2011 MLB Playoffs: Aces Fall, Rookies Win and Rotation Strategies Change?
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The conventional wisdom in the playoffs is to rely mostly on your 2-3 best pitchers, pitchers who have won 12 or more games and faced their opponent multiple times in the course of their careers.
Conventional wisdom may have been proven wrong.
Many of the pitchers who I ranked highly going into the postseason have been hammered. C.J. Wilson, Doug Fister and James Shields were each drilled in their openers, each surrendering at least six runs.
Even the indefatigable looked threatened. Roy Halladay gave up three runs in the first inning to St. Louis before settling down and getting run support. Justin Verlander only gave up one run in his start against the Yankees, but considering his flustered condition during the game, it is likely he would have given up more had it continued.
It was a different story for rookie pitchers. Tampa Bay's Matt Moore, who began the season in the minors and had never started before, threw a two-hitter against Texas. The next day, rookie Yankee pitcher Ivan Nova followed that up with six scoreless innings.
In fact, in more matchups than not, the pitcher who was better in the regular season was worse in his postseason lid-lifter.
For a fourth or fifth starter, a playoff team should choose...
I know what you're thinking...this is just an anomaly that will even itself out. To that I say, consider Madison Bumgarner, who was a new entity going into the 2010 season. In the 2010 playoffs, he was 2-0, including a victory in the World Series, and had a 2.18 ERA.
Outside of the playoffs, consider Stephen Strasburg, who is averaging 11 strikeouts per nine innings in the limited starts he's gotten, largely in part due to the fact that he is an unknown quantity.
Rookie pitchers are able to be successful in their early starts, largely because batters and coaches have yet to figure them out and, therefore, pinpoint their weaknesses.
The move to send experienced pitchers such as Bartolo Colon, in favor of people like Nova, should be considered not only due to the youngsters' apparent success but also because it adds to the elements of surprise and brinkmanship ever-present in the postseason.
Bottom line: Try something different. Lose an old hand or long man; throw in a rookie.
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