Now that everyone is breathing a little easier about the Phillies and the division, it seems a bit safer to think about things related to that naughty “P” word and discuss the rotation for the NLDS.
Three of the spots are as solid as ?uestlove. Don’t question the metaphor. The fourth and final spot, however, is still plenty debatable.
Our contenders, ladies and gentlemen, are rookie standout J.A. Happ and veteran reclamation Pedro Martinez. Both have been impressive at times, shaky in a few others. Yet their fates do not – or, at least, should not – rely solely on their performance this year. It’s basically a wash, seeing as we’re discussing a rotation slot that will only get one start per series.
With lefty relievers Scott Eyre and J.C. Romero battling health and durability issues, the bullpen seems to be running light of left-handed pitchers. Does Sergio Escalona make the playoff roster? Doubtful. Does Jack Taschner make the postseason ‘pen? Even less likely.
Consider this: a starter is incredibly important during the year – even a “fourth” starter – because he is counted on to make, hopefully, at least 25 league-average starts. In the playoffs, though, the dynamic shifts completely. The fourth starter on any roster needs only to make one start per series, nothing more. Unfortunately, this also presents a binding issue. Unless you want to run said fourth starter out on short rest after his appearance, or force him to make his fourth game start on short rest by bringing him in to a game prior, he is confined to that single game.
Personally, I’d rather confine Pedro to that one start and leave Happ in the ‘pen. Why? Happ has been the better starter over a bigger sample here in 2009, to be sure, but Martinez has proved his worth as a starter, as well. Either of them can be counted on to start a postseason game. That’s not in question. Given the shaky state of the bullpen’s lefties, it seems the issue has been forced. Happ could be available as a two-inning reliever two or three different times in a seven-game series, assuming the Phillies make it past the first round.
Is a hybrid necessary? Should Happ start a potential game four in the NLDS and then transition to the bullpen after?
I’d be in favor of either, so long as it means Happ is available as the go-to lefty in late-game situations.