On Friday, Major League Baseball will officially kick off the new era that it planned out way back in March. Two wild-card play-in games will be played for the first time ever, with the winners moving directly to the Division Series round.
It's a cool idea, but what must be understood is that the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves are all canaries in a coalmine. We have no way of knowing how the wild-card games are going to impact their chances of winning it all if they happen to advance.
Starting pitching is the primary concern. The Braves, for example, are turning to staff ace Kris Medlen on Friday in hopes that he can silence the Cardinals. The Cardinals are turning to their own staff ace, Kyle Lohse, in hopes that he can be the one doing the silencing.
This is all well and good from a theater perspective, but it means that the Braves or Cardinals won't be able to use their aces in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals if and when they advance.
That's probably just fine with the Nationals. And for their part, their pitching is pretty well set. The same is true of several of the other teams already locked into the Division Series round.
Here's a look at how each team's starting pitching is projected to line up in the Division Series round, complete with discussions about each team's outlook for the postseason.
Note: Projections are my own unless otherwise noted. Stats come from Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.