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Friday, September 27, 2013

End of Season

The Tigers finish their season with a three game series against the dreadful Miami Marlins. The notable thing about this - other than the disparity between a team with over 90 wins and a team with over 100 losses - is that it is interleague.

I have mixed feeling about interleague play, but we'll let that go for now, except to say that in the past, all the interleague play happened at the same time, while now it's scattered randomly across the season, which makes it much less of an event.

The presence/absence of the DH makes game strategy very different in the two leagues. Just imagine the difference between Victor Martinez batting 5th vs Justin Verlander batting 9th, and you get the picture.  In these 3 games, the Tigers will either have to give up a big bat, or start Martinez as catcher.  That is not necessarily a bad outcome, but you probably don't want to do it for all three games. That would double his catching load for the year.

Then you get to the issue of pitchers batting and running the bases.  In the NL, they do it all the time.  For AL pitchers, this is wandering into terra incognita.  The chances of injury might be small, the the consequences could be devastating.  Imagine a pitcher in the batter's box getting hit on his hand like Jose Iglesias was recently. 

Another thing to consider is the 4 day lay-off between end of season and start of play-offs.  These gaps have not been kind to the Tigers in the past.  You could end up with several of your pitchers not having played in well over a week.

Since the outcomes of these games mean nothing, and the upcoming play-offs mean everything, if I were managing, I'd adopt a very unorthodox approach. 

I'd be reluctant to let a pitcher bat.  At all.  I'd be eager to swap out a pitcher every third inning or so and get my non-starting position players some at-bats.  Of course, in this specific situation, you might want to rest your regulars and start the bench.  That idea is pretty appealing in itself.  I'd probably mix and match over the three game series, and make sure everyone got some playing time.

If I did let a pitcher bat, and he got on base, I'd be quick to insert a pinch runner.  I don't know how likely an injury on the base paths is, but I'd bet it's higher for somebody who is not used to being there, and isn't going to be a skilled base runner anyway.

The Tigers have 16 active roster pitchers.  Eliminating the previous two starters and, Benoit reduces the available pitchers to 13.  I'd give every one of them some mound time.

Of course, this is all abstract, and in-game situations can have an influence on specific decisions.  But I'd be focused on the facts that this weeks results mean nothing and next weeks results mean everything.

But really, isn't this just about the worst scheduling gaffe imaginable?  MLB should be hanging their heads in shame.

I drafted this a few days ago, and see that Leyland is more more or less thinking along the same lines.

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