Tom Gatto of the Sporting News offers this tidbit in the latest issue (Welcome to Mannyland, May 31, 2004)
Call it an eight-man rotation with a twist — and a new way to coddle minor league pitchers early in their careers.
The Rangers, Reds and Athletics are using “tandem rotations” in the lower levels of their farm systems. On each team, four groups of two pitchers are assigned to work games — one starts, the other relieves — and everyone is limited to 75 pitches. The pitchers alternate between starting and relieving.
“Personally, I believe the 18- to 22-year-old arm is not prepared to pitch the way people traditionally think. Their arms are not fully grown and mature,” Rangers assistant general manager Grady Fuson told The Washington Post. “They’re not prepared to take the torque that major league guys can. This system eases them into it.”
Fuson brought the system to Texas from Oakland, where it was originated in the mid-1990s. Reds general manager Dan O’Brien took it with him from Texas to Cincinnati and implemented it this season.
Under the plan, pitchers are encouraged to go after hitters and make them put the ball in play, which means relying on the defense. Presumably, they also build arm strength by working more often; tandems pitch on three days’ rest rather than the usual four or more.
“The object (in the Reds’ system) is to get the batter out in four pitches or less,” O’Brien told the Post. “That’s easy to talk about, but hard to master and execute.”
A’s player development director Keith Lieppman, who helped implement the original tandem program, notes some drawbacks. He says it’s difficult to use if teams lack quality pitchers. Also, pitchers don’t learn how to get out of jams when they’re tired in the late innings, and they tend not to compete as hard because they’ll get their pitches in no matter what happens. The A’s now use the system for only their rookie league teams.
Before I get into my opinion on this, let me show you this article on if starting pitchers are finished.
I think this is ridiculous.
Livan Hernandez is known as one of the more durable pitchers in the game today. He has two so far this year, and 33 for his career. Cy Young had 33 in 1907 — when he was 40. Jim Lonborg almost met the halfway mark to Livan Hernandez’s career 33 with 15 complete games in 1967 with Boston.
I think starting pitchers are being babied. This tandem system is ridiculous. Not only are they on a strict pitch count which will make them lose steam when they hit the majors and are asked to throw 100+ pitches to get through the seventh, and do it from April to September, that’s a radical adjustment. Pitch counts are already limited in the minors, this tandem system just makes it worse. Then you have what was detailed above in the article, quite crucial, the lack of pitching out of tight situations, especially in the majors, when you might hit a tight situation in the 6th. Oh, a pitcher turns his lonely eyes on the bullpen.
The only good thing I can think of that comes out of this tandem system is that they can bounce back better, since there is only three days between starts and not four. But again, this is only with a 75-pitch limit. Whose to say they will bounce back just as easy after throwing 100+ pitches?
How much longer before a tandem system is instituted in the majors? How much longer before the concept of a starting rotation is demolished? We have gone from a one-man rotation to a five-man rotation in a century. We have gone from no relievers to rigidly defined roles as a reliever – left-handed situational reliever (DiNardo), right-handed situational reliever (A. Martinez), long man (Brown), middle-innings man (Timlin), set-up guy (Embree), closer (Foulke).
I can see it now.
General Manager: I believe I was hired by this team to win the World Series. To achieve that goal, I have set up a tandem system for the major league team that I know will win us the World Series. We will have eight total starters, in a four man rotation. Pedro Martinez will start the first game and be relieved after 75 pitches or four innings by Tim Wakefield. Curt Schilling will start the next game and be relieved by Derek Lowe. Bronson Arroyo will start the next and be relieved by Bronson Arroyo. Then we have decided the next and final tandem will be Charlie Zink followed by Abe Alvarez! Then every other start, the starting and relieving roles will flip flop. This will leave us with Alan Embree and Scott Williamson in the bullpen to make sure things do not get out of hand, and Keith Foulke to close the games out!
END PRESS CONFERENCE.
Intriguing? Yes. But it’s babying pitchers, and it’s giving everyone sort of a relief role. Wave bye bye to 300 career wins. Pretty soon, yet another general manager will come along, and in a way to save money, he will scrap starting pitchers altogether and have 12 relief pitchers on one team, with every single one starting games and going 2-3 innings!
I think we need to have at least four durable starters on a team, with the only defined role with the relievers is a closer. And I don’t mean just a one-inning closer, with a SIP under 0.50. I mean a closer like Keith Foulke, whose SIP is currently 0.39.
Curt Schilling, Livan Hernandez, Russ Ortiz, Barry Zito, and then we can talk about a 5-6 inning pitcher. This is the way to go.
David McCarty helped save the game in which Foulke had his first blown save of the season. I have always been a supporter of Dave McCarty. It’s funny, as I watched McCarty rocket off a wallball in the bottom eighth, I knew I would wrote a post about McCarty, defending him because most of Red Sox Nation dislikes him. And lo and behold, he wins the game, so I doubt RSN hates him right now, but just in case…
He is a good late inning replacement at first. You know, like … Dave Stapleton? Who was a late inning replacement at first base for Bill Buckner? Keep David McCarty ON THE ROSTER! We will need him. He is pretty wieldy with a stick but this is only now translating to major league levels, at age 33. Kind of strange, but it’s good enough for me. Also, he’s a valuable mop up man. If we’re up 20-0, do you want McCarty pitching the 8th and the 9th, or Lenny DiNardo? I’d go with McCarty. DiNardo is a reliever that is used in closer situations than that, and also it reduces the risk of injury to an important reliever. We can survive a McCarty injury, but can a DiNardo injury be just as easily replaceable? I say no.
Mondesi and Precedent
Another little note on Raul Mondesi, whom I wrote about yesterday. I read today at a source that currently escapes me right now, that this could set a bad precedent for other hitters. Just refuse to play, and you’re placed on the restricted list and then later cut. Actually, teams could take advantage of this also. If there’s a moneymaker on your team that wants out, and he leaves, you can simply put him on the restricted list, not have to pay him, and not cut him at all! Now, this player is left with two choices. One, agree to play for the team again and hope the team trades him, or two, sit out the entire season and be hurt financially the next year. It’s too bad it had to happen for Pittsburgh, but it did and we need to learn from this.