Kansas City Royals: Is a Four-Man Rotation in the Future for KC, MLB

KC Royals (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
KC Royals (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images) /

The hot talk around the world of Major League Baseball has centered around the idea of teams going with a six-man rotation. In fact, the notion is nothing new. The Texas Rangers have discussed it internally over the last couple of years.

What would be the benefits for the Kansas City Royals and baseball you ask? Maybe an extra day off and less worry about mileage on the arms just to name of few that have popped up in conversations.

However, let’s get crazy here. What about going with a four-man rotation instead of six?

It may sound weird but there is the possibility that it could work on a major league level. Of course, it’s not something that could start tomorrow but the game could get there sooner than expected.

In the world of baseball today, pitchers throw harder, train better and are more strong and athletic than in days gone by. Starters would have to change up their routine and train their bodies a bit differently going on four days rest instead of five, but it wouldn’t be that dramatic of a change.

How would a four-man rotation work, at least on paper? The point was brought up that pitchers usually have the 100-pitch limit in their starts and usually go about five innings in today’s day and age of the bullpen build-up. You can make the argument the Kansas City Royals started the bullpen trend in 2014 with Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland working the late innings.

This meant the starters just had to get to the sixth inning at the most. The Royals made World Series trips while other teams started to take notice of how the bullpen was being utilized.

The pro four-man rotation crowd may like the fact that one less starter could equal an extra arm in the bullpen, especially if you are sticking with the five-inning, 100-pitch limit that teams are using today.

No matter which side of the fence you are on, you never can go wrong with another reliever available in the pen. Especially since good relievers can be hard to find. With the standardized pitch and inning limit in place, pitchers wouldn’t exactly be throwing that much more than usual.

Another point brought up was pitchers are already throwing a bullpen session at least once during their five days of rest in between starts, which could add up to 30-50 pitches.

Starters wouldn’t have to worry about that bullpen session workout anymore.

Let’s be honest, the fifth starter always seems like a disaster waiting to happen anyways. How many teams have a solid five-man rotation today? When you trot your No. 5 guy out there, you are hoping he’s good enough to get you four to five innings and keep you in the ballgame.

That usually doesn’t happen. You can even make the case that the same thing applies to your No. 4 guy, at least with some teams. If you have a guy starting in the fifth spot that strings together some quality starts, the talk automatically jumps to moving him up the rotation in place of someone who’s struggling.

It’s usually just a matter of time before the pitcher that was replaced falls out of the rotation and is sent to the bullpen, optioned to the minors or released. Getting rid of the fifth starter can possibly help eliminate witnessing some bad baseball action.

Waiting is the hardest part and five days between starts can feel like an eternity for pitchers, especially if you are coming off a bad outing.

Do you think a pitcher like Danny Duffy, who get’s shelled by the Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees his last two starts, wants to wait another five days before stepping on the bump again? Duffy would go back out there tomorrow if he could but that isn’t happening, and for good reason.

A struggling pitcher like Duffy could benefit greatly from working on shorter rest. Sometimes it’s better to go out and work through the struggles than to have too much time sitting around and thinking about it.

Just like any new idea…

There will be hurdles to overcome if the talk gets serious and teams decide to go this route. Arm fatigue could be a major issue, especially with a 162-game schedule. Another hot topic recently involves that scheduled being reduced to somewhere around 154 games, maybe less. However, that’s a discussion for another day but a lighter schedule would be beneficial to the four-man rotation.

Injuries are always an issue, no matter what size your rotation is. That’s just a part of the game. Some say it’s due to being overworked while others say it’s due to not being worked enough. Hypothetically, you could always push a pitcher back a day or two for rest during the season if needed. Happens quite often nowadays anyway.

Also, remember that rosters expand in September. So you could always go back to the five-man way of life, which I would imagine teams would do anyway.

If you are blessed to have enough quality starting pitching to form a six-man rotation, go for it. However, there’s not a lot of good starting pitching out there. Which is why almost every team in the playoff picture looks for starters leading up to the trade deadline.

Let’s have some fun here. If the Kansas City Royals did this…

What would a four-man rotation look like for the Royals? Without a doubt, Jakob Junis and Ian Kennedy are in with the way they’ve been tossing the pill early on in the season. Then you have your pick between Duffy, Jason Hammel, and Eric Skoglund to choose from for the other two spots.

Skoglund has age and upside, while Duffy remains a mystery. Hammel could be plugged into long relief. Maybe you flip Duffy and Hammel in those roles with Hammel getting the No. 4 spot. There are definitely options on the table.

How about one more for those who are liking the four-man rotation idea.

The chances of seeing aces tote the rubber more than once a week increases. Which if you like watching good pitching, is never a bad thing. As a fan, would you rather see Max Scherzer or Clayton Kershaw on Monday and Thursday or see a random No. 5 guy get lit up when it’s his turn on the mound? I’ll take my chances of Junis and Kennedy getting in the win column every fourth day for the Royals than a throw-away start from whoever is in the No. 5 spot that week.

Final Thoughts

Yes, there is the “pro and con” portion of the show when talking about downsizing the rotations. And more aspects to be looked at if this was to ever become a thing. It would be interesting to see if this idea ever makes it past the discussion stage among fans and analysts and onto the table at the MLB offices.

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So what do you think Royals fans? Would it be worth the trouble to give a four-man rotation a test run? Are things fine the way they are? Who would you have in that rotation if you are the Royals? Let us know below and let the debate begin!