Off the top confession: I believe Indians skipper Terry Francona is the best manager in baseball. I'm a huge fan. He generally always makes the right move and he has an outstanding personality in the pre- and post-game press conferences, notably in the postseason.
All this doesn't mean I have to agree with every single thing he does. In terms of his rotation for the ALDS, I just don't get it. On Tuesday, Francona announced his starting rotation for the ALDS, where the Indians await the winner of thenight.
Francona: Bauer Game 1, Kluber Game 2, Carrasco Game 3, Tomlin Game 4 (subject to change), Kluber Game 5, if needed.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) October 3, 2017
With two built-in off-days, Corey Kluber getting the ball in Game 5 would be on normal rest. That's the good part. The rest is where I'm totally lost.
Kluber is likely to win the AL Cy Young. He's been a one-man wrecking crew since returning from the DL on June 1, going 15-2 with a 1.62 ERA and 224 strikeouts against only 23 walks in those 23 starts. He last pitched on Saturday, putting him on normal rest for Game 1 (Thursday). Not starting Kluber in Game 1 is overthinking things, right? Just go with your best in the first game and take the series lead.
Plus, why plan on losing two games? Sure, a team needs to have the ability to play the whole series and a good plan should be put in place, but altering the rotation to have Kluber in Game 5 means putting Trevor Bauer as the Game 1 starter is a bad process.
Further, why is Bauer starting Game 1 instead of Carlos Carrasco if they are dead set on not starting Kluber?
Carrasco fits the mold of a postseason ace. He ranked in the top 10 in the AL in ERA, WHIP, strikeouts, wins (if you're into that sorta thing), strikeout rate, walk rate, K/BB and more. If we're really planning on the thing going five games, both Kluber and Carrasco are available options for Game 5. Kluber on short rest in Game 4 and Carrasco on normal rest in Game 5 would also be possible. Instead, he's only getting two starts out of Kluber if it goes five and one out of Carrasco.
Perhaps Francona has decided against riding Kluber on short rest this year given that he ran out of gas by Game 7 of the World Series this year and the rotation is healthier this time around. That's fair. So go with him in Games 1 and 5.
Basically, Francona has the best pitcher in the AL along with a top 10 pitcher in the AL and he's going with Bauer in Game 1. Bauer had a good season, sure, but he's at a 4.19 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. He still walks too many and he had 10 starts with at least four earned runs allowed this season. He was much better down the stretch and posted a 2.57 ERA in the final two months. By no means would I even be talking negatively about him if it weren't for Kluber and Carrasco coming after him.
Carrasco's splits show that he's been far better on the road (2.65 ERA) this year than at home (3.99), but he's still better at home than Bauer is overall and I'd much rather just have the best pitcher going earlier in the series. Again, grabbing the splits just feels like overthinking it absent something just awful. He just utterly dominated the Twins at home in his final start of the season.
The Indians could well sweep the series -- or at least just win it -- anyway and I still think Tito is the best manager in baseball. If they do end up losing Game 1, however, it's worth circling back here and wondering why Francona decided to overthink this thing instead of just going with Kluber.