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The Sixth Starter: One of the Most Underrated Positions in Sports

February 19th, 2014 at 9:22 AM
By Josh Michael

In sports, every fan knows about the main starting players, no matter what sport it is, but sometimes it is that next guy in line who is one of the most important players on the team. The sixth starting pitcher in baseball is one of the most underrated positions in all of sports.

'Camden Yards' photo (c) 2009, The SABR Office - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

There are plenty of rare things in the baseball world, but one of the most rare is for a team to have their entire five-man starting rotation finish the entire season healthy and never experience a period where one guy struggles enough to garner a new starter.

Enter the sixth starter.

For us Baltimore Orioles fans, we have seen not just a sixth starter, but a seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth or more have to start a game over the course of the past decade and a half. How often has a pitcher gotten hurt? Struggled so much the fanbase wanted to run him out of town? And guess what, the Orioles are not alone in that regard,

Almost every team in the league, at some point will have a sixth pitcher have to come in and start a game, or two, or three and in some cases become the new fifth starter in the rotation, whether due to an injury or a struggling pitcher.

Remember the Boston Red Sox? The 2013 World Series Champions? They lost Clay Bucholtz for a big chunk of the season due to an injury and over the course of the year saw 11 different pitchers start a game and oddly enough, Alfredo Aceves was their sixth starter and filled in for a bit until they acquired Jake Peavy.

The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the most consistent franchises in sports and what makes them so strong is their ability to fill their rotation repeatedly with quality arms when one of their guys go do down with an injury.

The importance of having that sixth guy that can come in and fill a spot in the rotation is exponential when you are a team that is contending for a playoff spot, and every franchise in the game would tell you that.

Baltimore agreed to terms with free agent RHP Ubaldo Jimenez earlier this week, and although the deal has not yet been made official, our sources inform us that there has been no issue with his physical at this point, so it looks like it is good to go. He is a quality veteran pitcher who will eat up innings and instantly becomes the team's second or third starter, but what get's overlooked in all of this is how it greatly improves the entire rotation.

'Zach Britton' photo (c) 2012, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Think about it, now you should feel more comfortable with the fact that Miguel Gonzalez is now the Orioles fourth starter and Bud Norris is the fifth starter and there is no doubt that is better than Gonzo being the third starter and Norris the fourth. To bring the whole story back, now your sixth starter is Zach Britton or Steve Johnson or Suk-min Yoon or Kevin Gausman and that is much more comfortable than that group being your fifth starter.

Heading into 2014, the Orioles will quite frankly have their best sixth starter this century, which is going to go a long way in helping this team once again contend for a playoff spot and attempt to put together their third straight winning season, which would be the first time since 1992-1994.


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Tags: Baltimore, Baltimore Orioles, Baseball, Kevin Gausman, Miguel Gonzalez, MLB, Suk-Min Yoon, Ubaldo Jimenez, Zach Britton

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