There is an old saying in baseball that "you can never have too much starting pitching." It is an adage that has been proven over and over and over again throughout history, yet it is still ignored on a regular basis.
Just look what happened to the 2011 Boston Red Sox as their already thin rotation was ravaged by injuries, forcing them to use the likes of Andrew Miller and Kyle Weiland to fill out their rotation during their ultimately doomed playoff push. If that wasn't reminder enough for team to bolster their rotation depth, the events of the last few weeks in Major League Baseball sure as heck should be.
Rewind to May when the New York Yankees were signing Andy Pettitte and the Texas Rangers were signing Roy Oswalt. At the time, it looked like a classic case of the rich getting richer as both teams appeared to already have full rotations. One could even argue that Texas was adding to an embarrassment of pitching riches since they were operating at the time with a rotation so packed with talent that Alexi Ogando and Scott Feldman had both been forced into the bullpen. What could they possibly need Oswalt for?
Instead of Oswalt being a luxury item, he quickly turned into an absolute necessity. As of this writing, the Rangers have lost Neftali Feliz, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando to the disabled list. Add to that Matt Harrison dealing with a lesser injury and Scott Feldman, finally back in the rotation, pitching like garbage and the Rangers now find themselves needing more starting pitching. Their once overflowing rotation has been forced to stick with the struggling Feldman while also giving starts to the likes of Justin Grimm (I don't know who he is either).
Meanwhile in New York, Andy Pettitte joined the rotation to help out the Bronx Bombers, but now he himself is on the disabled list and he apparently brought C.C. Sabathia with him and now the mighty Yankees and their bottomless checkbook are moving Freddy Garcia back into the rotation and calling up an anonymous minor leaguer to fill the fifth starter spot.
The scary thing is that these are two smart teams that went out of their way to actually prepare themselves for a rash of injuries. Other teams haven't been nearly as lucky. Staying in the AL East, we see that the Boston Red Sox learned nothing from their embarrassment in 2011 and left themselves with few back-ups in their rotation even though they knew they would be without John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka to start this season. Now, with Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz on the DL, they are rounding out their pitching staff with retread Aaron Cook and battlefield promotion Franklin Morales. And that is with Dice-K now healthy and back in the rotation. That's just poor planning.
Others just suffer from bad luck. The Toronto Blue Jays actually had a fair amount of organization pitching depth, but nothing can prepare a team for having to put three starting pitchers on the disabled list in a four-day span, but that is exactly what happened with Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison. Keep in mind that this is a club that started the season with rotation options Dustin McGowan and Jesse Litsch both lost for the season due to injury. Toronto managed to survive, but just barely, as they were forced to trade for Sean O'Sullivan and pick David Pauley off waivers in order to get by. Even with those moves the Jays still felt compelled to sign the ancient Jamie Moyer to a minor league deal, just in case. These are the moves of a team that was actually prepared for a rash of injuries, mind you.
Plenty of other teams are similarly affected despite the best laid plans:
- The Oakland A's have what would be a pretty solid rotation (Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden, Bartolo Colon and Brandon McCarthy) on the disabled list right now.
- The Arizona Diamondbacks started the season with so much perceived pitching depth that a trio of top prospects were considered to be "blocked" much to the chagrin of baseball fans everywhere. Now, Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin could all be badge-carrying rotation members by the All-Star break.
- The St. Louis Cardinals have no Chris Carpenter, no Jaime Garcia and even no Kyle McClellan but have still found a way to hang in there.
- The San Diego Padres seem to have a bottomless well of pitching available to them but with a whopping seven starting pitchers on the DL, they were recently pressed into using Kip Wells as a starter even though he had been out of baseball since 2009 and hadn't been even remotely good since 2004.
- And then there is the Colorado Rockies who have used 10 different starting pitchers this season, converted to a four-man rotation and still haven't found one pitcher they can count on.
I could keep going on like that, literally, because it seems like we hear news of some starting pitcher being lost to Tommy John surgery on a weekly basis nowadays.
This season is likely something of an outlier in terms of pitcher injuries, but the fact remains that any team that ever thinks they have enough pitching depth is sorely mistaken because you never know when your staff can be decimated by injuries and/or ineffectiveness.
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