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October 26, 2001

The Daily Prospectus

Rotations

by Joe Sheehan

The Diamondbacks' starting rotation for the World Series is a popular topic. Bob Brenly has announced this as his intent for the first four games:

Curt Schilling
Randy Johnson
Brian Anderson
Miguel Batista

Assuming this holds, you can expect Schilling and Johnson to start Games Five and Six, with either Anderson or Batista in Game Seven. It's a conservative approach, and would keep the D'backs' aces from doing something--pitching on short rest--they haven't done all season long.

There's speculation that if the D'backs trail in the series after three games, Brenly would move Schilling up to pitch Game Four. This is the same speculation we heard in the Division Series and NLCS, but the Snakes led 2-1 both times, so the move was unnecessary.

I've been promoting a more aggressive approach, not to mention one that ignores the lesser of the two left-handers:

Schilling
Johnson
Batista
Schilling
Johnson
Batista
Schilling

Dealing with the second issue first...I strongly disagree with the decision to use Anderson ahead of Batista in the third game. Anderson was outpitched by Batista six ways from Sunday during the season.

Season:

Batista: 3.36 ERA, 139 1/3 IP, 5.8 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, .226/.320/.349

Anderson: 5.20 ERA, 13 1/3 IP, 3.7 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, .295/.332/.510

Postseason

Batista: 3.95 ERA, 13 2/3 IP, 4.6 K/9, 2.0 BB/9

Anderson: 2.45 ERA, 7 1/3 IP, 3.7 K/9, 1.2 BB/9

It's not like the Yankees have a significant problem with left-handers (.261/.338/.439, vs. .269/.332/.434 against righties), and Yankee Stadium hasn't had a Death Valley since 1983 or so. This is Brenly either overthinking a situation, or overreacting to Anderson's good outing last week against the Braves. In any case, it's a bad idea.

The only positive I can see if that Brenly gets an extra right-handed reliever he actually might use--Batista--in the first two games. Batista, though, would have more value as a starter, and in fact has pitched very well in his two postseason starts, but poorly in two brief relief appearances.

The bigger difference between Brenly's rotation and my idea is that Schilling and Johnson would pitch on three days' rest, enabling the Diamondbacks to get three starts from Schilling. I think you can set aside concerns about overuse at this point, and with these pitchers, and focus on maximizing their innings.

The counterargument is that neither pitcher has pitched on three days' rest this year. This is true, but both will have two extra days of rest coming into the series, which could mitigate the fatigue factor through the Series. Given the importance of the games, the gap between the two aces and the rest of the staff, and my belief that the Yankees may be vulnerable to hard throwers, I think the D'backs should ride Schilling and Johnson, if they agree to it.

After I threw this out there Wednesday, lots of people wrote in with the suggestion that the Diamondbacks use one of their aces on three days' rest in the World Series, but keep the other on a regular cycle. Something like this:

Schilling
Johnson
Bachelor #1
Schilling
Bachelor #2
Johnson
Schilling

The idea is that Johnson would only get two starts anyway, so there's little to be gained by using him on short rest. I agree with the idea of protecting the Big Unit, but disagree that this is the optimal solution for a couple of reasons:

  • If Game Five happens, it happens with the series 3-1 or 2-2. If the Diamondbacks trail or are tied, using Johnson is pretty much mandatory. Taking the risk of falling behind 3-2 is dangerous, especially with one of the non-aces throwing in Game Six. But even if the D'backs are up 3-1, I think you have to use Johnson to try and close it out. There's simply no reason to give a team like the Yankees an opening to come back.

    Ask Art Howe.

  • By using Johnson in Game Five, there's the chance that he could come back and pitch relief in Game Seven on two days' rest. Maybe not a lot of relief, but it sure would be something to put in Joe Torre's head come the late innings of the deciding game.

It's probably a moot point, because Brenly has announced his rotation and, despite rumors that Schilling is lobbying to be worked harder, seems intent on using four starters in the Series. If the D'backs lose in seven games--my prediction for the Series--there's going to be a lot of unhappy Diamondback fans.

Enjoy the game Saturday night, folks. I'll have a column Sunday about Game 1.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

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

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