Cole Hamels, hamstring strains

Could a lack of SP depth give Manfred the increase in offense he desires?

It’s well known, due to the creation of the Pace of Game Committee by former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, that the baseball executives want to encourage new and casual baseball fans to attend more ballgames.

Yu Darvish. Getty Images.

 It’s also well documented that current MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is contemplating altering the strike zone in order to produce more offense in MLB games. More offense equals more attendance and more revenue as was witnessed, for example, during the 1998 home run record chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

ESPN’s Buster Olney writes about the number of injured starting pitchers this season and how it emphasizes the lack of starting pitching depth around the league in one of his latest columns,

“Starting pitchers keep going down like a kindergarten class passing around a flu bug, with injuries driving White Sox aceChris Sale, Yu Darvish, Cliff Lee, Gavin Floyd, Marcus Stroman, Mike Minor and others into MRI tubes, leaving teams scrambling for alternatives.

“Besides Cole Hamels,” a highly ranked executive asked pointedly the other day, “have you heard of any starting pitchers who are available?”

Well … There’s … Ummm …

Yes, you could call Mike Rizzo, the general manager of the Nationals and the world’s deepest rotation, and you could ask him about Jordan Zimmermann or Doug Fister, who are both eligible for free agency in the fall, or maybe discuss the idea of swapping for Gio Gonzalez, who is under contract for the next two seasons for $23 million total, with team options following in 2017 and 2018. Rizzo has said he’s willing to listen to any proposals, which is his polite way of saying he’d be open to replicating the Louisiana Purchase if somebody wants to offer up their farm system.”

He’s exactly right. Besides Cole Hamels, who the Philadelphia Phillies would also like an entire farm system for, there are not any top notch starting pitchers to sign, let alone trade for. Olney mentions the names of all these pitchers that have been rendered out for the season and they’re not alone.

Tommy John surgery, along with other injuries, has become an epidemic. As Olney says and I happen to agree,

“Losing a starting pitcher to injury, or two starters, or three, is not bad luck; it’s not an aberration. It’s Major League Baseball in the 21st century.”

So now that it’s agreed that there are not many back-up options when a team’s ace goes down for the season, one has to wonder what the team can possibly do next? Most teams are going to do what they have to do to have someone to start every five days.

Going with a shorter rotation during the season is not only unprecedented in this day and age, it would lead to more surgeries, more injuries.

So it will mean going after starters who are either aging or players that are better suited for long relief or elsewhere in the bullpen, starters who they may need to fill a number two or three slot in the rotation who would normally be a fifth starter at best.

Corey Kluber. Getty Images.

 I wrote a piece on the Cleveland Indians recently and while I think that their young rotation has a lot of potential, especiallly led by the 2014 Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, I also think that some of their other options have ERA’s that have been a little higher than what most teams would usually be looking for or would have been looking for a decade ago.

For example, with the loss of starter Gavin Floyd for the season, the Indians are now looking at youngster Danny Salazar whose 2014 ERA was 4.25, Josh Tomlin whose 2014 ERA 4.76 and Zach McAllister whose 2014 ERA was 5.23, to fill a hole in their starting rotation. Only Salazar has a career ERA under 3.00 and he’s only played in parts of two seasons for the Tribe.

Those are not the numbers you are looking for when you need to replace your ace or even second starter. Sure, they’d do alright for a fifth starter, which they would end up being, but you need someone to replace your ace in the rotation. It won’t work. Well, it will work, it just won’t produce the desired results.

The desired results are obviously to keep the other team from scoring runs. Since as Olney said, it’s just the way it is in baseball right now and has been for the past few seasons, doesn’t it make sense that teams would be scoring more runs?

A lack of depth when it comes to starting pitching should equal higher scoring games, at least in my opinion.

There have always been trends in baseball. Sometimes pitchers dominate the league, othertimes it’s an offensive show. Casual and new fans to the game don’t seem to find it as exciting when pitchers dominate, while those heavily invested in baseball can appreciate the beauty that is say, a perfect game.

Rob Manfred. Getty Images.
Rob Manfred. Getty Images.

Commissioner Manfred’s ideas to change the game make sense on the level of getting the more casual fan out to the game to see a slug fest and, even as more of a baseball purist, I can’t say a slug fest isn’t fun to watch because it is!

However, I’m against making too many changes in the game and the new pace of play rules are enough if not too much. Altering the strike zone (it’s been altered before) to allow players to get more hits seems highly unneccessary.

It hasn’t been implemented yet, so perhaps this lack of starting pitching depth will produce the results the new commissioner is hoping for without him having to make too many changes in a game that in this girl’s opinion is already pretty perfect.

Even though there have been changes made over the years, all changes need to be monitored closely. Why changes to a game that has worked just fine and been beloved by fans for well over a century?

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