There has been a lot going on with the Arizona Diamondbacks pitching rotation. Joe Saunders and Daniel Hudson went to the disabled list, Trevor Bauer finally got his major league debut, Patrick Corbin came back up to the majors and Josh Collmenter was moved back in to the starting rotation.
I have had a lot of thoughts on all of this, so this column will be sort of a medley of different topics all related to the pitching.
Long relief to the starting rotation:
To start there is an observation with some stats to follow. The D-backs have been using their long relievers to go from there to the starting rotation and have success. First it started with Wade Miley, whose performance out of the pen led to his starting, which led to nine wins and an All-Star Game berth.
Josh Collmenter went from the starting rotation to the bullpen as the long guy. He only puts up a 1.19 ERA out of the pen. One emergency start and a regular start being put back into the rotation, and he allows only two runs in 10 innings so far.
Sounds like a recipe for success.
Now, Patrick Corbin, who started earlier this season when Hudson was on the DL with a shoulder injury, is in the bullpen. His first appearance was in relief of Trevor Bauer. All he does is throw three scoreless innings.
See a pattern? Don't be surprised to see him in a starter's role again sometime this season and have success.
Oh, and let's not forget this amazing stat: Arizona relievers working two or more innings this year: 41.2 IP, **TWO** earned runs. 0.43 ERA.
Joe Saunders' injury and the debut of Trevor Bauer:
I was at the game when Joe Saunders had the mysterious shoulder stiffness that he said was probably from sleeping on it wrong. The whole thing was strange. Although it doesn't match Saunders' personality, it seemed like something partially fabricated because the team was quick to put him on the DL, even before having him see team doctors. He isn't the type of player that would put up with a team conspiracy that keeps him from pitching. But then again he was almost excessively positive.
My take is that, real or fabricated -- and we will say the shoulder stiffness is at least real -- the team was looking for some excuse to bring up Trevor Bauer. When Joe first could not get loose, the hook was quick. They decided to use it as the way to get Bauer up, which is what seemingly everyone in the world wants to see.
Why? they want to know whether they can trade Saunders. The only thing that sort of got in the way was Hudson's injury.
Now, if Bauer pitches well, it won't be any work to keep him in the rotation. There is a spot, he would be pitching well and even if Collmenter is good as a starter, he has already been very good as a reliever, so moving him to the bullpen would not be hard at all.
If Bauer and Collmenter fare well and Corbin can show effectiveness as their long reliever, then the team can decide whether to move Saunders because he will have value. They just need to determine if he is more valuable as their starter or as a trade asset.
The disappointing aces:
This has been perhaps the biggest dud of the year. Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson were supposed to be the anchors of the rotation. Hudson has had injury issues and Kennedy simply has not been anything like a season ago. It personifies just how hard it is to rely on young (and relatively unproven) pitching at the top of a rotation.
Luckily, the franchise has young, potential quality starting pitching depth in Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill (still only 24 years old), Bauer, Collmenter, Corbin and Tyler Skaggs. They are more than an entire starting rotation, potentially.
However, as with Kennedy/Hudson this year, there is great uncertainty when you are relying on that much youth to be the current and future aces of a team.
After personally experiencing disappointment in the players I chose as my favorites (as a fan), I was wary to attach myself to any one guy this year. Mark Reynolds and Chris Snyder were those guys for me before (explanation for why some other time) and they just didn't size up.
But now, I have fallen for Miley, and it has been in part because of my media experience. He is young and has been truly incredible this season. But it is his demeanor that is his greatest attribute. He is honestly just happy to be in the big leagues. There is no ego as to his role. He is enjoying the ride.
Since he was not a heralded player or prospect, he knows the right way to go about his business. You accept any role that gets you to the majors and then you play as hard and as well as you can to stay there. Miley didn't care that he was the last guy on the roster and as a long reliever in the big leagues. He just wanted to pitch in the bigs. He still doesn't care. He wants to stay, if it means starting, relieving or pinch running.
You can't help but root for players like that as a fan. He is extremely likable and he has become the staff ace -- how can he not be a favorite?
The post-ASG starting rotation:
Joe Saunders looks to be on track to pitch again after the break. So, either Bauer or Collmenter will be moved out of the rotation. Bauer will stay at least a few more starts. Collmenter will go back to the bullpen -- at least temporarily. If Bauer struggles some, the team will send him back down to learn more and put Collmenter back in and put Corbin back in the long role. Then the decision will be whether or not to trade Joe.
If the team is in a spot in the standings like right now (in the running), Saunders won't go anywhere. Kirk Gibson values veteran leadership and a guy like Saunders is necessary on the pitching staff. If they slip a bit, say goodbye to Joe and say hello to the youth movement.
Let's say the team makes its run and is fighting for the postseason down to the end of the year. My predictions for the rotation at the end of the year is this: Kennedy, Cahill, Miley, Saunders, Collmenter. Bauer will do ok, but will struggle enough to have him go back to the minors to work on some things -- like keeping pitch counts down and more. Collmenter will be the pitcher he was a season ago.
Playoffs? Very possible.
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