A six-man rotation isn’t seen too often in baseball, but it is not unheard of, especially when a team has a particular reason for wanting to give an extra pitcher some reps as a starter. Another common reason is the necessity of giving a pitcher extra rest, particularly when he is coming off an injury.
A Six-Man Rotation for the San Francisco Giants: Good or Bad?
But in the San Francisco Giants case, it’s that they have such a massive number of starters on hand. A month ago, McCovey Chronicles’ Brady Klopfer suggested that they might use a six-man rotation. Now keep in mind that this was a month ago. At this point, there is no evidence that the Giants are seriously considering this unique setup. But the idea is still something to take a look at and examine.
To do this, we need to do deep thinking on every principle involved here. While this article couldn’t be exhaustive on every detail, the main ones are listed below.
1. The More Starters You Have, the More Starts are Taken Away From the Best
Actually, this is a reason why some sabermetricians want to return to the old way of using a four-man rotation. A team should want its best starters throwing the ball as much as possible. There are questions that must be dealt with regarding how much rest is best for a pitcher. At what point does an extra day make no difference? At what point does it make the pitcher’s arm get cold and actually result in him pitching worse as a result?
These questions are tough, particularly because they may have different answers relating to different pitchers. After all, each ballplayer is unique. But overall, I can’t see the benefit in a fifth day of rest for starters. And even if there was a tiny benefit, I couldn’t see it outweighing the cost of taking starts away from the aces.
The Giants need Logan Webb pitching for them if they want to contend in 2023. They can’t afford to have starts taken away from him by using a six-man rotation. The “five starters or four” question is a different one that would require a whole separate discussion to even begin to answer. But the six-man rotation, no sir.
2. A Six-Man Rotation Can Make a Bit More Sense in Different Circumstances
When the talent distribution in a pool of potential starting pitchers is more or less even, a six-man rotation might be able to be justifiably experimented with, as long as the extra day of rest can legitimately be seen as a benefit and not a hindrance. (In my mind, a fifth day is a hindrance, but each evaluator will have his or her own opinion.)
But, after all I’ve said about the Giants roster being made up of mid-tier players, the gap between the high and low-end talent levels of their starting pitching is significant. Logan Webb can be trusted far more than Sean Manaea or Alex Wood. While the depth of their starting pitching is a good thing, it remains true that they need to rely on their best starters first and foremost.
A six-man rotation is not justified in the Giants case.
3. The Giants Should Take the Opportunity to Have Multi-Inning Pitchers in Their Bullpen
The Giants bullpen will need to be good in 2023. Their back-end relievers, in particular, will need to consistently hold leads. The battle over a Wild Card spot will be intensely hot. It may come down to one or two wins, and a factor such as the bullpen’s ability to hold leads may be what ends up making the difference.
Managing the workload of the pen is something that deserves consideration, although it’s far from being the only critical issue involved. It may be an area where some of these organizational starters come in handy. It also may create opportunities for prospect pitchers such as Sean Hjelle and Kyle Harrison.
Now, in this particular area, it seems that the Giants will do the right thing. As mentioned previously, there is no current evidence that they’re thinking of using a six-man rotation. And their depth starters are certainly on the hook to pitch in relief.
The bigger question is whether we’ll actually see multi-inning saves from these pitchers. And I mean saves in close situations, and not those puny saves that are awarded by the scorer because a guy pitches the last three innings when the team’s ahead 10-0. It would be unconventional, and interesting. So let’s wait and see what the Giants decide to do.
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