ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 15: Scott Feldman #39 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Seattle Mariners on September 15, 2012 at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)
Someone pointed out in the comments of the morning thread the other day that MLB's short-sighted scheduling regarding the one-game Wild Card could have some serious ramifications for whichever team ends up with the best record in the A.L.
Here's MLB's postseason schedule. The team in the A.L. with the best record plays the later-starting of the two rounds of the ALDS, in order to accommodate the travel schedule for the team that wins the Wild Card game.
Let's assume, for the sake of discussion, the Rangers win the A.L. West and end up with the best record in the A.L.*
Texas would have their first two ALDS games on the road, on Sunday, October 7, and on Monday, October 8. And let's assume for the sake of discussion that Yu Darvish goes in Game 1 of the ALDS and Matt Harrison goes in Game 2.
That leads to Game 3 in Texas on October 10, and we'll assume Ryan Dempster starts that game. Game 4 and Game 5 are also in Texas, if necessary, on October 11 and October 12. Again, for discussion purposes, we're going to assume those extra games are necessary. Derek Holland pitches Game 4, and Yu Darvish, on regular rest, pitches Game 5.
The Rangers win Game 5. Yay! There's celebrating in the clubhouse, and we're all happy.
And then the next day, everyone is back at TBIA for Game 1 of the ALCS, which is scheduled for Saturday, October 13.
Matt Harrison, who started Game 2 of the ALDS, would get the ball and pitch on regular rest for Game 1 of the ALCS.
Which leads us to our dilemma regarding Game 2 of the ALCS, which is scheduled for October 14. Ryan Dempster started Game 3 on October 10, which means that if you start him, you'd be starting him on 3 days rest. I don't think the Rangers will want to do that.
The Rangers' best bet in a situation like this is to hope that the bullpen wasn't overly taxed the previous two days, and go with, essentially, a "bullpen start." Have Feldman (who appears to have the inside track for a playoff roster spot as a long man) start the game and plan on using him three innings. Then go to Robbie Ross for a couple of innings, Alexi Ogando for an inning or two, then look to Koji Uehara, Mike Adams, and Joe Nathan to close it out.
This works if the bullpen is relatively rested, if Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison pitched deep into Game 5 of the ALDS and Game 1 of the ALCS. But if you've got a bullpen that's been worked hard, you might not have everyone available and able to throw that many innings, which leads to major complications.
This scenario could also complicate the setting of a playoff roster. If you're going to play five games in a row, you're more likely to want to go with an 8 man bullpen and a 4 man bench for the ALCS, which means you might not be able to keep Leonys Martin as a pinch runner or Brandon Snyder as an emergency catcher/righty bench bat. And if, say, Feldman has to pitch multiple innings as your long man in any of the final three games of the ALDS, he might not be rested enough to come back and start Game 2, which could mean Martin Perez making the ALCS roster instead of Feldman or someone like Michael Kirkman.
Its a mess, and an unnecessary complication, and something that MLB shouldn't have let happen. The other problem is that the short break means that, if your #1 starter pitches Game 1 and Game 5 of the ALDS, then that pitcher will only be able to start one game in the ALCS, unless you wanted to bring him back on 3 days rest for a game. Under the alignment referenced above, the Rangers could have Darvish pitch Game 3 on the road in the ALCS on three days rest, then bring him back on regular rest for Game 7. Otherwise, they'd be using Dempster in Game 3, Darvish in Game 4, Harrison in Game 5, Holland in Game 6, and Dempster in Game 7 of the ALCS.
There's a couple of bits of good news, though. The winner of the other ALDS series won't know where they will be playing in Game 1 of the ALCS until the day before the ALCS starts, so they can't go somewhere early and rest. And even if the ALCS goes 7 games, there will be two days off before the World Series starts, compared to just one day off after a potential Game 7 of the NLCS.
Still, this is poor scheduling by MLB, the rest of having slapped together the Wild Card plan at the last minute this year. I suspect that this will be resolved by 2013. That doesn't help whichever team has the best record in the A.L. this year, though.