Independent Baseball Insider by Bob Wirz, Vol. 12, No. 17, June 26, 2014
The four-man rotation is not dead. Far from it.
Greg Tagert (pictured), who has his defending champion Gary (IN) SouthShore RailCats atop the American Association’s Central Division, has long been a proponent of having only four starting pitchers, which has to have him respected by old-school baseball people since virtually all of the professional baseball universe has long ago gone to a five-man rotation.
Tagert, who also won two championships and made it to the championship series three other times between 2005-09 when Gary was still in the now-departed Northern League, has steadily stuck to the four-man rotation for the last decade even though he estimates “more than twice as many pitchers turn down coming to Gary” over those who agree because he discusses his plan with them ahead of time.
“I look for similar traits (such as) good mechanics,” says Tagert, who was the winningest manager in Frontier League history when he moved to Gary in ’05. “Most important is guys who are receptive (to the four-man concept).” The manager says the RailCats are “very structured between starts”, emphasizing a lot of running and some weight training.
The current foursome of Dustin Crenshaw, Stephen Bougher, Morgan Coombs and Stephen Hiscock are a combined 13-10 with earned run averages between 2.63 and 3.92 and they have made 36 of the team’s 38 starts (doubleheaders led to two fill-in starts) for a team that is 22-16 and has the fourth best overall record in the 14-team league.
Tagert admits the American Association’s 22-man roster limit helped the shorter rotation “come to fruition because we like a little extra depth (of 12 position players).” Many teams go with 11 pitchers and 11 others. Four of Gary’s six relievers carry rookie status with James Parr, who made an emotional return from the last of three arm surgeries less than 10 days ago, the only veteran (six or more seasons) on the pitching staff. Parr had reached the major leagues (Atlanta) in ’08-09 before injuries threatened his career.
Fans may subscribe to this Independent Baseball Insider column, which will be published 36 times in 2014, at www.WirzandAssociates.com. Bob Wirz provides supplemental stories about Independent Baseball on his blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com. The author has 16 years of major league baseball experience with Kansas City and as chief spokesman for two Commissioners, and lives in Stratford, CT.