In the game of baseball today, a typical starting pitching staff is made up of five pitchers. Sometimes, however, a team will use a six-man rotation instead of a traditional five-man rotation for their starting pitching staff. This is usually done when a team has six quality starting pitchers or because the team is trying to minimize the wear and tear on a pitching staff by having one more pitcher throw during a rotation, thus giving all the other pitchers one extra day of rest.
If you look at the current status of the Minnesota Twins’ pitching staff two things are apparent: the bullpen is a strength of the team and the starting rotation is full of question marks. If you watched this weekend’s series when the Twins’ starters struggled to get to the sixth inning in all three games, resulting in the overuse and ineffectiveness of the bullpen in some games, you probably noticed that the Twins’ pitching staff has some issues.
Although the bullpen is an obvious strength of the team, it can’t continue being worked at the rate it is right now if the Twins want their bullpen to succeed for the duration of the season. Simply put, the Twins’ starters need to go deeper into games to take some mileage off the bullpen’s arms because they simply cannot handle this usage schedule they are on.
Since the Twins have struggled to have their starters go deep into ballgames and their bullpen is becoming overworked, why not try out a six-man rotation to see if that improves the performance of the current starters, who now will get an extra day of rest, while also giving a pitcher like Kyle Gibson an opportunity to establish himself as a big-league starter? Currently the Twins best relievers are Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Brian Duensing, Casey Fien, and Ryan Pressly, with Anthony Swarzak and Josh Roenicke being inconsistent so far this season. If the Twins went to a six-man rotation, you could remove either Swarzak or Roenicke from the bullpen and replace them with a guy like Gibson in the rotation. This would give each of the starters an extra day of rest and it would allow the Twins to use their six best relievers more often.
Now you may ask yourself, wouldn’t a six-man rotation put even more stress on the Twins’ bullpen because there is one less guy available to use thus complicating the overworking of the bullpen problem even more? The answer to that question is yes, but there is a catch. In my opinion, if you have a starting rotation with six starting pitchers and an extra day of rest built in, you will have more fresh arms when they take the mound and you can ask pitchers to go deeper into a ballgame. Starters will be able to go deeper into games because you can extend their outings without watching the pitch-count as close because you know they have an extra day to heal up. If a pitcher remains ineffective, however, a six-man rotation is useless. In addition, if a reliever were to succumb to injury while a team has a six-man rotation, the problem would be magnified because you now have an even weaker bullpen since there were only six relievers in the bullpen to begin with.
In all likelihood, the overworking on a bullpen issue will still come down to the performance of the starting rotation whether there are five of them or six in the rotation. I just feel that if there are six pitchers in the Twins’ rotation, the rotation may begin to perform better which could reduce the amount of innings and appearances the bullpen has to make. It would also be a way for the Twins to have Gibson enter the rotation and also let a pitcher like Samuel Deduno or Cole De Vries earn a spot in the rotation once they are healthy. In addition, a six-man rotation would also get rid of a pitcher like Roenicke who, in my opinion, is a liability to the team’s success when trying to hold a lead.
Is a six-man rotation the perfect fit for the Twins? I’m not sure, but I at least think it’s worth a shot in the short-term. The only other option I can think of to combat the pitching problem is this: score at least 10 runs a game. In which case, I’d prefer the six-man rotation idea.