• Rickt: I am the biggest Cal Jr fan around but one of my good friends played minor l...

Howard Bryant is quickly becoming my new favorite writer over at ESPN.com.

First I find that he wrote a column the other day which almost exactly duplicates the sentiments I expressed here on umpbump about the Sun setting on the Yankees dynasty .

And now I find that his latest column expresses almost exactly my amazement at Indians manager Eric Wedge’s decision to pitch Paul Byrd in game four tomorrow, instead of probable Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia on three days rest.

I mean, seriously, Paul Byrd?

paulbyrdold.jpgEric Wedge obviously doesn’t understand what the playoffs are all about. Pitch counts and proper rest are all well and good in the regular season, but in the playoffs, if you lose, you go home. And cry into your Jack Daniels for six months about the one that got away.

Sure, Paul Byrd won 15 games this year. But those were just about the softest 15 victories you can get. Astonishingly, of those 15 wins, only 3 (yes, only three) were against teams with winning records!

This past season Byrd had a very middling ERA of 4.59, his 11.18 hits per 9 innings was the second worst of all qualified starting pitchers in the whole major leagues, and he was the beneficiary of more than 6 runs a game of run support. So despite the gaudy total of 15 wins Byrd was at best a major-league average pitcher this season.

And is major-league average really the kind of guy you want to be throwing in a do-or-die playoff series? Let alone throwing him against the best offense in the entire major leagues?

I mean, this isn’t some NL Central team that snuck into the playoffs with 84 wins. These are the freaking NEW YORK YANKEES. Yes, the are down 2-1, but they score more runs than God, have about 1,000 times more playoff experience than you, they just got up off the mat with a momentum-building 8-4 victory, and oh yeah, they are playing for their beloved manager’s job.

And sure enough, looking at the numbers, in his last four starts against the New York Yankees Paul Byrd is 0-3 with a 6.86 ERA.

I just don’t get it. Why bother with Byrd at all when your alternative is to come back-to-back in consecutive games with two 19-game winner, Cy Young types who have already shown their ability to dominate the Yankees? Sure, Sabathia will be going on short rest, but history has shown that working 3 days rest is quite doable in the playoffs, especially for an ace-type like Sabathia (See file: Becket, Josh, 2003 World Series), and even if Sabathia falters, the Indians could then bring on Fausto Carmona on full rest in game five. Given just how good these two guys are, and the fact that the Indians only need one more win, aren’t the odds pretty good that at least one of the two can get a victory, if you give them two shots in a row?

And it’s not even like you would be messing up the rotation for the ALCS. If C.C. were to pitch and win game 4, Wedge could go with Carmona and Sabathia in the first two games against Boston on full rest, whereas if Byrd loses, they are going to have to throw Westbrook in one of those games.

Not that Wedge should even be worrying about the ALCS anyway. In the playoffs nothing is assured, and you can’t afford to waste any games on mediocre 4th starters like Paul Byrd if you don’t absolutely have to.

And the Indian’s don’t have to, which is why this makes no sense.

15 Responses to “Eric Wedge needs to get a clue”

  1. I don’t exactly remember the stat, so take this for what it’s worth (nothing), but in the last 10 years, teams starting pitchers on three days rest in the playoffs are something like 4-17 in those games.

    Maybe that’s why.

  2. Nick Kapur says:

    Look, I’ve seen all the numbers, and I don’t think there’s any denying that pitchers have, on the whole, been less effective on three days rest than on four days rest in recent years.

    But I would argue that these things have to be evaluated on a case by case basis, comparing the expected reduced effectiveness with the known ineffectiveness of the alternative starter.

    We are not talking about Ted Lilly vs. Jason Marquis here. We are talking about the Cy Young of the American League vs. Paul Byrd.

  3. I don’t have a dog in this fight and Paul Byrd will probably get drilled tonight, but I’m going to play devil’s advocate here. Of those 21 or so pitchers who’ve started on three days rest, how many do you think were big time “aces”? I would argue that most of them were dominant pitchers who struggled when they came in on three days rest.

    Nobody is going to rush Jason Marquis to pitch on three days rest. That being said, I’m not sure if CC on light rest isn’t still better than a healthy Paul Byrd.

    Worst case scenario for Tribe fans: Indians get rocked, and CC has a chance to close out the series on full rest in Cleveland. Not too bad.

  4. Coley Ward says:

    It was only a matter of time, and one of the guys at Vegas Watch made sure that time was NOW…

    http://fireericwedge.blogspot.com

  5. Thank you for supporting FEW! UmpBump has just been added to FEW’s blogroll (which, in turn, has just been created).

    And FEW has had 41 unique visitors today, so expect some serious traffic coming your way.

  6. Sarah Green says:

    For what it’s worth, the Indians radio announcers were all over this one tonight. The record for pitchers starting on short rest in the playoffs is truly appalling: 12 and 30 since 1995 (I think that’s what they said…I was driving).

    Plus, we just saw an ace-type pitcher flounder in just that situation in the person of Chien-Ming Wang, who was starting on short rest tonight and couldn’t even make it out of the second inning.

    I think there’s something to be said for just settling in and calmly playing your game.

  7. Nick, I think you owe a certain manager an apology.

    We can wait all day young man.

  8. Nick Kapur says:

    No way. I won’t play that game.

    Decisions can still be the wrong ones even if they work out anyway. Just because Byrd won doesn’t invalidate my points. It’s a sample size of one. I would maintain that if you pitched Paul Byrd against that Yankees lineup 100 times in a row, he is definitely going to lose more than half the time.

  9. But it wasn’t the wrong decision. It was clearly the right decision, hence the favorable outcomes:

    1. Indians win in 4.

    2. ENTIRE staff will be FULLY rested for Sox.

    3. C.C. can now start game 1.

    4. Fausto can now start game 2.

    I hate throwing pitchers out on short rest…especially against a lineup that is ICE cold. The Yankees couldn’t have hit Adam Eaton in this series…so Paul Byrd seemed like a good choice.

  10. Zvee, I think you’re being a little cavalier about Sunday’s start. Jake Westbrook is no Adam Eaton, and the Yanks pasted him for 6 runs.

    Pitching Byrd was one of those decisions where you’re only a hero if it works. If it doesn’t, you’re the goat.

    Honestly, I was more surprised to see Wang out there again, especially after the Indians drilled him in the first game. I guess Torre didn’t have any other options to throw out there.

  11. Nick Kapur says:

    Again, all those favorable outcomes only happen if Byrd wins.

    My whole argument came out of the fact that Byrd might lose. And he very well could have. And then none of those could things would have been true.

  12. Sarah Green says:

    Well, Torre was hoping that Wang’s better record at home would carry the day. “Wang at home” and “Wang on the road” has been two different pitchers this season.

    But even if the Indians had lost, Wedge still might not have been the goat because they’d just be playing in a decisive game five. If the Indians had NEEDED to win last night’s game to prolong their season, then maybe you would have seen CC out there.

  13. Zvee, did you throw in that Adam Eaton reference just to piss me off?

  14. Paul Moro says:

    Honestly, prior to last night, I saw both sides of the argument and couldn’t come up with a solution. While it all worked out for the best in Cleveland’s favor, before we annoint Wedge as a genius, I think we need to remember how freaking lucky Byrd was last night. I mean, ten baserunners over five innings usually leads to more than two runs. Plus, he had two Ks over 5 so the Yanks did put the ball in play. They just didn’t fall.

  15. Nick,

    I realized after I posted that I had not fully considered your argument. Now, I see where you’re coming from, but feel that when a team is up by a game in a short series and their WORST option is to go back home and throw the AL Cy Young candidate/winner for game 5, why not take the chance of having things work out beautifully in game 4?

    Wedge took the chance and it paid off beautifully. Although, I do agree with Paul that TBS GREATLY exaggerated Byrd’s performance…whip of 2.0 over 5 innings, 4+ era, 2 ks…didn’t deserve that much praise.

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