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The April Rotation

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One thing that we here at Views have harped on, especially Randy, is maximization of the talent on the 26-man roster. While we mean that on a more macro level, it can also be applied to micro level things, like the lineup or the rotation. 

A near constant quirk in the regular season schedule gives the Yankees four days off in April this year. If they so choose, they can rejigger their rotation to maximize the rotation’s talent by getting the most starts out of their top two pitchers while lessening the usage of their fifth starter, whether Deivi García or Domingo German

First let’s take a look at what it would look like if the Yankees just used a straight up rotation, everyone starts in order regardless of days off or days of rest. For argument’s sake, let’s say the rotation, 1-5, is: Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, Jordan Montgomery, Fifth Starter. 

Straight up rotation
PitcherStartsAvg rest after first startOpponents
Cole64.8TOR, BAL, TOR, ATL, BAL, DET
Kluber54.75TOR, TB, TOR, ATL, BAL
Taillon54.75TOR, TB, TB, CLE, BAL
Montgomery54.75BAL, TB, TB, CLE, BAL
Fifth54.5BAL, TOR, TB, CLE, DET

Alternatively, the Yankees could decide that Gerrit Cole is so important that they keep him on his regular rest while adjusting with everyone else. Doing so also pushes others back and limits the need and opportunities for the fifth starter. That scenario follows below:

Cole on regular rest plan
PitcherStartsAvg. rest after first startOpponents
Cole64TOR, BAL, TB, TB, ATL, BAL
Kluber64.4TOR, TB, TOR, ATL, BAL, DET
Taillon54.75TOR, TB, TB, CLE, BAL
Montgomery54.75BAL, TOR, TB, CLE, BAL
Fifth46.33BAL, TOR, CLE, DET

On the plus side, both of these plans give Gerrit Cole the most starts, two of which would be against a division rival. Both plans offer adequate rest, aided by the frequent off days in April. An advantage of the second plan is that nine of the 12 games against Toronto and Tampa will be started by the Yankees’ (nominal) three best pitchers in Cole, Kluber, and Taillon. It also gives the fifth starters–who might be better than that on other teams–games against slightly lesser opponents in Baltimore, Cleveland, and Detroit. The first plan gives the most rest to the most pitchers and keeps everyone in line and predictability and habit are nice in baseball. A hidden benefit of the second plan is that both fifth starter candidates–for wildly different reasons which you’re all aware of–will need easing into a Major League workload in 2021. 

Ultimately, which plan makes the most sense depends on what the Yankees’ goal is for the April rotation. If they want to just keep everyone in line, keep things balanced, they should go with the first plan. If they want to maximize Cole and limit the fifth starter, they should go with the second plan. I’m partial to the second plan because of the matchups and maximizing Cole. There will be at least one long stretch in there in which the fifth starter will need a relief appearance to stay sharp, but that’s doable. The differences, however, between the two plans aren’t so wild that either choice is a no-brainer to make or egregious to deny.

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2 Comments

  1. Wire Fan

    I’d lean toward the first plan. All of these pitchers are coming off a shortened season and I’m not sure the priority should be to maximize Cole’s and Kluber’s regular season innings

    Plus a rainout or two could wreck plan B

  2. A rain out or two might have the same beneficial effect.

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