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Joe Musgrove should start Friday for Padres over Jake Arrieta

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Jake Arrieta is scheduled to start Friday but he shouldn’t if the Padres want their best starters pitching more often.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Angels Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Padres are currently a half game back of the Cincinnati Reds for the second wild card spot in the National League. With just a month left to go in the regular season, wouldn’t it be best for the Padres to make sure their best starting pitchers are pitching more frequently?

Not according to manager Jayce Tingler and whoever else helped put together the rotation for this weekend’s series against the Houston Astros.

Jake Arrieta and his 7.13 ERA will be starting on Friday night against the best offense in the American League with Joe Musgrove and Chris Paddack going Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Musgrove will be pitching Saturday on five days rest instead of his regular four. If Musgrove started Friday on normal rest, that would allow Blake Snell, who just no-hit the Arizona Diamondbacks for seven innings, to start the series finale on Sunday. Instead, San Diego decided to put Arrieta, who was only brought on in the first place due to injuries in the rotation, to pitch on Friday.

Tingler tried explaining to the media on Wednesday why they’re going with Arrieta on Friday night.

“We were sitting where Arrieta was probably either going to have to go Saturday or Friday,” Tingler said. “We could’ve went Musgrove on Friday but we just preferred giving Joe the extra day of rest.”

Tingler’s reasoning for giving Musgrove and Snell extra days might’ve sounded like a good plan a couple months ago when they weren’t heading into the final month of the season without a playoff spot in their hands. But that isn’t the case. There’s no time to give pitchers, especially your most consistent starter this year, extra rest when there are three other teams (Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Philadelphia) all trying to get the same final playoff spot that you want.

Musgrove even said after his last start on Friday (where he threw a complete game shutout) that he didn’t want extra days of rest going down the stretch because of how important these games are in September.

“I told Jayce...I’m ready to take the ball every fifth day every time, whether it’s skipping off days or taking somebody’s spot in the rotation,” Musgrove told the media. “We’ve got to win games, and I feel like I’m pitching the best I’ve pitched in my career right now, so I want to take the ball as much as I can and be out there and have a chance to win as many games as I can down the stretch.”

It’s mind boggling that Musgrove said this a matter of days before Tingler and interim pitching coach Ben Fritz give him an extra day off.

Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune made a tremendous chart this morning that I wanted to share with you. Here’s how the Padres could’ve and probably should’ve lined up the rotation so they could get the most out of their best starters in the next couple of weeks.

Kevin Acee-SD Union Tribune

If the Padres went with this plan instead of starting Arrieta on Friday, it would ensure a few things that would benefit the team’s chances of winning.

  1. Musgrove would pitch four times in the next 16 days (starting on Friday)
  2. Snell would pitch against a better team (the Astros over the Angels) and then get to face the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, who he just pitched into the eighth inning against.
  3. San Diego would only have to start Arrieta twice over the next 17 days (starting on Friday) instead of three times

One last aspect that should’ve helped the Padres decide to go with Musgrove on Friday is the fact he pitches better on regular rest. On four days rest, Musgrove has a 2.28 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP in ten starts. However, on seven days rest (which is how many days of rest he’ll have when he takes the mound on Saturday), Musgrove has a 7.20 ERA with a 2.00 WHIP.

With all of this said, the Padres know more than we do about the health of their pitching staff but it’s hard to escape the fact that they have decided to go with Arrieta in the middle of a Wild Card race so that their best starter could have another day of rest when he hasn’t pitched in a week and said days earlier that he doesn’t want more days off.