MLB Playoffs 2017: Effect of Trevor Bauer Starting ALDS Game 1

A few hours before the New York Yankees won last night’s American League Wild Card game, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona announced that Trevor Bauer will start game one of the American League Divisional Series on Thursday over ace Corey Kluber. Long story short, the Indians are starting Bauer in the team’s MLB Playoffs opener against the Yankees. This is because they feel he is better equipped to come back on short rest in Game Four, if necessary, or Josh Tomlin if they don’t bring Bauer back.

They don’t want to use Kluber on short rest after asking him to do it three times last postseason, including twice in the World Series. As it stands, he can now start Game 2 and then Game 5 on normal rest. There’s a lot going on here, so let’s talk out how this affects the Yanks.

1. It gives the Yankees a better chance to win Game One

This is very simple. Trevor Bauer, even with his amazing second half, is not as good as Corey Kluber. It actually decreases the Indians’ chances of winning Game One, while increasing the Yankees’ chances of winning. Now, how much is up for debate, but there is no doubt that one would rather face Bauer than Kluber in any game, let alone a postseason game.

Francona is as good a manager as they come. He’s one of the best in the business today. Yet one cannot help but wonder if he and the Indians are getting too cute here. In the league’s divisional series era, the team that wins Game 1 in a best-of-five format has gone on to win the series 71% of the time.

2. Expect Bauer’s leash to be short tomorrow

As we saw in the postseason last year, Francona is extremely aggressive with his bullpen. There should be no reason to think this year will be any different. Should Bauer struggle early, it won’t be long before Andrew Miller starts warming up. With Kluber lined up for the second game, one can reasonably expect him to pitch deep into the game.

Francona might push his top relievers a little more than usual in the first game, knowing he probably won’t need them as much in the second game of the series. Bauer faced the Yankees twice during the regular season, both times in the second half, and allowed only two runs in 13 innings. If he does something like that again, the Yankees are in trouble. If the Yankees jump on Bauer early, the Indians bullpen will be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

3. Game 1 is basically a “must win” for the Yankees

It is not a literal “win or go home” must-win game, but it is quite obvious that the Yankees do not want to be down 1-0 in the series with Kluber set for Game Two. Even with Chad Green and David Robertson presumably available for Game Two (after their performance against the Twins saved the Yankees season), facing Kluber down in the series is a tough assignment for any team. Every MLB playoffs game is important, and that is especially true when trying to avoid having your back up against the wall against a guy like Kluber.

4. It’s gonna rain Friday

The current weather forecast calls for rain pretty much all day in Cleveland on Friday, meaning there is the distinct possibility that Game 2 of the ALDS might get postponed. If that were to happen, the game would be played on Saturday, which is the scheduled off-day, and games two through four would be played on three consecutive days. It would definitely screw up each team’s deployment of arms.

It would also ruin the whole “start Kluber on regular rest in Game 5” plan. If Game 2 gets rained out and he has to pitch Saturday instead, Kluber would have to start Game 5 on short rest.

5. Start the best you have for Game 2

Former Yankee manager Joe Torre used to say Game 2 was the biggest game of the series.  The reason was that a team had the chance to go up 2-0 or down 0-2 in a short series. It’s why Torre went with Andy Pettitte in Game 2. Of course, it is easy to say now when you had guys like David Cone, David Wells, Roger Clemens, Orlando Hernandez and/or Mike Mussina starting the series opener. This is also the main reason why Francona is using the “Torre Approach” in starting their best starter in the second game of this series.

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Nick Ficorelli

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