This post will be discussing rotation possibilities for the NLDS and NLCS. I don't really believe in jinxes, but just in case, I knocked on wood. If you're a believer in jinxes, you should do the same before and after reading it. That should kill any theoretical jinxes.The postseason has yet to begin and we don't yet know if our favored team will even be playing more than a single game. But assuming the Braves do beat the Cardinals and advance to face the Nationals, some interesting possibilities come into play regarding the rotation. Let's start with what we know:
- Hudson would be starting the first game
- Medlen would not be ready to pitch before the third game
- Hanson should not touch a baseball unless something goes horribly, horribly wrong
- The first two games would be played in Atlanta
- Saturday and Tuesday will be off days
I think, if it has not been stated by Fredi, we all assume that Minor would get the ball for game two. Now, the big question is who starts game three? Keep in mind, that from this point on, all games are in D.C. Medlen seems like an obvious choice, but what if the series goes beyond three games (seems likely)? Would Hudson and Minor pitch on short rest? Or would Maholm have to start one of the games? Also, depending on the order they've pitched in, how many days rest they're pitching on and how many games the series goes, what havoc does it wreak on the rotation alignment for the NLCS? Yes, I know. You have to do what it takes to win the current series before thinking about the next. However, this is all hypothetical. Just go with it.
I had this discussion with a coworker today, and he made an argument for certain games having greater strategic value than others. That is, games which are win-or-go-home or win-and-advance are the most strategically important games in the series. The Braves can head to D.C. for game three with one of three possible scenarios: 2-0, 0-2 or 1-1. Obviously, the first two scenarios represent the aforementioned strategically important games, whereas the latter scenario is of comparatively lesser strategic importance.
We're now back to the decision of who to start game three, and here's the proposal for the scenarios in order: Medlen, Medlen and Maholm. This makes the assumption that you prefer having your best pitcher (Medlen) starting in the more strategically important game. If the Braves are in a must win situation - you want Medlen on the mound. If the Braves are on the verge of advancing to the next round - you want Medlen on the mound. That leaves the odd case of a tie going into game three, and the suggestion of throwing Maholm instead of Medlen.
If we assume that Fredi isn't going to use Hudson and Minor on short rest, Maholm would be slated to pitch the fourth game anyway. This scenario only bumps him up a day and opens up some very interesting alignment options. Regardless of the outcome of game three in this scenario, game four is now a more strategically important game. This is why it is a plus to have Medlen slotted here. And if the series goes to a fifth game, you would obviously pencil Hudson in next. In the scenario where Medlen pitches game three, and happens to lose, you almost have to pitch Hudson on short rest for the fourth game, despite my previous prognosticating about what Fredi will or will not do. In the scenario where Hudson also loses the fourth game, prospects for the fifth game are grim and bleak (Minor or Maholm).
This leaves us with six likely rotation alignments for starting the NLCS (Sunday, 10/14):
- If the series ended at three games (Medlen): Hudson, Medlen, Minor, Maholm
- If the series ended at four games (Medlen): Hudson, Minor, Medlen, Maholm
- If the series ended at four games (Hudson): Minor, Medlen, Hudson, Maholm
- If the series goes five games (Hudson): Minor, Maholm, Medlen, Hudson
- If the series goes five games (Minor): Maholm, Medlen, Hudson, Minor
- If the series goes five games (Maholm): Minor, Medlen, Hudson, Maholm
Beyond that, the same alignment would continue or it would be adjusted situationally by possibly letting certain starters pitch on short rest. I won't bother to speculate that far ahead.