A radical idea to beat the Yankes (Cont.)
3. Yankees manager Joe Girardi has a big decision to make about his postseason rotation, a decision he doesn't have to reveal until Saturday. That's because his choices for the first three games would appear obvious: CC Sabathia in Game 1, A.J. Burnett in Game 2 and Andy Pettitte in Game 3. (Girardi could move Pettitte ahead of Burnett, but that would mean throwing Pettitte on three days' rest, an unnecessary push so early in the Series.) What happens after that is complicated, and may depend on how the Yankees stand in the Series. These would appear to be Girardi's options:
A. The Old-School Three-Starter Option. Sabathia is lined up and physically able to start Games 1, 4 and 7. But if Girardi wants to avoid using a fourth starter, that means he also would have to use Burnett on short rest in Game 5 and Pettitte on a short rest in Game 6. In a seven-game series, that would mean Girardi would be using a starter on short rest in Games 4, 5, 6 and 7. Does he really want to do that?
Here's how Burnett and Pettitte have fared on short rest in their careers:
Burnett's numbers are good, but he last pitched on short rest in September of 2008. Pettitte is 37 and has made 102 consecutive starts, postseason included, without pitching on short rest. Sounds risky.
B. The Straight Four-Man Rotation. Give the ball in Game 4 to Joba Chamberlain or Chad Gaudin, which still leaves your three horses to pitch six of the seven games on full rest. (Girardi might not want to start Gaudin with all that left-handed power in the Philadelphia lineup. Even though they're both right-handed, Gaudin's stuff doesn't translate as well against lefties, who have an OPS 150 points higher vs. Gaudin than Chamberlain: .823 to .673. And giving Chamberlain a start doesn't weaken the bullpen that much since David Robertson has been better than him of late.) The downside: Sabathia gets only two starts, but is a Game 7 bullpen option on two days' rest.
C. The Hybrid Rotation. Pitching Sabathia twice in the first four games and lined up for Game 7 worked out great in the ALCS. Why not do it again? Sabathia could start Games 1, 4 and 7. But instead of pushing Burnett and Pettitte, Girardi could start Chamberlain in Game 5 and Burnett in Game 6. The downside? Pettitte gets only one start, but he is a bullpen option on three days' rest for Game 6 behind Burnett.
I'm not about to tell Girardi which option is best. He has far more information than I do. And whether the Yankees are winning or losing the Series after three games may influence his decision. Of course, he can be expected to be roundly second-guessed no matter what he does.
4. Amid so much misinformation, let me try one more time to clear up the ongoing controversy about all the off days in the postseason schedule. Yes, everyone in uniform agrees that the schedule stinks. But it is not the fault of series that end early, nor the fault of the World Baseball Classic, nor the fault of Northeast fall weather.
The problem with the schedule comes down to this: In 2007 baseball accommodated a request from Fox to schedule World Series Game 1 for a Wednesday instead of a Saturday. The shift was requested because the prior format left two games, Games 1 and 6, set for Saturdays, the lowest viewing night of the week. The new format leaves only one game on a Saturday.
The idea makes sense, but the real problem is that baseball did nothing about adjusting the rest of the schedule to account for moving the start of the World Series by four days. Those four days became extra off days sprinkled throughout October.
The obvious solution should have been to make an adjustment to the front end of the schedule, i.e., when the regular season ends. When the World Series began on a Saturday, the regular season ended on a Sunday. When World Series Game 1 moved to a Wednesday, the end of the regular season stayed put. It should have been moved to a Thursday.
Why didn't baseball make the logical move? Because most owners don't care about the World Series. Twenty-eight of them don't get there. But all 30 owners get about 13 home weekend series a year, and nobody, let alone the half of them it would take, wanted to give up one home weekend series for the sake of a better postseason format. Weekend series traditionally draw a bit better than weeknight series (though that's debatable for teams out of the race in the last week). The preservation of clubs' self-interest above what's best for the sport always has held back baseball much more than in the NFL. So for the sake of preserving 15 weekend series, most of which are meaningless, baseball screws up its crown jewel event, the postseason.
5. How badly did the TV-friendly switch to a Wednesday World Series Game 1 spoil the natural rhythm of the sport? It's easy to see. Provided this World Series goes at least six games (and, ahem, assuming no rainouts), the Yankees or the Phillies will have "enjoyed" 16 off days this postseason -- seven more than the Yankees had when they won the first title of this decade. When you look at postseason off days for world champions this decade, you can see that the problem everyone is talking about was created in 2007 -- the year baseball accommodated Fox without fixing the schedule. Pay particular attention to what has happened to the off days since 2007:
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