Exploring the concept of a 6 man rotation for the Cardinals in 2016

This year, the Cardinals reaped the benefits of being deep at a number of positions. The 100 win season was a testament to the fill in guys. Unfortunately, we saw in the division series that while having better than replacement level replacement players can mount wins consistently against the Reds, Marlins, and Brewers of the world, it might not match up against a 97 win team. One with all of their key guys uninjured and unfatigued. What would have that series looked like if we rolled out Wainwright, Martinez, and Lackey and/or a first half Wacha as our playoff rotation?

We couldn't have that rotation because of injury and fatigue. So is there something fundamentally wrong with our pitching staff that they just can't stay healthy? Or is this a trend in baseball today? Pitchers are throwing harder than ever and starting serious competition at a young age. It's resulting in an unprecedented amount of DL stints and "innings caps" for young pitchers. Its hard to argue that limiting innings is not what is needed for these guys either. Martinez went down after throwing 179.2 innings (70 more than his previous high in 2013). Wacha threw 157.1 before September, when his performance really fell off a cliff. That was a mere 8 innings more than his previous high in 2013.

It seems that when presented with the daunting innings totals inherent with being in a 5 man rotation, these young pitchers just aren't built for the load. That's why I'm proposing what the Cardinals need for 2016 is a 6 man rotation. This is not something we need to stick with indefinitely, but there just seems to be a lot of guys we'll be counting on next year with injury history and some history of running out of steam. Giving the starters some extra time off in between starts in September seemed to backfire. Lynn specifically said that the extra time between starts hurt him. However, if they were conditioned to pitch every 6 days instead of every 5, that extra rest would probably be less detrimental. 6 guys pitching regularly saves those innings and keeps the guys fresher for when it really starts to count, and that's the postseason.

So who specifically benefits from this jumbo sized rotation? How about our ace, Adam Wainwright, who has been sidelined for almost 2 entire seasons with injuries and for whom you could argue was dealing with fatigue of his own in the 2014 playoffs. Certainly Wacha and Martinez would benefit from racking up innings in only 27 starts instead of 32, at least until they start to show they can handle the workload. Can you keep a Jamie Garcia healthy a full season if he regularly has an extra day between starts? Who knows? Lynn seemed to lack the same effectiveness at the end of the season, was that fatigue as well? Fill in guys Gonzales and Cooney have already shown an injury propensity as well. If you are going to put a newfangled innings limit on either of them to protect their arms, it seems a 6 man rotation might be the better way to accomplish that.

The biggest knock on the 6 man rotation that I see is that you're essentially giving away 6 starts from your ace guys, and 5 from your solid starters type to give to your replacement level types. You may be losing a decent amount of WAR there, but with the Cardinals still decent depth in pitching, replacements don't necessarily mean replacement level. To expand on that, this league beginning to look like one where the new guys step in and immediately contribute. Look no further than the Cubs rookies mashing the ball around or look to Wacha's 2013 postseason as a pitching example. For the most part, it was our veterans who let us down in the Cubs series. Perhaps having a little faith in our rookies to take those extra starts and make the most of it is what we need to do.

It may be a pretty radical idea for a team coming off 100 wins by doing things the traditional way, but change is rapidly coming to the MLB and I think we need to keep ahead of that curve. I for one, will take a Wainwright/Martinez/Wacha/Garcia(orLackey)/Lynn/Gonzalez rotation if it meant we could have all of those guys in May shape to start the playoffs.

What do you guys think?