So Justin Verlander and Doug Fister will be the starters for the first two games (in the NL parks), as expected, but it will be Anibal Sanchez, not Max Scherzer, who will get to pitch the first home game of the World Series. This ordering doesn’t make any difference if the series lasts four to six games, but it means that Sanchez will be lined up on normal rest for a potential game seven. That’s a bit of a head-scratcher.
Not that Sanchez hasn’t been good over the last two months – I won’t complain about his 1.35 postseason ERA – but Scherzer has been absolutely lights-out since the beginning of July. Sure, he had the issue with his deltoid muscle earlier this month, but he’s shown no ill-effects of it while on the mound. For the postseason, Scherzer has an 0.82 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 11 innings.
The only advantage I can see with picking Sanchez over Scherzer has been his ability to pitch deeper into games. Anibal has pitched into the seventh inning in both of his postseason outings while Scherzer has failed to complete six innings in either of his, but Scherzer has been devastating to hitters and stamina looks like it would be less of an issue in a game seven situation because Verlander would likely be available for an inning (or two) in relief.
In fact, with so many “extra” relief options (probably only Doug Fister would be unavailable to pitch out of the bullpen), one wouldn’t want their starter to be pitching extremely deep into the game anyway (unless it was Verlander). Perhaps that’s what Leyland is thinking. If he can get four or five solid innings out of Sanchez, then he’ll have Scherzer and Verlander waiting in the bullpen to wreak havoc on opposing hitters for two to three more innings.
I can understand that that’s the likely strategy, but I can’t help but feel that Scherzer is the best guy to get you through the initial four or five innings in the first place. If it’s a choice between five innings of Scherzer and two of Sanchez or Five of Sanchez and two of Scherzer, I’m taking more innings from Scherzer (while keeping him in his familiar role).
Hopefully, though, the Tigers will make this all a purely academic exercise by winnings the series rather quickly.