Oct 4, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Max Scherzer (37) pitches the ball against the Oakland Athletics during the sixth inning in game one of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
I understand not wanting to use Scherzer as the starter today considering Doug Fister is pretty good himself and pitchers perform quite a bit worse on short rest, but Scherzer instandly becomes the best reliever in the bullpen if he’s available to pitch. It might be more than you want to ask to have him go five innings, but two (or even three) might be just fine.
In fact, if I were Jim Leyland right now, I probably would be mulling the idea of Scherzer being the first guy out of the bullpen pretty much no matter what. Excepting the possibility of the Tigers jumping out to an 8-0 lead (or something like that), Detroit can’t afford to have anyone but their best pitching option on the mound at any point in the game. Because in the playoffs it’s not “well we’ll see if we have the lead late in the game”, it’s more like “we need to do everything we can to have the lead late in the game”.
As I said, that’s probably still Fister to start the game, but Leyland should keep a close eye on him once the fifth inning rolls along and/or the lineup turns over for the third time. If Detroit is protecting a small lead – or even if they’re tied or close behind (or heck, down six runs) – Leyland shouldn’t wait for trouble to show up before going to the bullpen.
Not having Scherzer available for Game 5 would hurt, but not even having a Game 5 would be worse. Justin Verlander would be available to pitch Game 5 on normal rest, and Scherzer would be available to pitch a potential ALCS Game 2 on full rest (with Anibal Sanchez going in a potential Game 1).