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Friday, July 16, 2004

The Four Man Rotation

Here's an interesting article published on Baseball Prospectus by Rany Jazayerli. The article basically explains how BP calculates Pitcher Abuse Points (PAP), something the Cubs and Dusty Baker might keep in mind given the high pitch counts Mark Prior (113.3 pitches per start, tops in the NL in 2003 and now perhaps headed to the DL for the second time with elbow trouble), Carlos Zambrano (106.4 pitches per start in 2003), and Kerry Wood (110.7 pitches per start in 2003) regularly incur.
More interesting though are the recommendations that come from their analysis of PAP. Basically, they advocate going back to the historical four-man rotation but monitoring pitch counts more carefully and then using the starters in relief on their regular throwing days. In all this would give starters more innings pitched (280-290) while not adversely affecting their arms and since your starters are generally your best pitchers, would lead to more victories.
I've seen this theory proved out anecdotally in baseball simulation games which my brother enjoys. He regularly uses elements of this approach and still wins with average teams. However, in the real world I don't hold out much hope that any team will actually try it in the near future. Baseball is by its nature a conservative institution.
For another view on the conservative nature of baseball check out Alan Schwarz's excerpt of his new book The Numbers Game, which I'm going to run out and pick up very soon. Here he recounts how the new sabermetric knowledge first widely published in the 1964 book Percentage Baseball was shunned by almost everyone in the industry and of course is still largely ignored by those in the inner-circle.

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