Welcome to the best month of the year, well, at least starting on Tuesday. It's playoff time in Major League Baseball and we're set with an incredibly powerful field. We know we're going to see lots of home runs, but which rotations have the best bet to slow those down? Let's go team by team and rank each postseason rotation.
Likely rotation: It's a mystery.
What we do know is that if the Brewers get by the Nationals in the Wild Card Game, it'll be with heavy relief use and Craig Counsell will continue to be very aggressive on taking out his starter early in games. Some of the following names might start a game: Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Brandon Woodruff, Gio Gonzalez, Adrian Houser or Jordan Lyles. Again, though, it's a lot more about the relievers here.
Berrios had a 5.83 ERA in the last two months of the season. Odorizzi was amazing in his first 13 starts, but his last 17 resulted in a 4.77 ERA. However, maybe he's settled back in, because his last five starts showed a 3.21 ERA. The rest of the rotation isn't really good enough to be relied upon, so they'll need lots of help from a bullpen that has been a problem at times.
Manaea's return is huge. He's 4-0 with a 1.21 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 30 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings. The rest of the group is serviceable. They won't really be blowing anyone away, but I believe the rotation is still good enough to make a deep run, should their offense and bullpen perform well.
It's entirely possible this rotation performs as well as almost any other rotation, but there are question marks. Severino hasn't thrown more than 80 pitches in his three outings since returning from nearly a full season of being injured. Paxton wasn't very good at all until these last two months and now has a glute injury. Tanaka has mostly been good, but he's also been inconsistent. There's good upside, but there's obvious downside outcomes that are possible, too.
In Flaherty's last 16 starts, he has a 0.93 ERA. He's been the best pitcher in baseball in the second half, so he's an ace and having him ready for a possible Game 5 gives the Cardinals a boost. Wainwright is right around league average, but you have to like his playoff history. Hudson is a really nice three, too.
Folty was having a disastrous season, but he's pitched to a 1.94 ERA in his last eight starts, so it appears he's back, giving the Braves three front-line starters heading into the playoffs, though Keuchel isn't the ace he used to be.
Morton is a Cy Young candidate while Snell won the Cy Young last year. Yarbrough has been excellent in stretches this year at times, though he closed with a bad final month. Glasnow is the X-factor here. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball before going down with an injury May 10. He's back, but he's only worked up to 66 pitches with his longest outing being 4 1/3 innings. If he can get himself back to seven-inning form, the Rays could really make some noise with this group.
The Dodgers have the deepest group of potential starting pitchers in the majors and it helped them to an outstanding rotation ERA in the regular season. They only need four in the playoffs, though, and the rest of the capable starters can be used to shore up the bullpen. Buehler and Ryu need to start in Dodger Stadium, where they are significantly better, so it makes the decision to put Kershaw third easier. In the fourth spot, it's possible they go with Hill just twice through the order while having Ross Stripling, Dustin May et al. ready to get it to the late innings.
Sanchez closed on a strong string of starts and we know all about the Big Three. If they get by the Brewers, the Nationals pose a large threat to the Dodgers, especially in a short series. Scherzer doesn't have an exceptional playoff history, but I think he's more locked in than ever on the determined-to-succeed scale.
"I know what it takes to have to execute 100-plus pitches and try to execute every single one of them," he told me. "There are so many things that could enter your mind to prevent you from executing your pitch. It's amazing how one little thing can throw you off, mentally. For me, it works best when I just stay completely locked in and laser-focused and worry about what I can do."
"I know when I focus on myself, that's the best version of myself."
I'll predict a huge 2019 postseason for Scherzer, even if it's only one or two starts.
I'd be fine with flipping these and putting the Nationals one with Miley having posted a 16.68 ERA in his five September starts, but the top three is so damn good here. The top two will finish 1-2 in Cy Young voting and Greinke last start was one of the best of his career. The ball was just falling off the table. He's 8-1 with the Astros.
They are more like a 1a. and 1b. here at the top, but the Nats and Astros have the best playoff rotations. We'll see in the coming days and weeks how much this matters and I can't wait.