Forget a 6-Man Rotation, O’s Should Use a “3-Man Rotation”

Kevin Gausman, Chris Tillman, Dylan Bundy of the Orioles all pitching.
Craig Landefeld/GulfBird Photo

Ok, you’ve read the headline and either a) determined I’m insane and decided not to read; or b) determined I’m insane and decided to read just so you can leave an angry comment. For those of you who’ve chosen option “b”, before you leave your angry comment please hear me out.

The six-man rotation is the “flavor of the day.” in MLB. It gives your starters extra rest. If you use your off-days creatively, it’s really a five-man rotation with a swing man as the schedule requires. And with the nearly universal move to 13-man bullpens, and the use of the “AAA shuttle” to expand that bullpen even further, it seems to make sense.

What I propose is that teams should move in the exact opposite direction, and with their well-documented rotation woes, the Orioles are the perfect guinea pig for this experiment.

*Note: For the following example I am going to use the Orioles depth chart as it appears on I am not here to argue the relative merits of any of the pitchers. Also, I’m going to assume Britton is healthy. I’m just trying to illustrate how the “Three-Man Rotation” would work.

The critical number is 1460 IP. Some teams have more, some have less. The average is a little bit lower but, as with all of the assumptions here, let’s be conservative. How do we get to 1460?

Kevin Gausman delivers the pitch.


The 3 “Traditional Starters”

Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Chris Tillman

They go out there every fifth day and pitch until they’re ineffective. Just like normal.

They make 30 starts apiece (90 total) and average 5 IP per start (like I said, I’m being conservative). That’s 450 IP for the three of them.

Miguel Castro throws in Sarasota.



The 4 “Tandem Starters

Andrew Cashner, Nestor Cortes Jr., Gabriel Ynoa, & Miguel Castro

The tandem starters are also on an every fifth day schedule. Their job is to get through the line-up once or, if possible, through three innings. No need to save yourselves, or any secondary pitches, boys. Just get us to the 3rd (and then, for the second guy, to the 6th). AND, on these pitchers’ “throw days”, they would be available for an inning or two.

So let’s say the tandems each make 30 starts (60 total) at 5 IP per start. That’s 300 IP. AND let’s assume each of the four make 20 relief appearances of a single inning. That’s 80 more innings. So, 380 IP and our total, when added to the “traditional starters.” is up to 830 IP covered.

Orioles pitcher Donnie Hart in his windup.


The Six-Man Bullpen

Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, Mychal Givens, Richard Bleier, Jimmy Yacabonis, Donnie Hart, Zach Britton (again, feel free to make substitutions here; I’m just using the MLB depth chart.)

The bullpen has to cover 630 innings. Divided by the seven guys out there it’s 90 innings apiece which is, well, pretty good.


So Why Wouldn’t This Work?


Well, yes, of course. Pitchers get hurt. No matter how you lay out your rotation and bullpen this is going to be an issue. I’d argue that one of the things this approach offers is four MLB pitchers who are already “stretched out” (the tandem starters) and ready to step in and give you a few “traditional” starts if you need them to.

Potential to burn out the bullpen.

Yes, if a tandem only gets through two innings one day you could have a problem. This is what modern roster management, which the Orioles have done very well over the last few years, is for. Teams don’t have 13-man staffs. Through the creative use of minor league options and the 10-day DL they have 16 or 17-man staffs.

It’s “different.”

Yes, yes it is. It would open management to a lot of criticism if it all fell apart. Some players might rebel against non-traditional roles like “tandem starter.” How is that any different than considering a six-man rotation?

This would be different. It would require a lot of astute juggling. But given the state of the Orioles staff – the questionable rotation, the quality back of the bullpen, and the interchangeable parts in the middle- why wouldn’t you at least consider it?


all photos: Craig Landefeld/GulfBird Photo

This entry was posted in Bird Feed, Blog View, Featured by Steve Caimano. Bookmark the permalink.

About Steve Caimano

Steve Caimano
Steve is a St. Louis native who relocated to the Baltimore area in 1993. While his heart will always be with his beloved Cardinals, he is an O’s fan and (partial) season ticket holder and Camden Yards on a perfect summer night. Steve retired from the US Navy after...more

5 Cheers on “Forget a 6-Man Rotation, O’s Should Use a “3-Man Rotation”

  1. avatarTemple on said:

    I actually thought about this last year when our starting pitching collapsed, only I proposed no regular starters, but all tandem starters with a 4 day rotation. Never checked out how the innings would add up though. Makes sense given our bullpen. Great post!

  2. avatarTwoEdgedSword on said:

    It’s not that crazy. If I can change the terminology somewhat: You’re saying let the 4th and 5th starters be a committee – which has been done many times for emergencies.

    I kinda like it.

  3. avatarConcerned on said:

    You are delusional if you have any confidence in Chris Tillman. The O’s were the only team to offer him a mlb contract. He was historically bad last year. You have to put Cashner ahead of Tillman at this point.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Hot off the street

Friday’s O’s Links: Dylan Bundy to Make First Opening Day Start
Friday’s O’s Links: Dylan Bundy to Make First Opening Day Start

The snow has already completely cleared from the ground in most parts of Baltimore, a fitting sight as we sit now less than a week from Opening Day. Now let's push that mercury a bit further up, eh more

Thursday Thoughts: Prediction Time
Thursday Thoughts: Prediction Time

This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. As of last year, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the more

Orioles Starting Rotation Comes Into Focus
Orioles Starting Rotation Comes Into Focus

Over the last week or so, this column has been dedicated to answering some of the roster questions the Orioles still have as Opening Day draws near. Having already discussed the outfield and the more

Orioles Get their Man in Alex Cobb
Orioles Get their Man in Alex Cobb

In this space three weeks ago, I condemned the Orioles for their lack of moves to make the team a legitimate contender entering 2018. I criticized the outfield situation, namely the signing of Colby more

Wednesday’s O’s Links: Hi, Alex!
Wednesday’s O’s Links: Hi, Alex!

While we were all scrambling to stock up on our bread, milk, and toilet paper yesterday evening, the Orioles were finalizing discussions with Alex Cobb to bring the free agent pitcher to Baltimore. more

View More