The five-man rotation was born of necessity in the 1970's and at this point it is almost beyond question. Attempts at deviating from that pattern are usually a sign of desperation Brutalized by a lack of strong starters and a park that makes acquiring them difficult, the Rockies toyed with a four-man rotation back in 2012. Around the same time, a dysfunctional Red Sox team tried going with six starters for a stretch. The Rockies rotation end the season with the third-worst park-adjusted ERA in game and the Red Sox finished with the fourth-worst.
Still, few teams can actually get by with just five starters. In 2013 the Tigers were the only team to get more than 30 starts from all five members of their rotation and the only team that had to rely on just one other person to make starts. Only eight teams managed to get more than 20 starts from each of their top five starters. Pitchers get injured. They underperform. You start with a five-man rotation but you have to have a back up plan. Or three.
Sometimes that backup plan is a hot, young prospect, just waiting down on the farm for their chance to shine. Most of the time, however, it is a veteran arm stashed in the bullpen or in Triple-A, ready to step in when disaster strikes. In Boston, it was going to be Ryan Dempster, and then it became Chris Capuano. The Dodgers picked up Paul Maholm for this purpose and it looks like they will be needing him sooner rather than later. The thought of moving Freddy Garcia from the sixth spot to the fifth spot was enough to drive the Braves into the arms of Ervin Santana, but Garcia is still around, just in case. Somewhere on every team's depth chart, there is a de-facto sixth starter.
It isn't a sexy role. It isn't glorious. The best sixth starter would be behind a ton of names on any list ranking the game's starters. It is an important role though. Your team will need that guy at some point. So who has the best sixth starter in baseball?
Breakfast Links 3/20:
So Ruben Tejeda isn't really the answer? Who knew!
Just when you thought Stephen Drew's offseason couldn't get any worse
At some point, Drew's feelings have to be hurt, right?
Rollins wants to top some guy named Schmidt and become the Phillies all-time hit leader, so he doesn't want to waive his 5-10 rights for a trade.
Jurickson Profar could slide over the short, but the backup options at second aren't great. Hey, are there any shortstops available?
If the Astros can find an upgrade at first, they could make a real run at fifth in the AL West.