Ladies and gentlemen, we have a front-runner for "Worst Managerial Decision of the Year." To nobody's surprise, it comes from the mind of Rockies manager Jim Tracy, and boy is it a doozy.
According to Troy Renck of the Denver Post, the Rockies are going to a four-man rotation and putting a 75-pitch limit on each starter. The fact that Colorado is adopting a four-man rotation isn't the mind-blowing part, it is the reasoning behind it and the implementation of it.
There is no doubt that the Rockies are having serious trouble with their starting pitching which has been miserable this year, even by Coors Field standards. As such, nobody could really blame them for trying something this drastic. What we can blame them for is doing this supposedly so they can save their bullpen.
Yes, Jim Tracy thinks that the bullpen won't get overworked so much under this new plan by having his starting pitchers exit early every single game. Due to the climate, pitchers already throw more pitches per inning at Coors Field than anywhere else, so it will be a rather common sight to see the Rox go to the pen starting in the fourth or fifth inning now. Granted, with how bad their starters have been, one could argue they are doing that most days anyway. At least now that fifth starter slot will be used to carry an extra reliever and spread the workload out a tiny bit more. Or at least that is what I'm sure Jim Tracy is thinking. What Tracy isn't realizing, or more likely being willfully ignorant of, is that he is creating more of a workload than the extra arm is going to be able to absorb.
But there are more problems beyond just this massive lapse in logic. The mid-season shift to a four-man rotation seems to be fraught with peril. While it used to be the standard in MLB for decades, it has not been used by any team for a prolonged period of time in quite some time. Pitching that frequently all season long will no doubt force the pitchers to adjust their conditioning and preparation routines between starts and it is going to take them time to figure out how to make it work. That would be fine if they had an off-season to figure it out, but they don't. At a minimum, it will probably result in some bad (or I should say even worse) outings from the starters, but at its worst, this seems like a great way to get at least one of their starting pitchers seriously injured.
This also seems like a great way for a manager to get himself fired. Tracy, despite a recent extension, was already considered to be on the hot seat anyway, so if/when this blows up in his face, it is hard to imagine him not getting canned. The same goes for long-time Colorado GM Dan O'Dowd who is doubly culpable here since this kind of move isn't made without the front office signing off and also would not be necessary if O'Dowd hadn't failed so spectacularly in his attempt to remake the Rockies rotation this off-season.
The guess here is that the Rockies, who flirted with the same idea back in 2004, pull the plug come the All-Star break, if not sooner. Until then, it is most definitely an experiment worth watching, but mostly in that grisly car crash sort of way.