I missed last night's game, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out what happened. James McDonald got hammered again by the Padres, giving up seven runs and two homers in 4 1/3 innings. That helped the Pirates to blow a six-run lead to a bad baseball team. Since the All-Star break, McDonald has an 8.71 ERA, he's allowed 8 homers in 31 innings, opponents are hitting .321/.412/.580 against him.
After the game, Clint Hurdle told reporters that he was moving to a six-man rotation for at least a little while with Kevin Correia slotting back into place on Tuesday. This drives me a little bit insane: a straight-up six man rotation takes your sixth best starter and gives him starts that belong to every other pitcher in the rotation, including your best starters. I understand that James McDonald clearly needs more time off and that Erik Bedard needs to be handled very carefully and that Correia has been pitching well of late, but going to straight six-man rotation will cost AJ Burnett at least one start over the season's last 50 games.
I don't have any great answers right now (I just came into work this morning and found out that my week-long experiment was potentially ruined overnight by ... someone that is not me), but I'd much rather see the Pirates send McDonald to the bullpen for a week to work on whatever his issues are (I'll take a look at his struggles hopefully in a post on Monday) and after that, to see the Pirates use Correia occasionally to get Bedard enough rest while making sure that Burnett gets a regular start every fourth day no matter what. Giving Correia some starts now while the rotation struggles is one thing, but six-man rotations are not long-term solutions.
Was the person who messed up your experiment Jim Tracy? If it was, but you don't want to name names, just write a post where you ask and answer seven rhetorical questions in a row.
I agree. I think a six man rotation should be used only so that the "sixth starter" replaces struggling starters to give them time off. Like her, just use Correia to replace McDonald once or twice. The other starters don't seem to need a break. The bullpen on the other hand ...
I can't say I'm overly against a six-man rotation. In the short term, maybe it gives McDonald some extra rest and keeps his arm fresher and he starts to bounce back a little. If the move also gets good rest/performances out of Bedard and Correia, then it may be worth losing one start from the staff ace to get 3 of the other starters pitching better. And, in the longer term, if it doesn't work out for McDonald maybe you move him to the bullpen for the rest of the season and slot Correia into his spot. In any case, I doubt the team is going 6-man for the whole rest of the season.
In the 5th inning, McDonald gave up 3 runs and got no outs. He then let two more guys on base. At that point, there was open discussion by the radio announcers of whether he should be taken out, but the radio announcers said they thought Hurdle was keeping him in because he wanted to give McDonald the win. That is probably true. McDonald promptly gave up another three-run homer (and was of course taken out), and the Pirates lost by a single run.
I'm sure Hurdle knows he made the wrong decision (hindsight is 20/20). But at least a little "blame", if we must go throwing it around, should be put on the manager for sticking too long with McDonald in a confidence-boosting experiment gone awry. One should not play baseball based off "confidence" when a pitcher is struggling this badly. He needs to work on that stuff in practice. It was a bad decision by Hurdle and it cost the Pirates a game.