MLB: Could Managers Get Creative with Rotations, Bullpens in Short Season?

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MLB

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Clayton Kershaw may not start more than 12 MLB games this season. Same for Gerrit Cole. And Jacob DeGrom. Heck, throw Max Scherzer in that group too.

On the heels of hearing the news of MLB’s announced 60-game pandemic-shortened season, my mind began spinning.

“Scratch a 200 inning season, 30 start season,” I thought. “Justin Verlander may throw as many innings as Kenley Jansen did last year,” I pondered.

Well, not so fast.

Even though the 60 games are going to be vacuum-packed into roughly 70 days for maximum efficiency, the total number of innings pitched and pitches thrown will drop significantly for hurlers around the league, starters and relievers alike.

Relievers are used to pitching in high-leverage situations with high-effort deliveries that yield electric fastballs for somewhere between 50 and 70 innings in a 162-game season, roughly 37% of their team’s contests. Are they now only going to pitch in 37% of the shortened season, which comes out to just about 22 games?

Certainly, in a season where each win or loss will weigh more heavily on a team’s place in the standings, the best relievers will want to be on the mound as often as possible.

And let’s not leave out the starters either. You don’t think Marcus Stroman and Trevor Bauer will go out and try to convince their managers to let them throw 130+ pitches per start if it helps the team win? Or maybe shave down their rotations to four featured starters and an all-in bullpen game?

With this shortened season comes uncharted territory. No MLB season has been this short since the 19th century, and that certainly means managers will be scrambling to field a viable strategy. No idea can be laughed out of a room when no one is in a laughing mood and when there can’t be spit-takes, sunflower seeds or otherwise.

This topic deserves a deep dive, where no stone goes unturned in determining the most efficient ways to utilize the million-dollar arms that have hung relatively dormant on the sides of Major League Baseball’s best pitchers since mid-March.

There is no doubt in my mind that front offices will come up with ideas far grander and far more practical than I in this article, but I figured I’d at least run with a few ideas and let you, the readers, rein me back in when I stray too far.

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