Saturday, August 11, 2012

Give James McDonald a vacation

What's wrong with James McDonald? That's the question on every fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates mind with the way he has struggled since the All-Star break. The solution in the mind of Clint Hurdle is to go to a six man rotation. That's going to cause even more problems. If you're struggling with one of the guys in your five man rotation, why on earth would you add another guy that wasn't even originally able to crack that group? Why would you create an environment where your best pitcher gets less starts? All questions that I'm sure Hurdle would answer with some meaningless cliche. Moving on.

Everyone is trying to get into McDonald's head. There are suggestions that he's just a headcase and one bad start caused some kind of snowball effect that has destroyed him. I think you're digging a little too deep. I am far from a scout. I am not close to the team. I never have and likely never will speak to McDonald or any other player on the roster. With all that being true, even I have the ability to look at some basic numbers and figure out that this is very likely a fatigue issue.

Earlier in the season, excitement was running wild through the city because of McDonald's success. He was considered an All-Star snub. How easily people forget that a large part of that success had to do with him getting deeper into games. So let's look at the numbers.

Last season, McDonald had a big problem getting deep into games and even then he still pitched 171 innings over 31 starts. That was the most innings that he has pitched in his career. In his major league career, he had never pitched more than 64 innings in a season before last year. Even as a minor leaguer, the most innings he had pitched was 142 and that was when he was 21 years old and in low A ball.

So that brings us to this year. To this point, McDonald has pitched 141 innings. That puts him on pace to pitch 190 innings which blows away his career high from last year. And last year blew away any innings total from years before that. And mind you, he was removed from being a full time starter in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization for a few years. Before last year, he hadn't been a full time starting pitcher since 2008. And then all of a sudden he's obliterating career highs in innings pitched.

All that being said, it seems to some kind of crime to just skip a start. Just giving him one day extra in between starts is not going to help him. Instead, it's going to hurt everyone else. It means less starts for A.J. Burnett who has had to stop the bleeding in his past couple starts. The organization has enough guys on the major league roster that can fill in for McDonald for a week or two but there is a refusal to do it. And they are going to pay for it if they make the playoffs and find out that his arm is totally dead.


  1. A six man rotation is actually a pretty good idea, temporarily. McDonald isn't the only guy whose arm needs a rest.

    Now, structured like you assume it would be would probably be bad.

    Using a sixth man to skip people like McDonald, or push Bedard back a day or two could really benefit the rotation as a whole.

    Adding a sixth man doesn't mean Burnett can't pitch his regular day, it would just be a way to be flexible.

    It's almost like adding a day off every turn through.

  2. Yeah. Like we discussed on Twitter, I'm fine with a sixth guy being used in a spot start capacity. If Correia were used in McDonald's spot this time around and then just gave different guys a day off here and there, I'd be fine with it. But the way Hurdle is talking, it sounds like a traditional six man to me. I hope they're just trolling everyone and that doesn't actually happen.