Which starter goes to the pen in the Playoffs?
In many years this question would have a cut and dry answer but this year’s staff has seen a lot of fluctuation. A couple of weeks ago, Pettitte seemed like he may not be ready following his broken ankle, but now he’s pitched brilliantly. In the course of the same couple of weeks, Nova went from a forgotten starter on the DL, to a likely playoff starter and back to limbo.
The opponent and ballpark may sway the decision to go with a certain pitcher and will surely affect the order of the starters. For instance, Phil Hughes 11-4, 3.74 era – 1.18 whip at Home and severe problems with RH hitters will likely have Girardi looking to start him in the Bronx. But, who is going to be the odd man out in the likely 4-man playoff rotation? Sabathia & Kuroda have to be 2 definites as they have been 1 & 2 in the rotation for most of the year. CC went through a rough stretch upon coming off the DL but his last 2 starts have been fantastic. Kuroda has not had a good September but was a rock from May through August.
Andy Pettitte’s only question is his health. And so far, in his 2 starts since coming off the DL, he looks great. He’s yet to give up a run, throwing 75 and 88 pitches, respectively. He’s only scheduled to get 1 more regular season start but that should be enough for him to get the green light for the playoff rotation. Andy’s only made 11 starts on the season but he seems to provide a spark to the team when he’s on the mound as they are 8-3 when he pitches. His playoff experience, guile and determination make him a must-start in my opinion.
That leaves Hughes and Nova. Nova looked like a brand new man on Sept. 15th. He unveiled a new motion, increased velocity, crisper breaking pitches and much improved command. But he threw it all away by getting knocked out after 2.1 innings in his next start. He still has time to prove himself with 2 starts remaining but can he do enough to pass Hughes? Phil has had a respectable year and leads the team in victories. Unfortunately, his propensity to give up HRs and his odd reverse platoon splits might make him a bad matchup against a team like Baltimore with a lot of RH power.
There’s a lot more to consider and as we have seen recently, a starter’s stock can plummet or rise with one performance. Often we are swayed by the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately-attitude but usually looking at a pitcher’s complete season gives you a better idea of his value. Who would you use as starters in the playoffs and will it depend on the matchups? Has Pettitte shown enough to play his usual Game 3 starter role? If Nova pitches like he did on 9/15 over the next 2 starts, is he in the rotation? Does the fact that Hughes has a history as a lights-out relief pitcher make it smarter to start Nova with Hughes in the pen? All things to consider and comment on below……let’s hear it.