Sergio Romo's 'opener' role is crazy, but here are five more innovative ways teams could use their bullpens
The BBQ's Best 5 is exactly what it sounds like: Each week, we'll pick a category around the world of baseball and talk about the five best things within that group. Today, we're taking a look at the Best 5 ways teams could utilize pitchers in unique ways.
Recently, the Rays turned the baseball world on its head by having established reliever Sergio Romo start a game against the Angels. Romo thus faced the opposing team's best hitters at the top of the lineup before turning the ball over to a starter who then went deeper into the game.
Kudos to the Rays, but we think there's ample room to create even more outside-the-box usage strategies for pitchers. These are the five bizarre pitching strategies that baseball teams should adopt:
5. Have the ace of the staff relieve on his bullpen day
Sure, throwing a controlled bullpen before a game doesn't compare to a high-leverage relief appearance, but imagine if an ambitious, competitive pitcher were to be open to experimentation.
Say the Astros find themselves in a late-inning, one-out situation where they really need a strikeout or two. Then boom, Justin Verlander emerges from the bullpen, K's the two batters on 10 total pitches and gets Houston out of the inning. We've seen it in the postseason, so why not use it more often during the year?
4. Have the pitcher who finishes the first game of a doubleheader start the second game too
This is something you see happen from time to time in college baseball. If there isn't too much time between the first and second games of a twin bill, and the guy who just successfully closed things out feels good, teams can just let him ride.
Now, there's certainly more time between games in an MLB doubleheader than there is at the college level, but just have that pitcher toss a jacket on and do some stretching to keep the warm and you're totally fine.
3. Swap in position players to pitch against opposing teams' pitchers
By swapping a position player to throw to the other team's pitcher, NL starters could reduce their pitch counts and go deeper into games.
Wouldn't you want Max Scherzer to chill in left field for a batter while Bryce Harper pitches to Clayton Kershaw -- particularly if that meant Scherzer could save enough pitches to face Cody Bellinger one more time later in the game?
2. Have 15 non-categorized pitchers who all only throw one inning at a time
Wade Davis, Tony Cingrani and Bud Norris were all once established starters available on either the trade or free agent market who found new teams that developed them into awesome bullpen options.
What if a team built its entire pitching rotation that way: Fifteen, easily-acquirable back-end starters who are way better when they only pitch one inning at a time.
The potential benefits are endless. A team could rotate the 15 pitchers so that each one throws three out of every five days to stay fresh. Hitters would never see the same pitcher in a game twice.
1. Have extra relievers play the outfield and shuffle them in mid-at-bat, creating one combination super-reliever
Back in 2014, the Astros moved lefty reliever Tony Sipp from the mound to the outfield in the middle of an inning before bringing him back to the bump.
We think teams should take this a step further by swapping pitchers in and out several times during an at-bat.
For instance, the Yankees take the field in the ninth with David Robertson on the mound, Aroldis Chapman at first base and Dellin Betances in left field. The batter fouls off a Robertson cutter for strike one. Betances and Robertson switch spots and then Betances freezes the batter with a nasty curveball to push the count to 0-2. Then Betances and Chapman swap, allowing Chapman to blow some 102-mph cheese by the batter up in the zone.
Three pitches. One out. No chance.
These have been our Best 5 insanely bizarre pitching strategies. Have some cockamamie ideas of your own? Tweet them at us @CespedesBBQ and @Cut4.