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