As the playoffs begin with the ALDS beginning today, the Red Sox square off against the World Series hopeful Astros. The Astros have arguably the best lineup in baseball regardless of who is playing that day. They led the league in Runs Scored, Hits, Runs Batted In, Doubles, Batting Average, Slugging %, and Total Bases. Throughout the season, they have dominated opposing pitchers in every series and the playoffs should be no different. As long as the team’s offense stays on the same pace and track, scoring won’t be a problem for this team; however pitching may be.
The team’s pitching staff has rotated 7 different pitchers over the course of the season, mainly due to injury. The staff has performed much better than expected coming into the 2017 season and the key to victory is if they can carry it into the postseason. Pitching is easily the most valuable commodity for playoff baseball and the Astros have two Cy Young winners to help lead the rotation, Justin Verlander, and Dallas Keuchel. It has already been announced that Verlander will start game 1 and Keuchel will start game 2, this leaves the rest of the rotation up in the air. My proposed starting rotation for the playoffs is:
I argue for Collin McHugh and Lance McCullers to be moved into specialty, long relief roles for the betterment of the team. Both players’ seasons have been injury plagued. McHugh getting a late start to the season and only starting 12 games is an issue for me. While McCullers has only started 22 games, his inability to pitch with intelligence is his main problem. He finds himself more times than not, with high pitch counts by the 6th inning because he is always looking to strike people out. McHugh not getting enough starts under his belt this season, coupled with McCullers gunslinging mentality are great reasons to move them to the pen for key moments. Some analysts would argue to place Peacock back into the long relief role, a role he started the season in, yet he has arguably been the Astros best Starter of 2017. Peacock has one of the most effective sliders in baseball with a 19% whiff percentage; coupled with the struggles that the Red Sox roster has against Peacock, the 13 hitters on the Sox have a .218 Batting Average and a .295 On Base% against Peacock for their careers’. Peacock has pitched the best baseball of his 6-year career and has solidified his opportunity to pitch when it matters most in my opinion.
In the playoffs, you don’t necessarily need the conventional 5 man rotation. In a best of 7 series, you want your aces on the mound as much as they can muster. Unlike the regular season, games are not on a back to back schedule so the rest is built into the playoff schedule and key in this is the “Andrew Miller effect” if you will. Miller pitched in 10 separate playoff games in the 2016 postseason, with 18.4 innings, allowing only 3 runs. Cutting down the rotation of 6 allows for Lance McCullers and Colin McHugh to be moved into the long relief roles. On the chance that a starter can’t make it into the middle of the game, the Astros will have 2 starters who can eat the middle innings much like the gem that was Andrew Miller for the Cleveland Indians last year. Having two SPs to help ease the number of innings the bullpen must pitch, allows AJ Hinch to use bullpen pitchers in any fashion or at any time. The key to the Astros playoff success rides solely on the ability of two things; AJ Hinch’s ability to manage the pitching and the Starting Pitchers capability to keep the other lineups at bay.