With Matt Garza about a week or two away from coming off the disabled list, and rejoining the Chicago Cubs starting rotation, the talk has been ongoing about who should be bumped when he returns. This is a tough decision because all five men who are currently in the rotation are pitching well. In fact they are exceeding any and all expectations even the most optimistic fan might have had.
Until recently, the smart money has been on either Carlos Villanueva or Scott Feldman being slotted into the bullpen upon Garza’s return. Personally, I would have though Villanueva would be the obvious choice since he was originally signed to be the swing man out of the pen. However, with the rash of injuries the Cubs faced in Spring Training, the starting rotation was thrown into turmoil and he was given his chance and has not let us down.
Jeff Samardzija will not be making a return to the bullpen, he has been labeled as a key component for the Cubs future and will remain in the starting rotation. Edwin Jackson is safe because he is being paid very well over the next four years, and despite his performance has nothing to worry about. Travis Wood has been beyond spectacular, putting up eight quality starts to begin the year, and was called the best pitcher in baseball (pretty much) by Manager Dale Sveum. With the way Feldman and Villanueva have been pitching, there is no real justification to demote either of them to a lesser role either.
So, the question remains, which of our starting pitchers moves to the bullpen when Garza returns? What if I told you that there was talk about not sending any of them to the bullpen? What if the Cubs decided to go with a six man rotation? While there are both pluses and minuses to this thought process, I am not a fan of this idea.
Having six starting pitchers, if I were to be honest, does have some advantages. You would give each starting pitcher an extra day of rest, which would give them the chance to last longer in games. With that being a possibility you could be able to take innings away from your bullpen which would keep them fresher. With the Cubs in mind, the less you have to use the bullpen, the better off they are. Your starting pitchers would then also be fresher for the pennant race, if you are skilled enough to reach that point. However, I feel that is where the advantages end.
In a normal five man rotation, each starting pitcher (assuming there are no injuries or off day skips) will get at least 32 starts, with your top two pitchers getting 33. If you move to a six man rotation, each starter will get 27 starts. That is six less games from your best two pitchers a year, if this is done throughout the year, while giving 27 starts to a pitcher who might be better served to be in the bullpen. If you have six stud pitchers in your rotation, then sure, make the move. Six dominating starters, with extra rest, and less innings from a risky bullpen would be epic.
Can you imagine the Detroit Tigers employing this? How do you think their fans would respond to one of the best pitchers in baseball getting six less starts a year, just do you can add an extra man to the rotation? Good luck with that sales job.
Thankfully, Sveum is not saying the move to a six man rotation is a sure thing. At the moment this idea is only a possibility. One, that I hope stops at just being a thought.