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John Smoltz doesn’t know his Leo Durocher

Sep 22, 2012, 12:20 PM EDT

(FILES) This 25 August, 2002, file photo

Braves fans are arguing among ourselves a little bit. Not a ton, but a little. The argument: should Kris Medlen start the one-game wild card playoff for which the Braves seem destined or should Tim Hudson.  I say “a little bit,” because almost everyone I talk to thinks it should be Medlen because the dude has been insane in the second half.

John Smoltz has another idea, though:

John Smoltz believes the Braves should take the gamble of going with one of their other starting pitchers in this must-win game. His belief is that the Braves would increase their odds of winning the best-of-five Division Series if they would have Medlen and Hudson available to pitch the first two games which would be played at Turner Field.

Maybe Smoltz is just subconsciously advocating for the third-best pitcher out of some leftover Maddux/Glavine issues.

Whatever the case, like Leo Durocher said: “You don’t save a pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it may rain.”

Pitch Medlen. You don’t win the NLDS until you get to the NLDS. And Medlen gives you the best chance to do that.

  1. mrwillie - Sep 22, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    Medlen. Huddy gives up to many early inning runs for a one game playoff.

  2. cur68 - Sep 22, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    Meh. 1st Place Team’s Problems*

    *yes I know they’re not in 1st place: its just firster place than my rooting interest…which is somehow good for me…or something

  3. stex52 - Sep 22, 2012 at 1:33 PM

    Gotta be Medlen. To rephrase Durocher, let tomorrow take care of itself.

  4. nothimagain - Sep 22, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    I understand the ‘you have to win today in order to play tomorrow’ mantra, however if baseball is truly a game of numbers then they shouldn’t be disregarded simply to yield to conventional wisdom.
    If Atlanta calculates the chances of winning the playoff game and NLDS are higher starting the #3 then that is what it should do.
    Why do something that has a lesser chance?

  5. kevinbnyc - Sep 22, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    Craig would be working on a Saturday to report on the Braves.

  6. jtorrey13 - Sep 22, 2012 at 3:03 PM

    I’m still thinking about this one as a thought experiment, but I don’t think there is any getting around the logic of using your best pitcher as many times as you can. (Start them first and use them again and again as necessary.)

    I wanted to use batting order as an example of that, but then I realized that per The Book (and this essay by Sky Kalkman – http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2009/3/17/795946/optimizing-your-lineup-by) that lineup doesn’t really matter over a 162 game season. Does a lineup really matter over one game then? That depends on the game. If you know beforehand that your pitcher will pitch a shutout, your lineup just needs to score one run. Scoring that run depends on the hitters, the opposing defense and the opposing pitcher. But, removing the shutout, the offense still depends on the hitters, the opposing defense and the opposing pitcher.

    Shouldn’t the choice of a pitcher look at those same type of things?

    Since that won’t be known until much later, what else can we look at? Yes, WAR, FIP, SIERA and ERA- are nice, but they tell us the same thing – Medlen. That doesn’t help my thought experiment. How about a game by game look?

    In 10 starts, Medlen has 4 starts with 0 runs allowed (dont’ care if earned or not – both count the same for opponent – those opponents by the way, Padres twice, Nationals, Marlins) and 5 starts with 1 run allowed (Nationals, Rockies, Mets, Astros, Marlins). For the best chance for the Braves to win, I’d say these two outcomes are the most ideal. Let’s call them “great starts.” (The last start was 2 runs allowed – for your edification: http://www.fangraphs.com/statsd.aspx?playerid=9417&position=P but I’m going to leave out the 2 run games.)

    How do the other Braves starters compare to Medlen in “great starts”? (Info from game log tab on FanGraphs.)

    Medlen – 10 games started, 4 games with zero runs (Padres twice, Nationals, Marlins), 5 games with 1 run (Nationals, Rockies, Mets, Astros, Marlins)
    Hudson – 26 games started, 5 games with zero runs (Rockies, Padres, Phillies, Marlins, Rays), 4 games with 1 run (Giants, Astros, Diamondbacks, Cubs)
    Minor – 28 games started, 3 games with zero runs (Brewers, Rockies, Marlins), 7 games with 1 run (Nationals, Dodgers, Phillies, Giants, Yankees, Marlins, Brewers)
    Hanson – 29 games started, 0 games with zero runs, 6 games with 1 run (Marlins twice, Reds, Cardinals, Pirates, Mets)

    Looking at this, the Marlins appear 7 times. (That’s just interesting – the rest of the division combines for 6: Mets twice, Nationals twice and Phillies twice.) Since they are at different times of the year and with different lineups, I’m not sure it means much, but there could be the start of a debate. Total “great starts” with zero or one run:

    Medlen – 9 (2 “good teams” (.500 or better); 7 “bad teams”)
    Hudson – 9 (4 “good teams”; 5 “bad teams”)
    Minor – 10 (7 “good teams”; 3 “bad teams”)
    Hanson – 6 (2 “good teams”; 4 “bad teams”)

    I’m not saying that Minor should start, but, if you’re facing a team with strong left-handed hitting and tangible platoon splits, Minor may be the better choice especially when looking at the quality of his opponents in his “great starts.” Again, this is just a thought experiment to see if there is another alternative to Medlen, and I’m not sure I’d bet against Medlen. However, when making a decision, I’d take all the possible information before making it and that means waiting until late next week to make it so you can look at the opposing team and possible opposing lineup and pitcher.

    • Chip Caray's Eyebrows - Sep 22, 2012 at 5:05 PM

      tl;dr

      • pepefreeus - Sep 23, 2012 at 2:23 AM

        TWFGS

    • joelgold - Sep 22, 2012 at 10:40 PM

      Wow! That’s a lot of work and thought that will have no impact on who actually starts for the Braves. Appreciate the passion.

    • don444 - Sep 23, 2012 at 4:53 AM

      Yeah, I can certainly appreciate the passion for statistical analysis, but I feel compelled to add that it might be just a bit overblown in your case if you felt the need to delve so deeply into a question that honestly doesn’t require that level of review. The best guy available has earned the right to pitch such a vital game for his team and if the Cards (hopefully) send him to the showers in the third then so be it, you still did the right thing.

  7. dcfan4life - Sep 22, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    This logic can be flipped. If you trust your 3rd best pitcher to win a play in game, then you can trust him to win in a divisional series. Difference is 1 loss in a play in and your seasons done, you have to lose 3 in a divisional series. If they make it to the divisional series, and it goes 5 games, Medlen would still pitch 2 games, and thats the best you can hope for.

  8. don444 - Sep 23, 2012 at 4:34 AM

    You send out the best guy you have available for the Wild Card playoff and you worry about the NLDS when and if you get there. Sorry folks, no real debate necessary on this one.

  9. leftywildcat - Sep 23, 2012 at 10:26 AM

    Shouldn’t it depend, at least in part, on who their opponent is and the ERA of each of the starters against that opponent?

    • don444 - Sep 25, 2012 at 2:44 AM

      I can understand why you’d think that and such reasoning is fine for the opening game of a weekend series in June, but no, given the circumstance of the Wild Card playoff you have to go with your overall best starter if he’s available, even if it’s not his best matchup, if for no other reason than sparing yourself the endless criticism you’ll receive from all quarters if you DON’T throw the best guy available and proceed to lose. Easy for a manager to say “screw what people think I’m going with the stats,” but you know as well as I do bravado tends to dissipate quickly once one finds himself in the proverbial eye of the media storm.

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