In the playoffs you want your best starter to be on the hill in Game 1, followed by your second best and so on. But some teams who are in a playoff race don’t have that luxury.
Take this year’s Boston Red Sox for example. Boston has a 2.5 game lead over Tampa Bay and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with 6 games left on their schedule.
The Red Sox have Jon Lester slated to pitch on Friday at New York, followed by Tim Wakefield on Saturday, Jon Lackey on Sunday, Erik Bedard at Baltimore on the following Monday, Josh Beckett the day after and Lester again next Wednesday.
Wednesday, if you’re not aware, is the season finale, which means that Lester and Beckett, 15-8, and 13-6 respectively won’t be available to pitch until Game 3 of the ALDS. Boston will likely have to go on the road to either Detroit or Texas IF they make the playoffs. This is looking less and less likely seeing as they are not only 3-7 in their last 10 games, but their only win in their last 6 games was against Brian Matuz, who in 11 starts has an ERA upwards of 10. Yes, that’s right, 10.
If Boston does make the playoffs they will likely have to start one of the aforementioned Bedard, Wakefield or Lackey in Game 1 and one of the others in Game 2.
To make matters worse Lackey owns an ERA of 6.92 in 2 starts vs Detroit in the last three years. Even more eye opening is his north-of -7 ERA in 10 starts vs Texas (7.29).
Wakefield has fared much better against the Tigers and the Rangers with his ERAs against both squads in the last three years being low (2.57 and 1.50).
Bedard is much better against Detroit in the last three years (1.64 ERA in 2 starts), but he has only lasted 11 innnings total in both and surrendered 12 hits as well. Bedard is also decent against Texas with a 4.05 ERA. But if you look at the ERA in just Texas it shoots up to 27.00. Yikes.
It’s likely that it’s going to be one of the latter two in Game 1. Even so, if they play Detroit I don’t think either of them will beat Justin Verlander on the hill IN Detroit.
If it’s Texas that they play in the first round I’m not totally sure that one of those three can match up with CJ Wilson in Arlington either.
While Boston might have to start their 3rd, 4th or 5th starting pitcher in the playoff opener, teams like Detroit, Philadelphia and New York now have the time to set up their rotations for the playoffs. Meaning they can line up their starting pitchers. So, when Game 2 comes around they’re available to pitch on normal rest.
Take the Tigers for example, who in their 6-3 win over the Royals on Wednesday had Max Scherzer start the game and throw 5 innings. Jim Leyland then used Doug Fister to pitch three innings out of the bullpen followed by Papa Grande ( Jose Valverde ) to close it out in the ninth.
The thinking here is that Verlander will pitch Game 1 regardless of venue. If Game 2 is at home then we will likely see Scherzer there with Fister in Game 3 on the road.
If the Tigers get home-field advantage, then it will be Scherzer behind Verlander. If not it will be Fister on the road and then Scherzer at home for Game 3. The Tigers are employing this because Scherzer’s ERA is a run and a half lower at home than on the road. And Fister’s ground-ball style will be much more effective in hitter’s parks like Yankee Stadium or Fenway.
Leyland used them both on Wednesday so that they will both be in line to start in Game 2 on proper rest at whichever stadium is more advantageous.
One thing is for certain — the Tigers will be ready come October.