What is Going on With NLCS Rotations?
A 21 year-old kid in Game 1? From Joe Torre? A 40 year-old, half-season ace in Game 2? What is going on with the starting pitching decisions in the NLCS?
While the ALCS's pitching debate has devolved into an argument over the merits (or lack thereof) of a three-man rotation from the Yankees, the decisions behind the NLCS's matchups have spiraled completely out of control. First, Joe Torre -- long the veteran loyalist -- dropped Randy Wolf from the No. 1 starter's spot in the NLDS all the way to No. 4 with a berth in the World Series on the line. Then Charlie Manuel decides to dump Brett Myers from the team's NLCS roster -- the same guy who has been a Phillies stalwart for a number of years -- to make a spot for Pedro Martinez, whom he promptly decides to pitch in front of Cliff Lee, who could have thrown on three days' rest in Game 2 ... and potentially then again in Game 6 if the series gets that far.
On the statistical surface, Torre's decision makes good sense. Despite inconsistency, Kershaw has been Los Angeles' best starting pitcher throughout the regular season. The now-drinking-aged lefty had an impressive 2.79 ERA despite his 8-8 record, and he backed up those outings in the NLDS, pitching 6 2/3 innings while allowing just two runs against the Cardinals. Making his case even stronger is Kershaw's ability to get copious amounts of swinging strikes. Against a team like the Phillies, all too happy to take their cuts, that could be a powerful factor.
That's the good news about Kershaw. Here's the bad: he walks a lot of batters. A lot of batters. He averaged nearly five walks per nine innings during the regular season. Despite allowing just a single walk in his first outing, even the Dodgers' coaching staff was all too ready to recognize that he's likely to walk a hefty few Phillies come Game 1 tonight.
So, is a high strike out total worth the risk of a high walk total? Sure, you can make that case, and Torre, despite his past preferences for veterans, may be playing the right numbers by going to Kershaw early in a key game at home.
The case Charlie Manuel is making for Pedro Martinez to pitch Game 2, however, can only be grounded in blind faith.
Martinez enters the Phillies' rotation after being omitted in the team's NLDS series against the Rockies. There's your first surprise. Add to that his struggles during his final regular season outing -- yes, he's 5-1 since signing with Philadelphia and holds a 3.63 ERA, but that last start hurt -- and it's puzzling why Manuel would put so much faith in a man within two weeks of his 38th birthday in a game that could be absolutely essential for the Phillies.
Think of it this way: If the Phillies fall in Game 1 out in Los Angeles tonight, would you feel better as a Dodgers fan with Pedro Martinez on the mound, pitching on nearly two weeks' rest, or Cliff Lee, pitching on three days' rest?
I know who I'm taking, and I'm a card-carrying member of the Pedro Martinez fan club -- and a critic of pitching a starter on short rest.
So, whose making a bigger blunder here, Torre relying on youth or Manuel going with his (rather sizable) gut? What do you think? Or are they both on to something?
October 15, 2009; 4:36 PM ET
Categories: Dodgers , Phillies | Tags: Dodgers, NLCS, Phillies, playoffs
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