The Rays recently went to a six man rotation, which as Rob Neyer comments, has become more of a trend among other teams. The White Sox, Royals and Yankees have all tinkered with the idea as well. The reasons are all pretty much the same. 1)To save wear and tear on the starters and 2) because the teams feel like they have enough quality starters to pull it off. In the Rays case, the latter reason is absolutely true. The original five starters, David Price, James Shields, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann and Jeremy Hellickson, have all .500 or better records. All of them except for Price and Davis have better than league average ERA’s.
Price is looking to bounce back from a bad July (1-3, 5.04 ERA) and I’m sure he will end the year with 15 wins. Davis, the one weak link, has dealt with injuries and inconsistencies, but has shown flashes of brilliance. If there was one starter to be sent down, it would be him.
The reason for this is Alex Cobb who has made a few spots starts here and there, but finally seized a rotation spot in July when Davis went on the disabled list. He’s 3-1 with a 2.16 ERA in 48.1 innings in 2011. He hasn’t given the Rays any reason to send him back down to Triple-A. He deserves the chance and the spot in the rotation.
So, that puts the Rays in a unique situation. They simply can’t decide who should be dropped from the rotation, which brings the Rays to the first reason that teams usually adopt a six-man rotation. The extra day of rest for each starter has seemed to rejuvenate Hellickson and Niemann, who both put together a very strong month of July. Niemann’s 1.06 ERA the lowest mark for any starter in any month in Rays’ history.
Management might have had an alternate reason for going with an extra starter: to showcase a starter for the trade deadline. It was no secret that there was a possibility that Shields could have been traded, but honestly, I think the Rays were looking in a little different direction. A few days before the deadline, the Blue Jays, White Sox and Cardinals pulled off a three-team trade that saw Edwin Jackson go to the Cardinals and Colby Rasmus go to the Blue Jays. No doubt, the Rays could have pulled off a similar trade by sending Cobb, Davis or Niemann for Rasmus. With a center fielder in place under their control for a few years, they would have been more willing to trade B.J. Upton, maybe to the Nationals for either a shortstop or a first baseman. The Cardinals would then have a better starting pitcher than Jackson under their control for longer The Rays also would have potentially upgraded at two positions without hurting their rotation.
So, with the deadline come and gone, should the Rays stay with six starters? I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t at this point. The extra rest is bound to do everyone some good and depending on how the Rays do the rest of the season, it might make sense to shut down either Hellickson or Cobb. What do you think? Let me know in the comments or the poll below.