Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/19/14
Mlb-arizona-diamondbacks

Major League Baseball handed down suspensions as a result of the Dodgers-Diamondbacks brawl on Tuesday night, and Ian Kennedy got the headline penalty, as he’ll be unable to pitch for 10 days after he decides to strategically drop his appeal. And, looking at the Diamondbacks schedule, that will almost certainly happen on Monday, and Kennedy will become the latest starting pitcher to be suspended by MLB without actually being punished in any real way. Here’s how this is likely to work. Kennedy is scheduled to start for the Diamondbacks against the Padres on Sunday. If I was a betting man, I’d be wagering on an appeal that allows him to make that start, then he’ll inform the league he’s dropping it immediately following that outing, so the suspension will begin on Monday when the Diamondbacks begin their three game series against the Marlins. He wouldn’t have pitched in any of those games anyway, so there’s no real loss there. Then, on Thursday, the Diamondbacks have a day off, which will allow the Diamondbacks to roll their rotation over and just skip Kennedy’s spot in the rotation for their weekend series against the Reds. And then they have another day off following that series, so the rotation shuffling gets even easier. Here’s a look at how Arizona could handle their rotation during Kennedy’s absence: 5/17: Patrick Corbin 5/18: Tyler Skaggs 5/19: Trevor Cahill 5/21: Wade Miley 5/22: Patrick Corbin 5/23: Tyler Skaggs 5/25: Trevor Cahill 5/26: Wade Miley 5/27: Patrick Corbin 5/28: Tyler Skaggs Thanks to the two off days, the Diamondbacks have a nice little 10 game stretch coming where they don’t need a #5 starter; they can throw 10 straight games with their current four starters on regular rest, and then bring Kennedy back on the 29th to make a start when they actually need an arm to take the hill. Some suspension. There is some cost here, as they could have otherwise given each starter a slight break and let their hurlers go on five days rest, but pitching their normal starters on regular rest in mid-June isn’t exactly a heavy tax. Maybe if Kennedy hadn’t been suspended, they’d have sent Skaggs back to the minors for a week or two and skipped over his starts, but then again, there’s not a ton of evidence that Kennedy is a drastically better pitcher than Skaggs at this point. The suspension isn’t completely toothless, but it is about as ineffective as any 10 game suspension could possibly be. Kennedy will miss one start, but the Diamondbacks will barely notice, as they timed drop of the appeal will allow them to simply cover that start by eliminating a rotation spot for 10 days. MLB has been handing out these useless starting pitcher suspensions forever, so maybe they’re just okay with this, and they don’t really want to put a burden on a team whose pitcher throws at another hitter’s head. But, these lame suspensions that don’t actually do anything are one of the main reasons people still throw at each other. If MLB actually wants to get rid of headhunting, they need to change the way starting pitchers are penalized. The easiest fix would probably be to take away the right to drop the appeal after it is filed for. If you get suspended and decide you want to fight it, great, you’re fighting it. You do not get to say “just kidding” when it becomes convenient for your team to give you a few days off. Make the decision to appeal binding, and force players to decide whether they actually want to argue their case and serve a suspension at a time of MLB’s choosing. The other option is to just drastically increase the length of suspensions – at 15 or 20 games, all of the sudden there’s no real way to just play with the schedule so that the penalty has little or no effect. If a pitcher is faced with actually missing several starts, and teams will have to call someone up from the minors to make the suspended pitcher’s starts, then you’ll see fewer fastballs aimed at opposing hitter’s heads. Until then, these suspensions will continue to be nothing more than P.R.

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