Padres’ pitching is weak, but they’re trying to compensate
In case you mi sed it, the Padres have basically admitted their rotation isn’t very strong.San Diego has upwardsof 10 candidates for five spots as it begins exhibition play Saturday, but none of them was overly effective last season (see the list below). Manager Andy Green, therefore,is flirting with the idea of limiting starters’ innings during the season and “piggybacking” a starter and Kent Tekulve Jersey a reliever who might split the first two to three trips through the batting order. Pitchers could also shift between starting and relieving.Green is trying to sell the notionthat the Padres are being forward-thinking, that they want to take advantage of their depth and create better matchups. It sounds more like a way to mask their lack of frontline starters.MORE: Padres reach one-year deal with Jered WeaverAs of this writing, the Padres’ main rotation candidates (as listed on MLB.com’s depth chart) are Clayton Richard, Jered Weaver, Jhoulys Chacin, Luis Perdomo, Christian Friedrich, Trevor Cahill, Jarred Cosart and Paul Clemens. Tyrell Jenkins and Erik Johnson also are in the mix. The group’s 2016 stats show how underwhelming these guys are:Richard:672/3 IP, 3.33ERA, 1.66WHIP, 4.19 FIPWeaver: 178 IP, 5.06ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 5.62 FIPChacin: 144 IP, 4.81 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 4.01 FIPPerdomo: 146 2/3 IP, 5.71 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 4.84 FIPFriedrich: 129 1/3 IP, 4.80 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 4.16 FIPCahill: 65 2/3 IP, 2.74 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 4.35 FIPCosart: 57 IP, 6.00 ERA, 1.75 WHIP, 4.88 FIPClemens: 71 1/3 IP, 4.04 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 5.68 FIPJenkins: 52 IP, 5.88 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, 6.86FIPJohnson: 19 2/3 IP, 9.15 ERA, 1.88 WHIP, 8.84 FIPCahill was used almost exclusively as a reliever with the Cubs, but he has extensive starting experience. The other pitchers did the majority of their work in 2016 as starters.The concept of piggybacking isn’t new; the Reds, Astros and Yankees briefly tried itin their minor league systems three to four years ago. On the major league level, the Rockies, another pitching-poor franchise, tried it in 2012. Colorado also went to a four-man rotation and imposed a 75-pitch limit on starters. The whole thing lasted from June 19 through the end of the season.If Green wants feedback about that Rockies experiment, he can ask Chacin and Friedrich about it. Both were in Colorado’s rotation that year.MORE: Max Scherzer still can’t throw fastballsFriedrich was part of the four-man rotation in its early stages, though he pitched on three days’ rest only three times in seven starts. In fact, the four-man rotation wasn’t strictly followed; Rox pitchers started just 20 times on three days’ rest in 55games to which it applied. Colorado went to a straight five-man rotation after Chacin returned from the disabled list on Aug. 21. Chacin never went on three days’ rest at all.The one constant in the whole deal was the pitch limits: Friedrich, Chacin and everyone else had them, and Rockies hurlers averaged 76.3 pitches per start over the 97 games of the experiment. The maximum pitch count by a starter in that period was 97, by Jeff Francis. The minimum was 53, by Drew Pomeranz.That range makes the Rockies’ experiment relevant to today’s game.Let’s fast-forward to 2016: Willie Stargell Jersey Major league pitchers threw 100 or more pitches in just 35.7 percent of starts last season, per baseball-reference.com. That’s the lowest percentage over the past 10 seasons (40.7 percent in 2007 was the previous low). A plurality of pitchers (49.2 percent) lasted between 80 and 99 pitches last season. Pitchers failed to crack 80 pitches in the remaining 15 percent of starts. That’s the highest such percentage since ’07.There are several po sible explanations for those numbers.Maybe pitchers were getting knocked out earlier because of a corresponding increase in offense; runs were up big time, and the average length of a start last season dropped to 5.6 innings, the lowest figure in the past 10 years. That’s not significantly outside the range of the previous nine seasons, however; starters averaged between 5.8 and 6.0 innings over that time.Maybe, and this is more plausible, managers were more vigorously protecting their fragile a sets and reducing workloads. That can at least explain the increase in starts of between 80 and 99 pitches.Or maybe, managers weren’t going to allow le ser starters to be exposed and were more willing Bill Mazeroski Jersey to mix and match earlier in games.FOSTER: Padres carry weight of San Diego’s sports hopes, and that’s not goodNow let’s shift back to 2012: When a Rockies starter was able to go five or more innings under the organization’sconstraints (either in a four- or five-man rotation), the team’s record was 24-16. That was an exceptional split for a team that finished 64-98 overall.When a starter failed to go five, regardle s of how effective he was, the Rox were 15-42.The pitch counts helped keep Colorado starters from going much beyond five. Only Chacin reached seven innings in a start and he did that just once, and on just 74 pitches. Rox pitchers lasted more than five innings just 16times total in the 97 games.This year’s Padres will be outliers if they put big inning limits on their starters, but with an average major league start moving closer to15 outs, the gap will be narrower than it would have been just three orfour years ago. And they can be encouraged by what the Rockies did five years ago when they got just enough starting pitching.