

One of the problems I see with this is drafting pitchers, which agent would ever let their client sign with a team that does this? College Seniors with no other options?

This would have been a great thing to do last year towards the end, and maybe this year to get the prospects up and given a chance without putting the pressure on them to go deep into a game.

But as a long term strategy is bad for the players, fans and the game of baseball.

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Good article.  Lots of well thought out ideas.  I hope it doesn't come to this.  It's funny how s "starting" pitcher goes maybe 5 inning gives up 3 or 4 runs and gets a standing ovation.  The Twins ruined their pitching staff last year by adding pitchers that no one else wanted.  Look at the results.  Even if it is tried all we have at this point is mostly unproven prospects with little or no major league experience.  Analytics don't mean much if the people you are counting on can't produce.  MLB is being ruined by all of the efforts to turn the game into one huge video game.  Bring back real baseball before it's too late.

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Look at Tampa Bay, poster boys for this kind of thing.  Bulk guys and non-bulk guys, that's how their staff is sorted.

Low-budget team, always a contender, this year better than the Yanks and Red Sox who are over $200M in payroll.

Not dwelled on here but it's the kind of strategy that is hard to counter:  Who is going to start?  How many innings will he go?  Lefty?  Righty?  What should our line-up look like? 

And, the manager plays his cards all game based on a slew of factors:  who's hot?  how's it coming out of his hand? who's swinging it good on the other side?

And this important fact:  early leads mean something in MLB.  You want to put pressure on the other team by being in front.  These guys crunch a lot of numbers and they have a strategy that involves getting out of the gate early and forcing the other team to be uncomfortable.  That's a big part of this.

You hold the other team down for the first three, four innings, get a lead and take your chances from there.

Works for the Rays, that's for sure.

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1 hour ago, TwinsDr2021 said:

One of the problems I see with this is drafting pitchers, which agent would ever let their client sign with a team that does this? College Seniors with no other options?

This would have been a great thing to do last year towards the end, and maybe this year to get the prospects up and given a chance without putting the pressure on them to go deep into a game.

But as a long term strategy is bad for the players, fans and the game of baseball.

You're forgetting a big piece of the equation here... the player, and what he wants or is willing to take on.  Now I may be misunderstanding your post (it's been known to happen before), but at the end of the day the player makes the decision.  Not the agent.  Many guys coming out of college, or even high school just want to play and don't care where or how as long as they can contribute in a meaningful way and get consistent time on the field (I spend a LOT of time around HS players and I hear this sentiment a lot).

As far as this being "bad" for baseball?  Can't say that I agree with that wholeheartedly.  Teams have already had success with some version of this (Tampa and KC come to mind).  All it takes is someone getting the right formula and pieces together in one place, and then voila... magic happens.

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The ultimate strategy won’t be as dire or radical as some of us are describing on this thread, but it will be significantly in that direction. 
 

A couple of observations:

1. We are a small to mid market team. The good news is we are blessed with owners who will pay at the upper end of the range of those teams, especially if a window seems open. 
 

2. In conjunction with trends in the modern MLB, our coaching staff does not support long starter outings. Instead, they prefer a two time through the order approach.
 

3. We do not have the capital or risk appetite to go “all in” on high end FA SPs - certainly not where we are in our current fairly closed window and given #1 and #2 above.
 

 4. We actually have a decent cadre of young starter talent ready to test their mettle at the Show level.

5. The FO and coaching staff subscribe to the Bomba strategy of looking to score lots of runs and there are no signs they are looking to abandon that. 

So, what’s the right, sensible strategy then? You build a starting staff full of low cost, controllable assets that seek to pitch five IPs per start. The goal is to have each of these starters have an ERA of between 4 and 5. So our starters work half the game or so giving up 2-3 earned runs per start. You then augment your staff with a lights out bullpen that can hold your opponent to no more than a run or two per game. Such a bullpen can be used much more situationally and be built at a much less cost than investing in high end starters. The overall cost savings then can be applied to building your starting eight for hitting and defense. The goal is to win a lot of games by scoring more than 4 runs. 
 

When the window is clearly open, you then can splurge on a true #1 or #2 if need be - who knows, there is a decent chance one or two of our youngsters will develop into that role anyway and it won’t cost $25MM/year. 
 

Not only is this the approach the I think the Twins will take, but I also think it’s the right one. 

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51 minutes ago, Old Twins Cap said:

Look at Tampa Bay, poster boys for this kind of thing.  Bulk guys and non-bulk guys, that's how their staff is sorted.

Low-budget team, always a contender, this year better than the Yanks and Red Sox who are over $200M in payroll.

Not dwelled on here but it's the kind of strategy that is hard to counter:  Who is going to start?  How many innings will he go?  Lefty?  Righty?  What should our line-up look like? 

And, the manager plays his cards all game based on a slew of factors:  who's hot?  how's it coming out of his hand? who's swinging it good on the other side?

And this important fact:  early leads mean something in MLB.  You want to put pressure on the other team by being in front.  These guys crunch a lot of numbers and they have a strategy that involves getting out of the gate early and forcing the other team to be uncomfortable.  That's a big part of this.

You hold the other team down for the first three, four innings, get a lead and take your chances from there.

Works for the Rays, that's for sure.

Are we sure that is what the Rays do? I was looking at the games logs for them the last 3 three years, and their good pitchers, pitch on average more than 5 innings. Now they don't have the finances for a bunch of those good pitchers, but I don't really seem them limiting their good pitchers on some philosophy of more times pitching and less innings per time?

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46 minutes ago, MN_ExPat said:

You're forgetting a big piece of the equation here... the player, and what he wants or is willing to take on.  Now I may be misunderstanding your post (it's been known to happen before), but at the end of the day the player makes the decision.  Not the agent.  Many guys coming out of college, or even high school just want to play and don't care where or how as long as they can contribute in a meaningful way and get consistent time on the field (I spend a LOT of time around HS players and I hear this sentiment a lot).

As far as this being "bad" for baseball?  Can't say that I agree with that wholeheartedly.  Teams have already had success with some version of this (Tampa and KC come to mind).  All it takes is someone getting the right formula and pieces together in one place, and then voila... magic happens.

If you are a first or second round talent , maybe 3rd(or the parent or the agent) do you really want to sign with a team that basically says for the next 10 years you are going to be a 3 inning pitcher?

And what team is going to draft a pitcher in one of those rounds and pay them the slot money to be a part-time pitcher? So basically the team will have said we won't ever go after healthy top end talent, we are going to settle for lesser?

(Remember I replied to the comment about 3 sets of 3 inning pitchers)

And yes it is bad for baseball to try and remove the star starting pitchers, quite a few of the games I have attended with my son revolve around who the Twins are playing and who is pitching that day. Multiple times we have decided not to go to a game on a bullpen day, because they tend to get long and boring and have went when Berrios or Odo, or a stud on the other team was pitching.

I am not saying this year it would be a bad idea I am saying the philosophy is a bad idea, and I can't believe the players union would accept it.

I actually think pairing Winder with a Ryan and Ober with Balazovic, would be a great way to build them up. Sign a couple of pitchers, trade for a pitcher, then let the rookies thrive but not asking too much of them for too long.

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It's an interesting concept, and one that can probably work over the course of a season...but where it might get dicey is in the playoffs, where the vagaries of a short series might make this less viable? That's where you see the highest level talent and elite level starters really show out the extra value. (One of the limitations of WAR has a metric is it encourages linear progression thinking about players; you can't really replace elite value in the aggregate.)

But there's also a case that you can make a better and stronger overall pitching staff by being willing to let relievers pitch more than 1 inning consistently to support the 5 & fly guys in your rotation. That might produce more sustainable effectiveness in a short series?

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40 minutes ago, TwinsDr2021 said:

I

Don't disagree with that sentiment, but also I can't say that agree with it either.

 There's a lot going on here, so I'll do my best at attempting to address each point (probably poorly, so bear with me):

If you are a first or second round talent , maybe 3rd(or the parent or the agent) do you really want to sign with a team that basically says for the next 10 years you are going to be a 3 inning pitcher?

  • I honestly think this depends on a lot of factors.  First, every kid is different and wants different things.  There are some who wouldn't accept a role like this, while others don't care at all and just want to play and do whatever it takes to excel and help the team succeed.

And what team is going to draft a pitcher in one of those rounds and pay them the slot money to be a part-time pitcher? So basically the team will have said we won't ever go after healthy top end talent, we are going to settle for lesser?

  • Again, this depends. There are so many variables that go into drafting and then getting an arm to the majors, that in the end a wise/good team usually winds up going with talent and projectability over role/status.  Also, at no time has the FO EVER said, literally or figuratively, "we won't ever be going after healthy top end talent, we are going to settle for less."  

And yes it is bad for baseball to try and remove the star starting pitchers, quite a few of the games I have attended with my son revolve around who the Twins are playing and who is pitching that day. Multiple times we have decided not to go to a game on a bullpen day, because they tend to get long and boring and have went when Berrios or Odo, or a stud on the other team was pitching.

  • I don't in any way feel that baseball is trying to remove "star" starting pitchers.  This in many ways feels more akin to what I see in HS and many college settings these days.  Multiple arms that can be interchanged and used in a variety of ways.  MLB may be the melting pot of the worlds major talent of baseball, but it feels like the league lags behind HS/College/the Minors in being creative about how to mange the game and roster usage.

I am not saying this year it would be a bad idea I am saying the philosophy is a bad idea, and I can't believe the players union would accept it.

  • This isn't really a player's union type of thing in my opinion.  Also, not a big fan of MLBPA in the regards that they don't (at least openly) campaign for the betterment of players in the minors, but that's a conversation for another time.

I actually think pairing Winder with a Ryan and Ober with Balazovic, would be a great way to build them up. Sign a couple of pitchers, trade for a pitcher, then let the rookies thrive but not asking too much of them for too long.

  • Honestly, I think this is more of what the team and others around the league may have in mind.

For what it's worth, this is what I think.  

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Yep, guys pitching every three days, with one or two solid rotation arms who can maybe get you to six innings, and a closer and anopther guy.

 

If you work your 40-man roster right, you can have that light-rail actiuvity daily between St. Paul and Minneapolis. A guy pitches, goes back to St. Paul for a week while another arm comes in. Greata for prospects. Bad for minor league free agents without options.

 

Great for getting guys to bhuild their esume. Long-term, not sure.

 

If the Twins are going to have a bunch of starters who can barely pitch five innings, than maybe you need to really look at "opener." The strength of that position was that you would have a guy face, perhaps the first 7 batters in a lineup, with your starter coming in for an easy inning against the bottom of the order and batter #1 for his first inning of work, as well as throwing the hitters off-kilter because they have to immediately adapt to a new pitcher.

 

It will also raise havoc on salaries. Still remember the days Frankie Rodriguez threwq a fit because the Twins wanted him to relieve, but he wanted to start because rotation arms got bigger contracts. (Frankie forgot that you also have to produce, and one can make a fine living as a bullpen arm and also get big money as a closer who throws only 40-50 innings).

 

Pitching by committee seemed to work in the World Series. You still have a modicum of arms in the world of starters who cannot come into a game, but can warmup pre-game and do a good job of starting. That is a skill set (routine) that would be banished by such a move as tag-team pitching.

 

 

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9 minutes ago, MN_ExPat said:

I am not saying this year it would be a bad idea I am saying the philosophy is a bad idea, and I can't believe the players union would accept it.

  • This isn't really a player's union type of thing in my opinion.  Also, not a big fan of MLBPA in the regards that they don't (at least openly) campaign for the betterment of players in the minors, but that's a conversation for another time.

I think this this the type of thing the union would absolutely want to weigh in on, if one of the teams decided it was going to do away with "real" starting pitching, they would also have to do it in the minors and thus reduce salary, and the union isn't going to put up with that.

 

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Great article, Nick.  Have been thinking and talking about this for much of last season.

Glad to see it was eventually mentioned that if a pitcher goes 3-4 innings, he doesn't need to have four full days of rest.  So two pairs of pitchers piggybacked could have each pair pitching every fourth game, covering one half of the games played.  So four of the thirteen man staff should get you 6-7 innings in half your games.  Considering that so many of our young guys were limited this year due to not pitching in 2020, this may make a ton of sense.  

I maintain that rather than taxing the bullpen, this would actually result in less work by the bullpen.  With days off, could probably get thru a season with two traditional starters, the four who piggyback into two of four games, and a fifth starter who would double as long relief when frequently missing starts.  That leaves another six relievers to finish games, with most games needing only 2-3 innings of work.  When you do have someone blow up and the pen has more work, ship the 13th guy back to St. Paul and bring up the next reliever, much as they have been doing for the past couple years.

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2 hours ago, Old Twins Cap said:

Look at Tampa Bay... Low-budget team, always a contender...

People like referencing Tampa Bay, but would never accept the methodology the Rays employ. We wouldn't even be talking about a Buxton extension. He wouldn't even have gotten an offer from the Rays because every team in baseball would know he was going to be traded. Kepler, Polanco, Garver, Sano, Donaldson (who wouldn't be on the team to begin with) would all be on the open trade market. At least 3 of the 5 would be gone.

Also, the Rays were miserable for a decade while they built up their farm system and no, they're not "always a contender" as they finished 2014-2017 under .500 every year. The Rays have an unorthodox approach similar to Oakland, but the Rays' have been better at developing pitching than the A's, and the Rays seem to have a little more payroll flexibility when they need it.

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