Prematurely Looking Ahead to a “Playoff” Rotation
By Lee Stitzel
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
The Rangers win. The Rays lose. Texas is back in the playoffs and they control their own destiny. After a painful month or so of freefalling the Rangers have clawed their way back into contention. If there were not another game tomorrow the Rangers would be in a play in game against Tampa Bay. It is a letdown after being in first most of the year but it is more than could be hoped for a week ago. This team has shown veteran resilience and has handled business against poor opponents this week. It has been a wild and welcome week of quality play. The pitching and offense have returned to form and not a minute too soon. Rangers fans cannot ask for anything more at this point than for a chance for Yu Darvish to take this team into a play in game.
The team has set up a chance to ride Yu Darvish into a play in game. Let’s be honest the play in game is not the playoffs; the wild card game is barely the playoffs. If Darvish and the Rangers win Sunday they are guaranteed a play in game. Whether Darvish wins tomorrow or not, is inconsequential to the quality of his season. He already has four 1-0 losses this year. If the Rangers had supplied him a mere two runs in half those games the team would be leading the wild card instead of tied for the second spot and tomorrow’s game would not decide our “playoff” spot.
Using Darvish tomorrow leads to an interesting situation. At the risk of angering the baseball gods by talking about playoff possibilities before the team has a playoff spot locked up let’s examine the intriguing rotation possibilities based on how the various game 162s go.
If Texas seizes the second wild card spot they play in Cleveland Wednesday. This means Ron Washington has Derek Holland who can go on four days’ rest, Alexi Ogando who can go on normal rest or either Matt Garza or Martin Perez who can go on extra rest.
If the standings hold as is then Texas plays the play in game against Tampa in Tampa on Monday. This means Ron Washington will not have Darvish, Derek Holland or Alexi Ogando available for the play in. His options are Matt Garza on four days rest or Martin Perez on normal rest for the play in. That leaves the wild card game options as mentioned before; minus the starter who throws the play in.
If we get a three way tie with both Tampa and Texas winning while Cleveland loses then the Rangers have Monday off and play the loser of the Cleveland and Tampa on Tuesday. This means Ogando is also an option on four days’ rest for the play in.
Because I do not trust Ron Washington I am guessing that Matt Garza gets play in if it is necessary and almost certainly gets the wild card if the play in is not necessary. If Garza has to throw the play in, Wash will hopefully use Holland on short rest Wednesday.
If the Rangers run the gambit then Darvish gets to throw game one in the ALDS. If Garza throws the wild card then the ALDS rotation should go; Darvish, Holland, Ogando, Garza. If Garza throws the play in and Holland throws the wild card we should see Darvish, Garza, Ogando, Holland in the ALDS.
If it were up to me Garza would not make the playoff rotation. How many more times do we have to watch him give up four or five runs before Washington realizes Perez is a better pitcher right now? Perez’s September numbers are: 3.48 ERA, 3.92 FIP, 4.21 xFIP, 6.1 k/9 2.69 bb/9 and 1.48 WHIP. Garza’s September numbers are a 5.09 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 4.10 xFIP, 6.59 k/9 2.83 bb/9 and 1.64 WHIP. (Fangraphs) These are comparable numbers to some degree as Garza’s better strikeout rate is driving the slightly better FIP and xFIP but Perez walked fewer, been hit less and given up fewer runs in September. The numbers are similar to these if you take the second half numbers for Perez and Garza.
The end result is neither has been great. It is not optimal but Darvish has a chance to put our season into the hands of one of these two. I hope Perez is the one who gets the chance to take us to the wild card game if the play in is necessary.