The Baltimore Orioles are currently going with a six-man starting rotation: Bud Norris, Kevin Gausman, Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez and Miguel Gonzalez. On the surface the six-man rotation sounds ludicrous. You are reducing a bullpen that has already been overtaxed going into the hot summer months of the season. Six-man rotations are rarely seen, mostly because teams have a hard enough time finding five quality starters.
With this is mind there is some irony that the Orioles of all teams would go with the sixth man rotation. It’s almost as if the Orioles are saying “yeah, we have so many dominate starting pitchers that we can’t just limit it to five so we’re gonna go with six starting pitchers.”
Of course the reality is the Orioles don’t have six fantastic starters that they have to make room for in the rotation, but they have six average and inconsistent starters that all appear to be similarly average and inconsistent. And the worst part of this new six-man rotation is every time a starter gives up a run, twitter blows up with tweets about how so and so just pitched himself off the six-man rotation.
Yet despite it being counterintuitive and despite the overreaction of fans every time a starter gives up a run, it appears as if for right now a six-man rotation is not just the right move for the Orioles, but it is the perfect solution for this team. Recently Oriole starters have been consistently having quality starts. (Gausman’s start on Wednesday made it nine out of ten quality starts…. nine out of ten is pretty good, especially when you keep in mind that before the 9 out of 10, the Orioles had 22 quality starts in 61 games.).
With Oriole starters pitching more innings and giving up fewer runs, it has allowed our bullpen to pitch less. To make room for Gonzalez, their sixth starter, the Orioles optioned long man Josh Stinson. They were able to designate for assignment Josh Stinson because he was only needed when starters did not make quality starts. Case in point Josh Stinson was recalled to the Orioles before the game on June 9th and DFA’d June 17, between those two dates he only made one appearance. The ‘long man’ in the bullpen is made obsolete by good starting pitching.
However, if on the other hand, the quality starts stop coming (which is a very real possibility), then one just has to remove that particular starter and put him into the long man role. Very simply if Gonzalez or Chen or whomever can’t get past the third inning, then he throws his 60 pitches in that particular start and then becomes the long man for the rest of the week. If he’s needed, he can pitch again on 3 or 4 days rest. If he is not called upon, then he could be considered to make his next start.
It is unlikely that the Oriole starters will continue to pitch as well as they have been pitching, but as long they continue to pitch this well the six-man rotation can and will work. Therefore, the Orioles (and Oriole fans) should just sit back and enjoy the six-man rotation and hope for the best. As Oriole fans we have enough to worry about (J.J. Hardy’s defense and power, Chris Davis’ struggles, Caleb Joseph being our number one catcher, Machado’s bat) the starting pitching currently does not register as one of our top concerns… This is new and refreshing; let’s enjoy it while it lasts.
Image Credit: Au Kirk