A 6-Man Orioles Rotation Doesn’t Add Up

That's how I feel about a 6-man rotation too, Ubaldo.With Ubaldo Jimenez due back from the disabled list, many are split on how to proceed with one too many starting pitchers. Maybe Jimenez slots into the bullpen to act as the long man for a while, or maybe Gonzalez takes up that role. There’s been a lot of buzz about a six-man rotation, but that might not make sense. It’s come up multiple times: when Gausman was going to be promoted, when Johan Santana looked like a viable piece, and now when Jimenez attempts to resume his role as an Orioles pitcher.

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The six potential starting pitchers have all started on five and six games of rest in the past, though some have more experience here than others. Kevin Gausman has pitched just two games on the normal 5 days of rest, making the unusual 6+ days of rest his normal at this point. Keep that in mind when discussing his stats on a 5-day rotation, because he’s working with the smallest of small sample sizes.

Take a look at the following table of each of the six potential starters’ tOPS+ on five and six or more days of rest. A tOPS+ greater than 100 indicates a pitcher did worse than usual in this split.

 tOPS+ 5 Days Rest 6+ Days Rest
Chris Tillman 107 95
Wei-Yin Chen 91 94
Ubaldo Jimenez 109 106
Kevin Gausman 106 109
Bud Norris 105 119
Miguel Gonzalez 80 106

Chris Tillman and Wei-Yin Chen are the only two Orioles pitchers that do better than normal on an extra day of rest. However, Chen is even better than that on 5 days of rest. Ubaldo improves on 6+ days compared to 5 days, but he’s still above average in tOPS. Miguel Gonzalez appears to be significantly better on 5 days of rest in this metric, contrary to popular belief, and Bud Norris is the same.

Orioles pitchers allow more baserunners on extra rest too:

WHIP 5 Days Rest 6+ Days Rest
Chris Tillman 1.326 1.345
Wei-Yin Chen 1.238 1.274
Ubaldo Jimenez 1.467 1.461
Kevin Gausman 1.645 1.528
Bud Norris 1.327 1.519
Miguel Gonzalez 1.075 1.500

Only Ubaldo Jimenez and Kevin Gausman improved their WHIP when moving to more rest, and remember that Gausman only has two games under his belt with 5 days of rest. His WHIP on normal rest might just be a small sample size issue. Again, Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez suffer significantly with more rest.

While a six-man rotation sounds like a great idea and a nice way to include 6 contributing starters, the numbers just aren’t there to support it. The rotation as it exists has done perfectly fine without Jimenez, and adding him in may somehow disrupt that. More importantly, giving him those starts takes them away from players that have recently shown to be on top of their game and good enough to win very tight ballgames.

My vote is to push Jimenez to the bullpen and monitor his command closely. If he can’t nail the strike zone when he’s only given an inning or two to work, there’s no reason to think he’ll do it when he’s given a start and asked to go deep into games.

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About the author

Patrick Dougherty   

Orioles Analyst

Patrick is the co-founder of Observational Studies, a blog focused on the analysis and economics of professional sports. The native of Carroll County graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Loyola University Maryland. Patrick works at a regional economic development and marketing firm in Baltimore, and in his free time plays lacrosse.

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