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The Demise of the 11-Man Pitching Staff

With today's signing of Doug Mientkiewicz to a minor league deal, it got me thinking about the makeup of the roster.  First off, let me say "Eye Chart" (thanks to Dodger Thoughts commenter Humma Kavula for bringing the nickname to my attention) is a longshot to make the club.  For one, the 40-man roster is currently at 40, and that's without Manny Ramirez -- who might be here sooner rather than later -- so two people would either have to be designated for assignment or placed on the 60-day DL just to bring Mientkiewicz aboard.

I would like to think the club can find a spot on the bench for a player with a .363 OBP over the last three seasons.  If he had to play the field every once in a while, he has posted very good UZR/150 numbers too -- +11.5, +14.9, & +13.1 from 2008 backward to 2006.  The problem is, he probably doesn't have a spot on our bench as currently constructed.  As it stands now, the bench will likely look something like this:

C Brad Ausmus Bats R
OF Juan Pierre L
IF Mark Loretta R
SS Tony Abreu S
OF Delwyn Young S

Ausmus, Pierre, and Loretta are virtual locks to make the club, and another bench spot will most certainly go to someone who can play SS -- especially if Furcal is going to take a day off per week like Joe Torre suggested.  Mientkiewicz would have to beat out Pee Wee for the final bench spot, it seems.

I say the final bench spot because I believe the club will start the season with 12 pitchers.  When the Dodgers and Padres decided to fill in an early off day April 7, the need for a fifth starter early became apparent.  Also, based on 2008 patterns, the Dodgers will likely have a 12-man pitching staff all or most of the season.

In 2008, the Dodgers played 137 games through August 31, after which of course the rosters expanded to up to 40 active players.  Of those 137 games, the active roster contained 12 pitchers for 127 of the games (92.7% of the time).  The only ten games the Dodgers carried 11 pitchers were in April when frequent off days mitigated the need for a 5th starter.

Personally, I would try to keep the pitcher count to 11 if at all possible, and even go so low as ten if I thought the pitching staff could be managed properly.  The fewer pitchers on the staff means more spots on the bench and more opportunities to gain pinch hit or substitute to gain the platoon advantage.  I'll keep tabs on the 25-man rosters for all MLB clubs on opening day to get an idea of the standard roster construction.  I have a feeling 12 belly itchers is the norm these days.