Mailbag: Lining up the acesBy
I don’t get why Lee/Price not pitching until game 3 is such a big advantage for the Yanks. Assuming TB/TX weren’t planning on pitching anyone on 3 days rest, which they probably weren’t, each pitcher, in a 7 game series, will go the same number of times as they would have gone had they lined up their aces for game 1.
This question raises a good point about playoff rotations. Let’s assume that the Rays win today. If Price sticks with normal rest — and considering the situation this weekend I’d say he certainly will throughout the playoffs — he’d line up for a start on Sunday. Unfortunately for the Rays, there is no game on Sunday. That lines him up for a start in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium on Monday. He could then come back for a potential Game 7 on normal rest. Wouldn’t that, then, give the Rays something of an advantage? Should the series go seven games, they would have their ace back on the hill.
If that were the case, though, would’t every team just line up its ace in Game 3, as to be available for a Game 7? Of course not. The advantage you gain in a potential game is an advantage lost in required games. No matter what happens, they will play the first four games of this series. Because the Yankees have plenty of time off, they can use their three best pitchers in those games. In the first two games, then, it will be the Yankees best vs. the Rays second best, and the Yanks second best vs. the Rays third best.
The Rays would then have an advantage in Game 3, since they’d have Price on the mound against Phil Hughes. Then in Game 4 the Rays go back to their fourth worst, while the Yankees will in all likelihood turn to CC Sabathia on three days’ rest. In Game 5 the Yankees will turn Burnett loose, but then in Game 6 they can turn back to Pettitte, lining up CC for another short rest start in Game 7. In that scenario, the Yankees will have their ace going as well.
The situation changes, of course, if Maddon decides to throw Price on three days’ rest in Game 2. But that doesn’t appear likely. If he intended to use Price on short rest, he would have done it on Sunday when the Rays faced elimination. There will be no elimination concern in Game 3, so I doubt that he’d change tactics at that point. Though managers have certainly made more baffling moves.
I think that a big part of the Yankees’ advantage is the potential to use their ace three times in a seven-game series. The Rangers don’t appear willing to do that, nor do the Rays. Not only would they be at a disadvantage in the first two games, but they also wouldn’t have any distinct advantage in Game 7. That’s the beauty of the Yankees sweeping and the Rays/Rangers going to five.