It's clearly way too early to start legitimately thinking about the quality of the 2014 Mariners. We know about three players will be on the team with relative certainty between Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Kyle Seager. But even so, it's probably a safe bet that the Mariners starting rotation for 2014 is going to be a damn young one, potentially including Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Brandon Maurer, and Erasmo Ramirez.
It's entirely possible that five of those six could be the starting rotation coming out of the gate, but in the event that the young-rotation Mariners are actually competitive in 2014, we'd start to worry about a Stephen-Strasburg-esque shutdown of our starters, who in all likelihood would have to be doing an excellent job in order to keep this ship steered towards any kind of championship. So here's my idea: a modified six-man rotation. I have provided a tentative schedule! Check it out:
The idea here is that a highly competitive Mariners team would still need to rely heavily on King Felix and Iwakuma to carry most of the load. I have both of those two pitching every fifth day, unless of course an off-day should fall on that spot. Felix also gets priority over Iwakuma here, so if Felix would be pitching on 5 days rest and Iwakuma 4, we yield the rubber to the King. For the most part, the King and the Bear pitch back-to-back games, but there are some weird off-day situations, especially in the second half of the season, where it doesn't work out. The remaining starters fill in as regular rotational order, so if it were just a four-man rotation, it would be W, X, Y, and Z, then back to W again.
In 2012, Stephen Strasburg threw in 28 starts before the Nationals shut him down. In a best-case scenario where the Mariners make the playoffs, the rookies in positions W, X, Y, and Z would still likely be under any innings cap upper management, either throwing 24 or 23 starts. In a case where the Mariners are not all that competitive, you let Felix take a day off here and there in the back half of the season.
That part is actually pretty important as well; the 35 starts given to Felix ranks one more than his career high. The good news is that if we had him skip a start here or there, the Mariners could reduce the wear on his arm while still developing W, X, Y, and Z. Then again, it's entirely possible that one of the four unnamed spots could shit the bed, or there could be an injury along the way that limits the 6-man team from meeting every start, but in that case you're not going to be making the playoffs anyway, I imagine.
If you looked at this post earlier, I had some incorrect numbers for the total pitcher starts, and I couldn't figure out why. Turns out I ran a "countif" function in Excel, and it was counting the "F" for Friday as a Felix start and the "W" for Wednesday for the first unnamed starter. I've fixed that in the above graphic and commentary.