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September 28, 2010

One-Hoppers

An LDS Menage a Trois?

by Christina Kahrl

Every year, there's some new complaint about the way the post-season schedule serves the interests of somebody paying lots of money, sometimes at the expense of the more basic notion that post-season series should give fans champions who won or lost on the basis of their relative merits. Ideally, the process lends us a structure--and outcomes--that don't outright invalidate the outcomes of 162-game season.

But as we already know, teams generally don't bother or have to bother with fifth starters when it comes to their post-season rosters: usually there are scheduled days off for travel between the second and third game and the fourth and fifth if they're necessary. Fair enough, nobody wants to see their team's entire seasons rely too heavily on the relative merits of the fifth starter--du jour, usually, since the slot rarely comes with all that much job security given the caliber of fifths even the best clubs end up relying upon.

But what is there to say about a post-season schedule in the National League that will give two teams in one Division Series the opportunity to skip their fourth starter as well? Is that even better still, as far as quality baseball determined by each team's best, or something that stretches that tension between the validity of 162-game outcomes and post-season series?

Consider the very different slates for the two Division Series in the senior circuit:

Day
LDS1
Starter?
LDS2
Starter?
October 6 Game One #1 OFF ---
October 7 OFF --- Game One #1
October 8 Game Two #2 Game Two #2
October 9 OFF --- OFF ---
October 10 Game Three #3 Game Three #3
October 11 Game Four #1, four days' rest Game Four #4
October 12 OFF --- OFF ---
October 13 Game Five #2, four days' rest Game Five #1, five days' rest

I admit, part of me thinks that there's something sort of cool about creating an opportunity for champs to be that much more determined on the merits of their best starters--assuming of course that the two teams that wind up in the first LDS clinch in enough time to line their ducks up in a row. The problem, as I see it, is the inequity between the two schedules, in that the winners of the two series could be be determined by strongly different criteria: if you can win a five-game series in which you get four starts from your two best starters, against one team that has to get a start from each of its front four.

Think on what that means if, say, the Phillies are in the first scenario: armed with two of the top six starters in baseball in Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, and three of the top 19 if you reach "down" for Cole Hamels, they should have a potentially huge advantage if they wind up playing that schedule against any of the alternatives. Going for their notional fourth starter, Joe Blanton, gets down to the 128th ranked starter of 140 with 100 or more innings pitched this season. Think that Charlie Manuel wouldn't rather skip that possibility, and just go with his best three?

I'll be writing about these kinds of considerations at greater length for Wednesday, but I figured I'd head into it after first noting this major logistical consideration.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

13 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Mountainhawk

I don't see the issue. It's been this way for a while, everyone knows going in that if you are the top team in the league that has the 8 day DS that season you can select which schedule you want. No one whined about it when the Yankees used it last year to pick the long schedule.

It is, of course, done for TV, so that you can have the following setup:

We: N1 A1 A2
Th: N2 A1 A2
Fr: N1 N2
Sa: A1 A2
Su: N1 N2 A1 A2
Mo: N1 N2
Tu: A1 A2
We: N1 N2

4 games on Sunday, no days with only 1 scheduled game.

Sep 28, 2010 05:16 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Of course it's done so for TV's benefit, but I remember a few complaints about the Yankees series, since it was obviously to their advantage. Beyond the disparity that I find noxious, I guess I've awakened myself to the idea that a five-game schedule spread across eight days is a bit silly. Add in five days off between LDS G3 (if it's a sweep) and LCS G1, and the potential for a ton of dead time is built into the schedule.

So many of the elements for why you might suggest this is so are anachronistic. Travel is easier, and an entire generation of baseball-specific venues don't have the problem of sharing space with football in fall that haunted past generations of baseball logisticians. The advantages to allow the industry to play a tight postseason that doesn't go slack for an entire workweek at a time exist, waiting to be exploited.

When asked about this back in July at the All-Star Game, Bud Selig predictably whinged about living in fear of November baseball, observed "we're exploring ways to cut the season down," but offered little beyond the idea of pushing Opening Day forward to Thursday/Friday instead of Sunday/Monday.

Admittedly, there's not a lot new to complaining about this, beyond my joining the chorus, which I'm game for ;-)

Sep 28, 2010 09:54 AM
 
jlefty

I remember a good amount of whining about the Yankees advantage in regards to the schedule. Mike Scioscia, in particular, had a lot of beef with if, if I recall correctly.

Sep 28, 2010 10:28 AM
rating: 0
 
Sharky

What is "troi"?

Sep 28, 2010 05:38 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

I could try to convert a late-night typo into a weak STNG gag, but even copping to that gets me much of the way there in terms of Lame Shares.

Sep 28, 2010 10:17 AM
 
Rowen Bell

I read your book on Wicked Shares, CK, but I've been waiting several years to see something in print on your methodology for Lame Shares.

Sep 29, 2010 13:17 PM
rating: 0
 
MichavdB

It's trois.

Sep 28, 2010 06:44 AM
rating: 0
 
npieper

Only counter to this huge benefit for the Phillies with Halladay and Oswalt will be if their opponent ends up being the Giants, who could start Lincecum and Cain twice in opposition (assuming we see "good" Lincecum).

Sep 28, 2010 11:16 AM
rating: 0
 
escapingNihilism

if we extend the DS to 7 games 4th starters have to pitch and revenues go up. a positive for both purists and profit-maximizers

Sep 28, 2010 12:29 PM
rating: 0
 
Patrick M

I hate all these post-season off-days!

In any event, Manuel made the obvious choice. However, it wouldn't have been all *that* bad to use Blanton, if he had to. Blanton's full-season stats are ugly, but the past 6 weeks or so he has pitched decently.

Sep 29, 2010 08:04 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

And if he gives them a decent start in the LCS, you can be sure they'll say thank you. ;)

Sep 29, 2010 11:22 AM
 
Webgemz4life

Maybe Blanton will even bash another postseason HR, haha

Sep 30, 2010 23:58 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Which would be fun, naturally. Nothing wrong with a fourth starter who can do something extra to help the cause.

Oct 01, 2010 10:25 AM
 
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