As I write this, it’s still not out of the realm of possibility that the Rays could rally (or the Red Sox crumble) to put Tampa Bay back in the playoffs. I still consider that possibility to be fairly remote and am preparing to see either Boston or New York in early October.
I’m sure all of you reading this are already well aware, but our Tigers are currently neck-and-neck with the Texas Rangers for 2nd best record in the AL. Since the Wild Card will definitely come from the AL East and the winner of the east can’t play a team from their own division in the ALDS, the team with the second-best record gets Boston (probably) while the loser or that race is stuck with the Yankees.
Follow through the jump for that discussion of rotations:
It’s pretty clear which four starters the Red Sox will be running in the playoffs, something that can’t be said (at this point) for the Yankees. They’ll have two righties – Beckett and Lackey – and two lefties – Lester and Bedard. Note that while the splits for the righties are fairly sizeable, for the lefties they aren’t. Against the Sox it seems you would want a lefty-biased lineup much more than depth – and that’s not something the Tigers can really cobble together.
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New York’s rotation will definitely be led by southpaw C.C. Sabathia, but after that it gets a little murky. The Yankees’ #2 and #3 starters (A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes) have been hit as hard as Brad Penny this year and might not make the playoff rotation despite their track records. That would leave a remaining 3 starters for the Yanks of Bartolo Colon, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia – all righties. Hughes and Burnett are also right-handed, so regardless what choices Joe Girardi ultimately makes Sabathia will be the only lefty. Though the Yanks only feature one lefty, he’s certain to pitch twice in a five-game series and has a career L-R gap bigger than either of the Red Sox lefties. Colon, Garcia and Hughes have also been much less effective against lefties (relatively and absolutely) over their careers. So, strangely, it may be Yankees against which platoons and a deep bench could be most important.
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It’s still a long shot, as I mentioned above, but should Tampa Bay make the playoffs their rotation is also all righties after left-handed ace David Price.
Some righties are harder on righties than others, but that’s not the only reason for split deviation – some righties also have more trouble hitting righties (recognizing and laying of a slider, etc…) The Tigers have made huge strides this season in reducing their persistent and unpleasant L-R bias from seasons past. That is tough to do when you have a core of right-handed batters that start nearly every game come rain or shine. A part of this has been the addition of Victor Martinez and the development of Alex Avila, but a part has also been Leyland’s newfound willingness (or perhaps ability) to platoon. The question becomes, is this something that playoff rosters will allow (or encourage)? Ryan Raburn, Delmon Young, Brandon Inge and Magglio Ordonez have value to the team inversely proportional to the number of right-handed pitchers the team is going to face. The opposite is true for Don Kelly, Wilson Betemit, Andy Dirks and Ramon Santiago (and, I know it’s a bit of a stretch, Carlos Guillen). So if you are picking out the Detroit Tigers playoff roster, who do you want against the Sawx? Yanks?