|Image Credit: Brendan Kennedy, The Star|
That's what I'd call it, anyway. Zaun called it a caddie on TV last night. Either term is fine, I guess, as long as the point gets across. Basically, I'm talking about what I think could/should be done with Dustin McGowan, until he's stretched out all the way and isn't getting tired 60 pitches in to each start.
I don't think it's a big secret that pitchers statistically perform relatively well their first time through the batting order in each game, and get progressively worse each subsequent time that they turn the order over. Nobody's shut up about Dickey's struggles the 3rd time through the order all week long. That's a bit of an extreme case, but the same thing can be said for every starting pitcher in baseball with enough of a sample size. The more plate appearances a batter gets against a pitcher in a game, the better he will perform.
The Colorado Rockies, rather infamously, went with a four-man rotation at various times over the last two seasons, having young guys start games and typically only throw three or four innings, and then have someone else come and take over. The idea was two-fold. Batters never see a pitcher a third time in a game, and the pitching staff gets to have a combination of regular work and enough rest. The Jays have done the same with their A-ball rotations for the last few years, mostly as a way to keep everyone's innings and pitch-counts under control.
Obviously, the Rockies have stunk the last couple years, so it's certainly not perfect, but I think that's more a function of them being bad at baseball relative to other teams, and less so at the system working poorly over a pretty small sample. Plus, that park.
And of course, I'm not suggesting that the whole rotation gets piggybacked-- just McGowan.
Really, this all stems from last night and the way Gibby's hook worked. Again, Zaun had a bit of a rant about this, and I agreed with him wholeheartedly, even before he said it. McGowan was yanked with the bases loaded and with nobody out in the 5th inning, having thrown 70 pitches. Obviously, hindsight would suggest that he shouldn't have started the 5th inning, but even with my play of going through the order twice, no more no less, McGowan gets pulled at the same point in the game. Any way it gets sliced, McGowan doesn't face Markakis a third time.
Perhaps, though, if McGowan is tiring at the 60-pitch mark, he should throw his 4 innings, and then let someone else start the fifth fresh, rather then risk getting in to a jam that someone else has to come try to clean. If the Jays are carrying 8 relievers, three of whom are longmen, they may as well use them to their full effect.
I guess I say this because Redmond came in to the game last night in a pretty shitty spot-- go-ahead run at the plate, bases loaded, none out, meat of the order coming up. This is a high-leverage spot in the game (3.15 leverage index, and a .330 WPA for Cruz on the HR), and is probably a spot better reserved for, say, Brett Cecil, with Markakis and Davis at bat and in the hole respectively, plus how well he's handled Adam Jones. Steve Delabar is probably good here as well, given his ability to get strikeouts. If the idea is to get multiple innings from Redmond (or Happ, given the lefty-righty construction of the O's lineup), he should be coming in with a fresh slate. Plenty of time to warm up, start of the inning, etc. Let him feel like he's starting.
Given the offday Monday, Mcgowan can be skipped in his next scheduled spot. Whether they decide to ramp up his work between now and his next start to try and build more stamina, or just decide to let him do as he's been doing and go with a piggyback is obviously yet to be seen. I'm certainly not ready to give up on the McGowan-as-a-starter business, but if you've got a starter who is tiring after 60 pitches and keeps getting beaten up and yanked in a jam in the fifth, something needs to be done. There's my idea.