Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Another Perk Of Home Field Advantage

One of the ancillary benefits of having the best record in either league is that the team gets to select which of the two schedules it plays its ALDS on. Both of the options have their final 4 games scheduled for October 9th, 11th, 12th & 14th, but the ALDS "A" schedule begins on October 7th, while "B" starts on the 8th. The upshot is that "A" allows for the participants to use only 3 starting pitchers on regular rest if they so choose.

The implications for the Yankees are pretty obvious. Their top three starters are pretty clear-cut: CC Sabathia and then, in whatever order, Andy Pettitte and A.J. Burnett. It's the guy who slots in for the fourth game that makes the decision a little more complicated.

Steve from the Yankee Universe says it depends on how Joba Chamberlain pitches down the stretch and who the Yankees are playing (almost certainly the Tigers). Since both teams will be operating on the same schedule, if the Yankees have a bigger advantage over the Tigers when comparing their top 4 starters as opposed to their top 3, Steve thinks that would be the optimal choice.

David Pinto of Baseball Musings suggests that the Yankees should opt for the extra day of rest, and as a result the 3 man rotation, almost always, unless the opposition has a very poor fourth starter.

The Tigers top four are Edwin Jackson (147 ERA+), Justin Verlander (139), Jarrod Washburn (124) and Rick Porcello (107). Although Washburn has been terrible since joining the Tigers (6.81 ERA in 6 starts), I'm guessing his postseason experience would bump him ahead of the rookie Porcello. Verlander will probably start game one as well, but that's beside the point.

Either way, they match up favorably against the Yankees' quartet, Sabathia (131), Pettitte (109), Burnett (107) and Joba (101).

Minor detail, however: the Tigers staff is going to be facing the best offense in all of baseball: 1st in runs scored, 1st in OBP and in 1st in SLG. Conversely, the Tigers offense is 10th, 10th and 9th in those categories, respectively. I'm not sure there is a scientific way to account for that, but it would seem to tip that equation on it's head completely.

Given the choice, I would probably opt for the early start and the extra day of rest. Given that the Yankees will be able to align their rotation however they choose when the season closes down, they might as well bank that extra day of rest. Regardless of how Joba pitches throughout September, he will still be a major question mark as a starting pitcher in the postseason.

And of course, since one team is going to be down 2-1 if Game 4 does indeed occur, they could just choose to throw their ace anyway.