Just in: AtlantaIs consider adding an extra starter to keeping….

Should Atlanta consider a six man rotation?

Is adding an extra starter the path to keeping the frontline options healthy for the postseason.

Sep 29, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried (54) talks to starting pitcher Charlie Morton (50) in the dugout against the Washington Nationals in the third inning at Truist Park.

After the Atlanta Braves acquired Boston Red Sox starter Chris Sale via trade on Saturday afternoon, one of the repeated themes of president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos’ media availability was that the team intended to do everything they could to keep the oft-injured Sale on the mound in 2024.

“We’ll make sure to do what we can to keep him on the mound […] we’ve done a good job getting guys rest between starts, and so on.”

Sale, 34, has been one of the best pitchers in baseball when healthy, finishing in the top ten of Cy Young voting seven different times in his career. He’s one of two active pitchers, along with Clayton Kershaw, to have at least 2,000 career strikeouts and a Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) under 3.00.

But that health is the big caveat – Sale has pitched under 150 innings combined since 2019, as a 2020 Tommy John surgery, a rib injury, and a broken finger have all sidelined him at various points. 102.2 of those innings were last season, however, as he made 20 starts for the Red Sox, with a 6-5 record and 4.30 ERA.

And in Atlanta, Sale is afforded the luxury of being a contributing piece rather than being relied on to carry the rotation. Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced in late September that Sale would be the 2024 Opening Day starter for Boston, but now that he’s in Atlanta’s rotation, he may not even get one of the three spots for opening weekend in Philadelphia. Max Fried, Spencer Strider, and (due to seniority) Charlie Morton may all be ahead of Sale in the pecking order to open the season, pushing Sale back to game one of the road series against the Chicago White Sox on Monday, April 1st.

(This is all dependent on matchups – the team may want the lefty Sale to face Philadelphia in game three, pushing the righty Morton to the opener versus the White Sox.)

But one thing that several teams have done to try and both utilize starting depth and ease the workloads on their existing rotation is carry a sixth starter – is this something Atlanta might try in 2024?

The biggest advantage to a six-man rotation is easing the full season workload on your frontline options, keeping them healthy for the postseason.

Adding an additional starter during the season could conceivably reduce the max number of starts any given pitcher might make from 32 or 33 to only 27, shaving off anywhere from 25 to 30 innings off of their full-season total.

(Last season, Spencer Strider made 32 starts, pitching 186.2 innings, Bryce Elder made 31 starts, pitching 174.2 innings, and Charlie Morton made 30 starts, pitching 163.1 innings.)

For a rotation that saw Elder falter in the second half under his career-high workload and had ace Max Fried pitch only 77 innings owing to three separate injured list stints, saving regular season innings should conceivably allow them to reallocate them for the postseason, keeping them fresher for October and better able to take larger workloads in the playoffs.

Additionally, Sale and Morton presumably could use the additional rest, as Sale’s 102.2 innings were his highest total since 2019 and Morton’s now forty years old.

Oct 11, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Bryce Elder (55) walks off the field after being pulled from the game during the third inning against the Philadelphia Phillies in game three of the NLDS for the 2023 MLB playoffs at Citizens Bank Park.

Sep 28, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher AJ Smith-Shawver (62) throws against the Chicago Cubs in the first inning at Truist Park.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.