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How did John Gibbons organize the rotation this year? How did he juggle the starters and the off-days? Did he get anything done?

We will begin with the narrative.

As you recall, Toronto didn't quite begin the season with five starters. Ted Lilly wasn't quite ready. However, the team had an off-day in the first week, and were able to set Lilly's first start back a couple of days. So the first time through the rotation involved just four pitchers:

Halladay-Chacin-Towers-Bush. (off-day after Towers, April 7)

The first off day set up the next group:

Halladay-Lilly-Chacin-Towers-Bush
Halladay-Lilly-Chacin-Towers-Bush
Halladay-Lilly-Chacin-Towers-Bush
Halladay-Lilly-Chacin-Towers
(off-day after Halladay, April 25)

The off-day after Halladay's start prompted Gibbons to bring him back on his normal rest, establishing a new sequence.

Halladay-Bush-Lilly-Chacin-Towers
Halladay-Bush-Lilly-Chacin-Towers
(off-day after Halladay, May 5)
Halladay-Bush-Lilly-Chacin (off-day after Bush, May 12)

The second off-day, after the Bush start, again led Gibbons to bring Doc back on his normal rest.

Halladay-Towers-Bush-Chacin-Lilly (off-day after Halladay, May 16)
Halladay-Towers-Bush (off-day after Towers, May 23)

Then, all of a sudden:

Lilly-Chacin-Towers-Bush

What happened? Halladay had strained a muscle in his side, and he was given a few extra days rest (he would have seven days off, altogether). To give him an extra day, Dave Bush moved up to start on three days rest. In addition, Gibbons decided to flip-flop Lilly and Chacin. Finally, after this start, Dave Bush would be sent to AAA and a brand new sequence would emerge. Doc responded to the extra time off by throwing the best game any AL starter would pitch in 2005, fanning ten and holding the Twins to a pair of infield hits in a 4-0 shutout:

Halladay-Lilly-Gaudin-Chacin-Towers
Halladay-Lilly-Gaudin-Chacin-Towers
(off-day after Halladay, June 9)

The off-day after Halladay's start allowed Gibbons to skip Gaudin for a few days:

Halladay-Lilly-Chacin-Towers

And bring Doc back on normal rest:

Halladay-Gaudin-Lilly-Chacin (off-day after Lilly, June 16)

And the off-day after Lilly's start let Gibbons bring Doc back on normal rest. A new fifth starter joined the rotation, and Gustavo chacin made his one and only start of the season on three days rest, a decision made easier by the fact that he'd lasted just 2.1 innings in his previous start:

Halladay-Towers-Lilly-Chacin-Walker
Halladay-Towers-Lilly-Chacin-Walker

Two more off days (June 30 and July 4) let Gibbons go through a four man sequence twice:

Halladay-Towers-Lilly-Chacin (off-day after Towers, June 30)
Halladay-Towers-Lilly-Chacin (off-day after Halladay, July 4)

And for the final series before the All-Star Break, Gibbons tried to take advantage of the Rangers' problems with southpaws:

Halladay-Downs-Towers

Everybody got three days off, but Roy Halladay was finished for the season. A well-placed off-day (July 18) let Gibbons roll through a new four-man sequence twice:

Lilly-Chacin-Towers-Walker (off-day after Walker, July 18)
Lilly-Chacin-Towers-Walker

Dave Bush returned from Syracuse, and Pete Walker went back to the bullpen. An off-day (July 25) let Gibbons get by with another four-man sequence:

Bush-Lilly-Chacin-Towers (off-day after Lilly, July 25)

At this point, the need for a fifth starter and Ted Lilly's injury required two new faces in the rotation:

Bush-Downs-McGowan-Chacin-Towers (off day after Chacin, August 1)

The sequence got modified:

Bush-McGowan-Chacin-Downs-Towers
Bush-McGowan-Chacin-Downs-Towers
Bush-McGowan-Chacin-Downs-Towers
(0ff-day after Towers, August 18)

The off-day at the end of the third time through let Gibbons shuffle the sequence again:

Bush-Chacin-McGowan-Downs-Towers
Bush-Chacin-McGowan-Downs-Towers
(off-day after Towers, August 29)
Bush-Chacin-McGowan-Downs-Towers

At this point, Ted Lilly returned to the rotation, replacing Dustin McGowan. Gibbons then started the sequence that would roll through five plus identical turns, until the season was over:

Bush-Chacin-Lilly-Downs-Towers (off-day after Downs, September 8)
Bush-Chacin-Lilly-Downs-Towers (off-day after Towers, September 15)
Bush-Chacin-Lilly-Downs-Towers
Bush-Chacin-Lilly-Downs-Towers
( rain-out after Towers, September 26)
Bush-Chacin-Lilly-Downs-Towers
Bush-Chacin

As an armchair quarterback, it grieves me to have to say such a thing - but I really don't see anything to second-guess in all of this. How did the individual starters perform with different amounts of rest? Long/Off means either Long Rest (more than 5 days), or Off Rotation (first start of season, after returning from injury, after being called up, after pitching out of the bullpen.)

	    Rest   ST	W  L	 IP     H  R ER HR BB SO  BF   ERA

Bush	  3 days    2	0  1	 10.2  11  7  5  3  1  2 107  4.22
Bush	  4 days   11	1  6	 63.2  63 33 33  6 14 36 262  4.66
Bush	  5 days    7	3  2	 37.2  39 19 16  6 10 23 233  3.82
Bush	  Long/Off  4	1  2	 27.0  27 12 12  5  3 12 106  4.00

Chacin	  3 days    1	0  1	  5.0   5  6  1  1  2  1  24  1.80
Chacin	  4 days   19	7  4	118.0 113 49 47 11 46 69 496  3.58
Chacin	  5 days   11	3  4	 69.2  76 31 30  5 19 43 281  3.88
Chacin	  Long/Off  3	3  0	 16.1  19  7  6  3  3  8  71  3.31

Downs	  4 days    6	3  0	 35.2  28 15 12  2 13 29 146  3.03
Downs	  5 days    4	1  1	 23.1  26 11 10  3  6 17 102  3.86
Downs	  Long/Off  3	0  2	 12.0  17 11 11  2  6 14  56  8.25

Gaudin	  5 days    1	0  1	  1.0   7  7  7  1  1  1  11 63.00
Gaudin	  Long/Off  2	1  1	  9.1  17  7  7  3  3 10  48  6.75

Halladay  4 days   14	8  3	104.1  83 31 30  9 14 82 403  2.59
Halladay  5 days    3	2  1	 23.1  24  6  6  2  4  9  91  2.31
Halladay  Long/Off  2	2  0	 16.0  11  2  2  0  0 17  59  1.13

Lilly	  4 days   14	6  6	 74.2  75 45 45 11 38 51 341  5.42
Lilly	  5 days    7	3  3	 36.1  42 27 26 12 12 21 152  6.44
Lilly	  Long/Off  4	1  2	 20.1  18  7  7  0  8 24  89  3.10

McGowan	  4 days    4	1  1	 19.2  26 16 16  3  9 13  91  7.32
McGowan	  5 days    1	0  1	  5.1   7  4  4  2  2  2  25  6.75
McGowan	  Long/Off  2	0  1	  9.1  11 13 11  2  5  8  49 10.61

Towers	  4 days   18	6  9	118.1 132 59 51 14 15 60 488  3.88
Towers	  5 days   12	6  2	 79.0  85 35 28  8 12 42 320  3.19
Towers	  Long/Off  3	1  1	 16.1  20  7  7  2  2 10  68  3.86

Walker	  4 days    2	0  2	  9.1  11  9  9  2  6  2  45  8.68
Walker	  Long/Off  2	1  0	 11.1  11  3  3  2  0  5  46  2.38
Here are the staff totals, by the way:
RESULT	        ST  W  L   IP  	 H   R  ER HR  BB  SO  PIT   BF ERA

3 days	         3  0  2  15.2  16  13   6  4   3   3  248   66 3.45
4 days	        88 32 31 543.2 531 257 243 58 155 342 8150 2272 4.02
5 days	        46 18 15 275.2 306 140 127 39  66 158 4102 1137 4.15
Long rest	12  5  5  70.2  85  42  39 11  12  55 1124  311 4.97
Off rotation	13  5  4  67.1  66  27  27  8  18  53 1058  281 3.61

Fantasy Managing

What if that line drive off the bat of Kevin Mench had gone... oh, three inches to the left. Or three inches to the right, I don't care.

Out of the break, Gibbons would have led off with his ace, of course.

Halladay-Lilly-Chacin-Towers(off-day after Towers, July 18)

Now it would be time to add a fifth starter, and so Dave Bush would be recalled from AAA to make the July 23 start against KC. As he did.

Halladay-Lilly-Chacin-Towers-Bush

I assume Gibbons would continue to make use of off-days to bring Doc back on four days rest whenever possible:

Halladay-Lilly-Chacin-Towers(off-day after Halladay, July 24)

Ted Lilly went down after this start (July 24 in reality, July 26 in this schema). The Jays roll over the same five guys, largely because the off-days keep coming the day before Halladay starts, which makes it hard to find opportunities to move him up - it takes a month before there's a good chance:

Halladay-Bush-Downs-Chacin (off-day after Downs, August 1)

You bring Doc back on four days rest here, and then roll over the same five guys for the next four weeks.

Halladay-Towers-Bush-Downs-Chacin
Halladay-Towers-Bush-Downs-Chacin
Halladay-Towers-Bush-Downs-Chacin
(off-day after Chacin, August 18)
Halladay-Towers-Bush-Downs-Chacin
Halladay-Towers-Bush-Downs-Chacin
(off-day after Chacin, August 29)
Halladay-Towers-Bush-Downs-Chacin

Ted Lilly returns to the rotation at this point, so we're going to send Scott Downs back to bullpen.

Halladay-Lilly-Towers-Bush (off-day after Bush, September 8)

Finally, a chance to bump Doc ahead by bringing him back on his normal rest:

Halladay-Chacin-Lilly-Towers-Bush
Halladay-Chacin-Lilly-Towers
(off-day after Halladay, September 15)

After you move Doc forward to make the start at home against Seattle on September 19, you have a decision. You could skip Bush's turn altogether, or re-insert him against Seattle. Secondary factor: after the four game series at home with Seattle, the Jays go to Yankee Stadium, and it would be good to have a LH scheduled.

At this point, it's very tempting to bring Chacin back on three days for the second game against Seattle, so that he's able pitch the finale against the Yankees. Well, if we're going to do that, why not flip-flop Towers and Lilly, so that Ted the Tease can start the opener in New York? In which case:

Halladay-Chacin-Bush-Towers-Lilly (Lilly actually did make this start against the Yankees, and was awful)
Halladay-Chacin-Bush-Towers-Lilly (by magic, the rain-out in Boston is Bush!)
Halladay-Chacin-Bush-Towers

Roy Halladay ends up making 35 starts, which is about the maximum you can get out of a single starter while keeping him on four days rest. Gibbons had Halladay start 19 of Toronto's first 86 games. Hard to ask for more than that.

Halladay's 16 second-half starts would have come mostly in place of Pete Walker (2 starts), Dustin McGowan (7 starts), and Scott Downs. Downs makes 7 second half starts instead of 12. Gustavo Chacin and Dave Bush both make one fewer (15 and 13) than they actually made (16 and 14) mostly because everybody gets pushed back occasionally to keep Doc humming along every fifth day. As it happens, Josh Towers makes all of his 15 second half-starts. Which is fine by me, seeing as how Towers was the best pitcher on the staff in the second half. Ted Lilly makes all 8 of his second half-starts as well. You can't have everything.

This is what filled in for Halladay (take all of McGowan's 7, add Walker's 2 in the second half. Mix in Scott Downs' 5 September starts. Mix and serve:)

Fill-Ins   ST  W  L  IPT   H   R  ER  BB   SO  ERA
McGowan     7  1  3   34.1 44 33 31 16 23 8.13
Downs       5  2  0   25.1 30 16 14 10 17 4.97
Walker      2  0  1    9.1 10  6  6  3  4 5.79
The team went 5-9 in those 14 games. They went 14-5 in the 19 games that Halladay actually did start. So... if Kevin Mench fouls it back... and nothing else changes... the Jays probably win 84-86 games.

But everything would have been very, very different, no?

By the way - Josh Towers led the staff in most of the positive categories - wins, innings, ERA - over the second half. He didn't have the most strikeouts, though.

Who did?

Juggling the Rotation | 21 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
JustinD - Thursday, October 20 2005 @ 11:13 AM EDT (#130367) #
Just a wild guess, but was it Downs? From what I recall he pitched pretty well for us in the rotation and Chacin and Bush weren't really strikeout machines from what I remember.
Gwyn - Thursday, October 20 2005 @ 11:37 AM EDT (#130372) #
If Towers didn't lead the team in strikeouts it must have been Chacin, those two threw a lot more innings than anyone else this year. I'd wager His Halladayness is very close in the K race though, even with seventy (or so) fewer Innings pitched.
Pistol - Thursday, October 20 2005 @ 11:47 AM EDT (#130374) #
I believe Magpie was referring to the K leader in the second half, which in fact was Downs.

The other benefit if Halladay had started the 14 games he missed is that he would have pitched a lot longer than his replacements did which would have given the bullpen more rest and/or allowed the bullpen innings to be distributed more towards the better relievers.

Using the winning % of the games Doc actually started for the 14 he missed would have given the Jays 10 wins in those 14 starts, or an improvement of 5 games over what the team did do in those 14 starts which would get them to 85 wins.
Jim - Thursday, October 20 2005 @ 12:37 PM EDT (#130379) #
Let's not ignore the fact that 2006 might be better for Halladay given the lack of abuse his arm took in 2005. If the leg heals then you saved a lot of toll on that arm.
Jobu - Thursday, October 20 2005 @ 01:07 PM EDT (#130382) #
Speaking of pitchers:

Leo's going to be applying his midas touch to the O's staff come next season.

Craig B - Thursday, October 20 2005 @ 01:45 PM EDT (#130386) #
Had he enough innings to qualify and been used exclusively as a starter, Scott Downs would have finished fifth in the AL in strikeouts per nine innings.
rtcaino - Thursday, October 20 2005 @ 03:03 PM EDT (#130397) #
""Doc responded to the extra time off by throwing the best game any AL starter would pitch in 2005, fanning ten and holding the Twins to a pair of infield hits in a 4-0 shutout:""

I was at that game. Great day. He had his best stuff working. A few unlucky bounces spoiled what could have been a no hitter.
VBF - Thursday, October 20 2005 @ 03:31 PM EDT (#130399) #
A few unlucky bounces and he would've had a perfect game. I think it was one hit and a HBP or questionable walk. I cannot wait to start a new season again with him on the mound.
Blue in SK - Thursday, October 20 2005 @ 05:01 PM EDT (#130408) #
If Mazzone can work his magic on Cabrera in Baltimore, the O's could have a legit ace on their staff. When Cabrera was hitting his spots, he looked very good.
westcoast dude - Thursday, October 20 2005 @ 05:18 PM EDT (#130410) #
The addition of Downs, McGowan and Marcum to the opening pitching lineup next year holds much promise. I would have started McGowan against the Yankees on Ted's turn but other than that, Gibbons responded correctly to a difficult situation. Three promising pitchers added to a corps with a few holes could make all the difference.
Twilight - Thursday, October 20 2005 @ 05:41 PM EDT (#130411) #
I really liked what I saw from Downs this year. I think he stepped up to the challenge and did way more than anyone ever expected. A definite A for effort.

But what I am seeing is that he pitches better (in terms of ERA) on less rest, and in games, it was typical for Downs to last about 5-6 innings at the most. That to me sounds like bullpen material. There's nothing wrong with being in the bullpen if you are effective. If I was managing and we were playing against a team with a lot of power hitting lefties, there's nothing I'd rather have than a lefty with a wicked curve and a high strikeout rate. It'd also be nice to have options left in terms of anti-lefty guys if you've already used Schoeneweis.

But in terms of other starters that jumped into the rotation, I think Downs did a great job stepping in and I'd do it with him again.

Bench managing is so much fun! lol
Twilight - Thursday, October 20 2005 @ 06:42 PM EDT (#130417) #
Something about Dustin McGowan I found interesting...

When he came up from the minors, he struggled with his pitches. He had a fine debut on July 30th against Texas, though it only lasted 5 innings due to the pitch count running up (91). In that outing, he went the 5 innings, gave up 2 hits, 1 run, walked 3 and struck out 6. After that game, he would not have another very solid effort, despite going 6 1/3 on August 9th in Detroit, where he got a victory (though giving up 4 runs and 8 hits). But when he moved to relief, he got better. A lot better. The sample is small but check out the numbers.

          IP    W  L   ERA    H  HR  BB  K   BB/9   K/9  WHIP  Strikes/Pitches
Start    34.1   1  2   8.21  44   7  16  23  4.20  6.03  1.75  360/624 (58%)
Relief   11.0   0  0   0.82   5   0   1  11  0.82  9.00  0.54   89/142 (63%)
Initially, I thought his control had improved. With BB/9 and K/9 like that, you would expect that they had. I also speculated that he may have better control earlier in his outings, and then proceed to lose some of it later on in the game. But the percentage of strikes he threw is only marginally higher.

Altogether, I think this guy has great stuff, but needs to control it a bit better. He doesn't have a pitch that he can locate well all the time, and I think that's what is working against him right now.

Sorry for sort of hijacking the thread, just wanted to add a bit of insight to McGowan's performance and whether or not he'd be ready for full time starting duties next year.
Magpie - Thursday, October 20 2005 @ 06:59 PM EDT (#130420) #
I think it's clear (well, to me anyway!) that McGowan was not quite ready for prime time in 2005. Had it not been for the injuries to Halladay and Lilly he probably would not have started a single game in the majors. He might have received a September callup to work out of the bullpen, like Marcum.

But for someone who was not ready, who was basically in the majors because of an injury emergency, he sure showed lots to get excited about. I'd like to see him start 2006 in AAA and finish the comeback - he's still regaining his command after the injury and the layoff. After that - I think there's a very good chance that by mid-season, his performance on the farm will force the issue, all by itself.

rtcaino - Thursday, October 20 2005 @ 07:16 PM EDT (#130421) #
I definitely think you need to take his actual performance with a grain of salt, for obvious reasons. At the beginning of the year, with all of the uncertainty, if I sais to you that McGowan would finish the season in Major Leagues striking out four batters of four batters faced, Im sure you would have called into question my skill at prognostication.

This year was pretty much a best case scenario (within the dictates of reason; best case scenario would have been a Cy Young award). I think we just have to be thankful that he re-established himself as a top prospect with top shelf potential, and look to next year with careful optimism.
rtcaino - Thursday, October 20 2005 @ 07:17 PM EDT (#130422) #
* Said... Or says if talking to Mable.
Braby21 - Thursday, October 20 2005 @ 08:18 PM EDT (#130423) #
despite going 6 1/3 on August 9th in Detroit, where he got a victory.

I'm going to have to call false. I'm pretty sure the Jays won ZERO game's in Detroit this year. McGowan started one and got shelled, I don't think he made it out of the 2nd inning.
6-4-3 - Thursday, October 20 2005 @ 08:30 PM EDT (#130424) #
It's almost true. According to MLB's gamelog, McGowan pitched against Detroit on August 9th, and he went 6 1/3, getting the win. Only problem is the game was in Toronto. On August 21, he started in Detroit, and got shelled (12 runs, 10 ER, 4 1/3 innings). The Jays were swept in that series.
Jabes - Thursday, October 20 2005 @ 11:46 PM EDT (#130429) #
From Ken Rosenthal:

The Reds, expected to be more open to trading left fielder Adam Dunn, want top young pitching in return. The Astros, Dodgers and Red Sox could be among the suitors, along with two low-revenue clubs that plan to spend, the Royals and Blue Jays

rtcaino - Friday, October 21 2005 @ 12:07 AM EDT (#130430) #
I know you have to give up something to get something, but I would hate to give up any of the following:

McGowan, League, Purcey or Romero.

Anyone else though. Jackson, Banks, Marcum, the other Romero. Maybe Chacin, though I'd rather give up Bush. Of course, the inherent problem with that is the pitchers I don't want to trade are the most valuable.

But Dunn Wow, hed be good.
Jabes - Friday, October 21 2005 @ 02:09 AM EDT (#130432) #
I could be wrong but the Reds seem like the kind of team that would be interested in Koskie (as long as you pay part of his salary). Obviously you are going to have throw more into the pot than that (Lilly? Batista? Chaucen?) but if you can move Koskie (a horrible signing) and have an infield of Hill, Adams, Hudson, and Dunn that would be great.
Jabes - Friday, October 21 2005 @ 02:17 AM EDT (#130433) #
But just to reply to my own post, I think its unlikely the Reds will deal Dunn. (Unless you offer them something like Halladay.) I think its more likely they'll move Willy Mo Pena, who actually wouldn't be a bad pick-up either. He'd be much cheaper.

I really hope that Paul Godfrey had more to do with the Koskie signing than JP. It would shake my confidence in JP to think he made that move.
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