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2016 Diamondback Rotation – A Different Plan

Do the Diamondbacks have a different plan for the rotation in 2016?

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Despite great offense and defense, there was no post-season. Clearly, the Diamondbacks need a better starting rotation. Let’s look at a different way to crack that nut!

The Diamondbacks Learned a Lot

During 2015, 12 pitchers started and were observed in major league action. That information is needed because the Diamondbacks have hard decisions to decide the 2016 starting rotation. Management comments tell me that Robbie Ray and Patrick Corbin are rotation locks in 2016, leaving three open positions. As I will explain, my view is that there are five open positions.

The Current Rotation

What result can we expect in 2016? The last four seasons have ended at 500 or below. To do the same thing and expect a different result would be wrong thinking. The rotation needs significant changes.

The Top Priority in 2016

The top priority is to add a starting #1 or #2 pitcher to the rotation. Dave Stewart has three considerable resources: 1) about $40 million per year uncommitted salary money, 2) many talented players who add depth and could be trade chips, and 3) his dazzling negotiating skills. This is not his first attempt. Lessons were learned from negotiations with Masahiro Tanaka, Bronson Arroyo, Jeremy Hellickson, and Yoan Lopez. I confidently predict Dave Stewart will land a #1 or #2 starting pitcher in 2016.

Innings Eaters

In 2015, three pitchers were innings eaters – Rubby De La Rosa, Chase Anderson, and Jeremy Hellickson. DeLaRosa earned the moniker of "the horse" with 188.2 innings pitched. I consider these three positions as open, being filled with innings eaters until better pitchers emerge, which could occur during spring training or during the season. Four rotation positions are accounted for. One is left.

Pitcher Innings During the Season

I see a problem with the best two pitchers - Robbie Ray and Patrick Corbin. In 2015, they pitched 127.2 innings and 85 innings (equivalent to 70% of a starter and 50% of a starter). I don’t want to risk injury by taking them to 100% in 2016. What could I do?

A Different "Direction"

Tony La Russa said the Diamondbacks fired Harkey because the club wanted to go "in a different direction." The comment led me to look deeper. In July 1993, when Tony La Russa managed the Athletics, he ran a pitching platoon. That platoon created three groups of three pitchers who would pitch every third day. It was named 3-3-3. Each pitcher would be limited to 40-60 pitches per game. One advantage is that each pitcher only goes through the order about once. It is widely known that hitters do better the second and third times through the order. With the 3-3-3, Tony La Russa used a 4 man bullpen, including the closer. Bill James online had an interesting article explaining the 3-3-3 rotation.

How Did the Platoon Work in 1993?

It was started mid-season by a team that was below 500, after winning the Division the previous year. It was used for 6 games. The results were 5 losses and 1 win. The context and the small sample size left me thinking that it did not work in 1993 but it might work in a different context with different pitchers. Although I didn't find supporting facts, it empowered the team by showing that change was possible.

A Modified Platoon in 2016

Instead of three platoons of three pitchers there would be one platoon of three pitchers. There would be four pitchers who pitch 6-8 innings every 6-7 days (days between starts would be more like Japan), and three pitchers who pitch 3 innings every third day.

The platoon would include Robbie Ray, Patrick Corbin, and one open position. Executing that platoon would mean having two less relievers, which would be balanced by a reduced use of the bullpen. Although my candidates for the open platoon position may change by spring, my current candidates include Archie Bradley, Zack Godley, and Aaron Blair.

A Different Rotation!

The 2016 rotation could have seven positions - 4 conventional and a 3-man platoon. The "Ace" position is open. Three positions are filled with innings eaters until better pitchers emerge. In the platoon, two positions are locks, Robbie Ray and Patrick Corbin. The third platoon position is open. So, when Dave Stewart succeeds in his top priority, what might the rotation look like to start the season in 2016?

pitchers rotation position
Johnny Cueto The Ace
Rubby De La Rosa The Horse
Robbie Ray.........Patrick Corbin.........Archie Bradley Three Musketeers
Chase Anderson Forest Gump
Jeremy Hellickson Ray Bay