Planning for the Postseason: The West and the Wild Card


If I was Don Mattingly, I would begin to start strategizing for a potential postseason run. Even though we still have 25 games remaining in the regular season, it’s not too early to start thinking about October. Let’s play arm chair manager and see how the Dodgers can utilize their roster for the most success if they should clinch a playoff spot.

There’s three possibilities for the Dodgers come October 3rd. One is that they win the National League West division, and they go straight to the National League Division Series. Of course this is the most coveted outcome by the team and the fans, but it will be the most difficult to obtain. The San Francisco Giants are playing great baseball right now, and they clearly have the softer schedule from here on out. They only play within the division for the remainder of their games. The Dodgers, on the other hand, still have to play four games with St. Louis and a tough road trip which includes series in Cincinnati and Washington. The second possible outcome is that the Dodgers could capture one of two Wild Card slots. Right now the Atlanta Braves are in the top spot for Wild Card #1, and the second Wild Card will be a battle between the St. Louis Cardinals, the Dodgers, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Third, and obviously worst scenario, is that the Dodgers will not win their division or the Wild Card, and they will be watching the Fall Classic from home.

 

Josh Beckett was the 2003 World Series MVP for the Marlins. Photo: H. Darr Besier/USA Today

If the Dodgers do win the division, then the NLDS will begin Saturday, October 6th. That gives the team three days rest before the series, which would be sufficient time for Clayton Kershaw to be ready for Game One. Now if the Dodgers win a Wild Card spot, this is when we have to do some planning. The one-game Wild Card playoff will be held on Friday, October 5th. Who should the Dodgers start in the do-or-die playoff game? Kershaw of course. Most likely the one-game playoff will pit the second Wild Card against the Atlanta Braves, so there’s no wiggle room to mess around. You have to field your absolute best lineup possible, and you have to pitch your ace. Clayton Kershaw vs. Tim Hudson, Matt Kemp vs. Chipper Jones? We could very well see that game.

If Clayton Kershaw is used in the one-game Wild Card playoff, he will not be able to open the Division Series which begins the very next day. We would have to start Chris Capuano in Game one and Josh Beckett in Game Two or vice versa. That’s okay, because Kershaw could pitch in Game Three or Four. It also depends on how Capuano pitches in September, since he has struggled over the second half after having a spectacular second half. The NLCS begins on October 14th, so that gives the competing teams two days rest if the Division Series goes to five games.

Here’s a look at the postseason experience of our starting pitchers:

Clayton Kershaw- 3 postseason games (0-1, 5.87 ERA)

1 NLDS, 2 NLCS

 

Chris Capuano- No postseason pitching experience

 

Josh Beckett- (7-3, 3.07 ERA)

3 ALDS, 1 NLDS, 2 ALCS, 1 NLCS, 2 WS

2003 WS MVP, 2007 ALCS MVP

 

Aaron Harang- No postseason pitching experience

 

Joe Blanton- (2-0, 4.02 ERA )

3 NLDS, 3 NLCS, 1 ALCS, 2 WS

 

 

Joe Blanton hits a homerun in the 2008 World Series. Photo: Reuters

Back in January, I wrote about the new addition of the second Wild Card and my disdain for expanded playoffs in general. I consider myself a traditionalist when it comes to baseball, and I could do without Interleague Play and Wild Cards, but I may just change my tune if the Dodgers reach the postseason via the Wild Card this season. Who knows, it may just be a Wild, Wild West this October.

Tags: Los Angeles Dodgers Wild Card