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Rethinking the rotation: Four-and-swing?

Detroit Tigers v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 05: Pitcher Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers delivers a pitch in the second inning during the MLB game against Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 5, 2011 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

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Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan is always good for a big idea column or two each month, and his latest is one that I’ve long been arguing half-drunkenly to anyone who will listen (i.e. no one): chucking the straight five-man rotation and going to a modified four-man thing. The idea would be to keep your four best on a firm four-days-rest schedule, skipping the fifth guy as often as possible.

As Passan shows, using the Tigers, Rangers and Angels as his examples, such a plan gives your team’s four best guys anywhere between one and three extra starts and simultaneously takes away that many starts from your worst starter. And if you’re smart about who that worst starter is, you can give yourself something that is a vanishing breed: a bona fide long man/mopup man in the pen.

Passan notes the obstacles to this, chief among them that baseball people tend not to engage in too much original thinking unless they can help it, but he makes all kinds of sense in my view.

Problems? Other ideas? That is, other ideas keeping in mind that no one is going to go to a straight four-man rotation in this day and age.