The Reds – as they have shown us – can hit. The offense isn’t a problem now and isn’t likely to be a problem any time soon. The issue in terms of competing next year is going to be pitching. I know, surprising, right?
The challenge thing is always finding enough quality, healthy pitchers to fill out a five-man rotation. But what if they didn’t need five? What if they only needed four.
Once upon a time it was common to skip the fifth pitcher in the rotation frequently (I can certainly remember this, and I’m not that old). Most teams still do it from time to time. But this year, as you might have noticed, the schedule changed to include more off days. More off days means more chances to skip the fifth spot in the rotation and this could have extremely positive consequences for teams that are willing to use the schedule to their advantage.
The change is simple. With the off days, instead of insisting there be a five-man rotation, you now insist your top-4 pitchers go (as nearly as possible) every five days. I went through the Reds’ 2018 schedule and found that they could get through the entire season only using a fifth starter 20 times. That would leave 36 starts each for the top two starters and 35 each for the three and four guys.
Consider the possibilities here:
- You get more value out of your top pitchers without taxing them extra. Given how much shorter the typical start is across the majors, it makes extra sense to try and get a little extra from starters in this way.
- Because you only need a fifth starter periodically, it allows for more creative roster construction. For much of the season, you’ll be able to carry an extra man in the bullpenÃ‚Â andÃ‚Â still have a full bench.
- Because the fifth starter job is now more in flux, it provides a chance to audition starters in the minors who are likely to be rotation stalwarts in the future without making a demotion seem like a failure. Whoever came up would know he was only going to get two or three starts before going back down. This is somewhat akin to how rookies were sometimes asked to play their way into the lineup back in the olden days, but also keeps pitching prospects on a regular schedule.
- With a five-man rotation, the Reds probably need to add two pitchers in the offseason. With a four-man rotation, they only need one, which frees up additional money to spend improving other parts of the team.
I don’t really think the Reds will do this, but I see no reason they shouldn’t There will nearly always be some guys in Louisville knocking on the door but maybe not quite ready to hold a rotation spot on their own, and it allows a lot of roster flexibility.