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Angels 2020 pitching rotation: 8-man rotation?

An eight man rotation is a broad word for this, though I do believe that the Angels are heading towards somewhat of a piggyback system at the major league level. A better word for what I propose the Halos do is a 4 man rotation with 8 pitchers on the 25 (soon to be 26) man roster who can go 3 to 5 innings every 4 days. What I mean by piggybacking is that you can start a guy, let’s say Jaime Barria. You let Barria go for 3-to-5 innings depending on how he’s doing, then you bring in another starter, let’s say Tyler Skaggs. You let Skaggs go for another 3-to-5 innings, and that gets you to the sixth, seventh, eighth or even ninth inning with only using 2 pitchers. Pitchers pitch counts also stay rather low as well, which at the end of the day would help the health of Angels starters and pitch more days than a normal starter. With that being said, it does not mean a starter cant go 6+ innings in a start, or in relief.

What does an 8-man rotation look like in 2020 with the starters the Angels have now?

  • Shohei Ohtani
  • Griffin Canning
  • Jose Suarez
  • Jaime Barria
  • J.C. Ramirez
  • Andrew Heaney
  • Tyler Skaggs
  • Felix Pena

In house options: Patrick Sandoval, Dillon Peters, Nick Tropeano, Luis Madero.

Can sign as free agent: Cole Hamels, Rick Porcello, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Gerrit Cole, Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, Madison Bumgarner, Michael Wacha, Colin McHugh, Gio Gonzales. 

Shohei Ohtani– Though Ohtani might be the one exception to this system, he is coming off Tommy John surgery at the age of 24. With that being said, one would assume he will be on some sort of inning/pitch limit per start for at least the 2020 season. In 2018 hitters facing Ohtani the first time through the order batted .238/.322/.288 with a 104 OPS+, and 35.6 K% in 90 plate appearances. Hitters facing him the second time through the order didn’t fare any better as they batted .129/.195/.229 with a 17 OPS+, and 31.2 K% in 77 plate appearances. Though once hitters faced Ohtani a third time, number began to spike as they batted .265/.390/.412 with a 109 OPS+, and 14.6 K% in 41 plate appearances

Griffin Canning– Coming out of UCLA, Canning was one of the most used pitchers in college. The over usage combined with a shoulder issue which dropped him out of the first round of the draft and into the second round makes him a great candidate for a piggyback system. In 28 starts in the minors Canning worked into the 6th inning just 3 times, and worked less than 5 innings 16 times, though we saw him work into the 7th inning this year with the big club. During his time in the minors opponents batted .232 with a 26.5 K%, and a 3.42 FIP. 

Jose Suarez– To open up the 2019 season, Angels prospect Jose Suarez was sidelined with some shoulder fatigue, and while some might worry about elbows, I worry about shoulders. Suarez has been in the Angels system since 2015, and has made 61 starts. During those 61 starts he has only worked into the 6th inning 9 times, and has never worked past the 6th. In 36 of his 61 starts he worked 4 innings or less 36 times. Like Canning, the Angels have set up Suarez nicely for a piggyback system. 

Jaime Barria– Barria is one of the exceptions where he did not pitch well out of the bullpen, and stats say he pitched well whether it was the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd time through the order as a starter. The first time through the order for Barria, hitters slashed .249/.317/.466 with a 107 OPS+, 5.02 FIP, and 34.1 hard hit %. The second time through the order hitters slashed, .233/.316/.279 with a 86 OPS+, 4.30 FIP, and 36.0 hard hit %. The third time through the order against Barria, hitters slashed, .263/.333/.315 with a 77 OPS+, 3.88 FIP, and 49.2 hard hit %. 

J.C. Ramirez– With Ramirez coming off of Tommy John surgery, one would have to assume that he will be on some kind of inning or pitch limit when he makes his return back to the Halos rotation, or bullpen. Before getting hurt 7 innings into his 2018 season, Ramirez had a 0.9 fWAR, and an 11-10 record in 147.1 innings in 2017. 

Andrew Heaney– Heaney, who had Tommy John surgery, and has pitched 100+ innings just twice since he made his MLB debut in 2014 with the Marlins, is another good fit for this type of rotation, IF he is healthy. In 2018 Heaney held hitters to a 3.10 xFIP and a 28.9 K% the first time through the batting order, and a 3.68 xFIP and 22.8 K% the second time through the batting order. The third time through the batting order hitters worked a 4.46 xFIP and just a 19.8 K% against Heaney. The Halos could also non-tender Heaney this offseason if he doesn’t stay healthy or if they think he can’t contribute, though at his salary it’s hard to see them not take a chance on him. 

Tyler Skaggs– Skaggs, Like Heaney, is another Tommy John survivor. He has also only pitched 100+ innings just twice since making his MLB debut in 2012, but is on pace to break his single season high in innings pitched this year (125.1 IP) if all goes well. For his career, hitters facing Skaggs the first time are held to a slash line of .252/.322/.372, with an 88 OPS+ and 3.53 FIP. When hitters face him for the second time they slash .268/.333/.468 with a 114 OPS+ and 4.67 FIP.

Felix Pena– 2019 is a perfect example of how this type of rotation works for Felix Pena. As a starter the first through the order against Pena hitters slash .156/.250/.281 with a 53 OPS+, the second time through hitters slash .241/.371/.552 with a 138 OPS+. As a reliever it doesn’t get much easier for hitter as they slash, .114/.133/.182 with a -14 OPS+, but the second time through the order hitter slash .295/.311/.545 with a 106 OPS+. After Pena throws 50 pitches hitters Slash .289/.360/.622 with a 160 OPS+.

What I think the rotation could look like.

  • Shohei Ohtani
  • Gerrit Cole
  • Griffin Canning
  • Tyler Skaggs
  • Jose Suarez
  • Andrew Heaney
  • J.C. Ramirez/Jaime Barria/Patrick Sandoval/Luis Madero

Bullpen

Since your two pitchers who are piggybacking will hopefully get you to the late innings, you will be able to shorten up the bullpen as well. A five or six man bullpen might be all that you need with a rotation like this. Since Angels GM Billy Eppler likes “high octane”, if they can throw out 6 guys who throw 95+ it could be one of the best bullpens in baseball, and also wouldn’t need to be used as often as a normal bullpen. 

  • Keynan Middleton
  • Ty Buttrey
  • Hansel Robles
  • Cam Bedrosian
  • Luis Garcia
  • Justin Anderson

In house option: Jake Jewell, Jeremy Rhoades, Luke Bard, Taylor Cole, Noe Ramirez, Isaac Mattson

Can sign as free agents: Juan Nicasio, Dellin Betances, Will Smith, Will Harris.

Minor Leagues

Currently in the minors the most innings pitched is 43.1 by Jesus Castillo. He has pitched in 9 games, which puts him at just under 5 innings pitched per appearance. The low innings pitched per outing also has to do with not over using pitchers. 40 different pitchers have started at least 1 game thus far for Angels affiliates, and all together 75 pitchers have been used 1 including position players, 3 2-ways, and Andrew Heaney who rehabbed this past week for AAA Sale Lake. Only 9 starters have only started and not came in relief, while 31 pitchers that have started have also came in relief. 

While this might seem like a far fetched idea, as long as each pitcher pitches twice (6-10 innings) every 10-12 days it would work well. With 8 starters and 6 relievers it would give the Angels plenty of options to work with in terms of pitching depth, and could provide stability to an oft injured pitching staff.

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