The Astros starting rotation for after the All-Star break is set with Brett Myers taking the mound first, followed by Bud Norris, Wandy Rodriguez, Jordan Lyles, and JA Happ. While this decision is not one that garnishes a whole lot of importance the order of this rotation is still somewhat surprising. Some manager’s choose to organize the rotation from top to bottom starting with the staff ace and so on and so forth, some choose to play matchups thus maximizing each pitchers probability for success, and others choose to use this break to give extra rest to injured/struggling pitchers. Regardless of the strategy the public’s general perception of this decision is that the rotation is organized by who is the best. That is what makes Brad Mills post All-Star break rotation more puzzling. Even though i know that you shouldn't read too much into this decision there are a couple of concerns that I have about how this decision may affect the bigger picture.
First of all given the current state of affairs the Astros figure to be sellers come the trade deadline. Ed Wade has been quoted recently as saying that he would listen to offers made on any of his players. Wandy Rodriguez is a name that has been thrown around in trade rumors, but some teams have expressed concern over the fact that the Astros view Wandy as a frontline starter whereas they would view him more as a backend type. The decision to start Wandy third after the break does nothing to change this perception. It would be difficult for the Astros to market Wandy as a top of the rotation guy when other teams could turn around and say that his own organization views him as a middle of the rotation type. After coming off of two sub-par outings before the break Wandy could also benefit from getting as many starts as possible before the break to raise his value.
Another decision that seems odd is the decision to slot Jordan Lyles ahead of JA Happ. The reason given by Mills was that he wanted to give Happ extra time to work on mechanical issues, but one day probably does not make that much of a difference. Jordan Lyles has arguably been the third best pitcher on this staff this year, but he is also the only one that will have inning restrictions as the season marches on. One way that Mills could limit Lyles innings is by skipping his spot in the rotation on every off day, but it seems like Mills views Lyles more as a fourth starter than a twenty year old kid that is getting his first taste of the big leagues.
I also wonder that if by starting off with Myers the organization is trying to sell him as the staff ace and have no intention of trading Wandy. If true this would be somewhat disappointing because Wandy definitely carries the greater trade value of the two. If they were intending to hold on to one pitcher after the deadline Myers would seem like the guy you would want to hold on to. He is a durable innings eater who will probably put up pedestrian numbers, but for a team that is not looking to be prepared to compete next year Wandy's performance over Myers would be a luxury and not a necessity. This would also give Myers the second half of the year to rebound, thus raising his trade value again. With his peripheral stats pointing to the fact that he may be unlucky so far this year why not give him the rest of the season to see if those numbers stabilize. If they do then the Astros could possibly get a greater return for Myers in the offseason than they could at the trade deadline. If his performance stays the same then at the very least the Astros have a veteran innings eater for next year to anchor the rotation.
Any way you slice it the way in which Mills set the rotation left room for his decision to be second guessed. He could have easily gone with the safe choice of Wandy, Brett, Bud, JA, and Jordan and not faced any scrutiny. With the way the rotation is now set you have to wonder if this was his decision, or if this was something that trickled down from the front office.