Partisan Rain Deals Yankees Further Damage

There’s a thing about rain-outs. Actually, there are two things.

  1. They suck.
  2. In theory, they should offer neither team an advantage.

The first one’s pretty evident. Where once there was supposed to be baseball, now there is no baseball, thanks to the rain, and that sucks. The second one seems pretty evident as well. Instead of there being baseball between two teams on one day, there will be baseball between the two teams the next day, with each team having been identically inconvenienced. But the reality is that the inconveniences aren’t always identical, and that’s what we observe in the ALCS between the Tigers and the Yankees. Rain delayed Game 4 by a day — so far, at least — and this has without question worked out in the Tigers’ favor.

You already know why, but to quickly review, just in case: the Yankees need to win the remaining four games of the series. Entering Wednesday, they were set up to have CC Sabathia start Game 4 on full rest, and then to have Sabathia start a potential Game 7 on short rest. Pitchers tend to be worse on short rest than they are on full rest, but Sabathia has a history of pitching effectively on three days’ rest, and even a below-100-percent Sabathia is better than the Yankees’ alternatives. Now in a Game 7, the Yankees would have to look to their alternatives, because instead of pitching Wednesday, Sabathia’s pitching Thursday. Two days’ rest isn’t a thing for starting pitchers.

Also, I’ll just throw in that Phil Coke was given a day off after working hard. Now, come Game 4, Coke will be rested. But the members of the Yankees’ bullpen will also be rested. This is mainly about Sabathia.

The Yankees have to win four games, and instead of having two of those games started by their ace, only one of those games could be started by their ace, with the second one going to Phil Hughes, or David Phelps, or Ivan Nova, or someone. The Tigers haven’t been inconvenienced really at all — Justin Verlander is still lined up for any would-be seventh game. Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez are there for any Games 5 and 6.

Because there wasn’t any new ALCS baseball to talk about today, reporters started talking about potential future ALCS baseball, and this subject came up. To a man, the Yankees all responded that they can’t think about Game 7, because they have to think about Game 4. The Yankees have to take this one day at a time and not get wrapped up in the improbability of what they need to accomplish. That’s all well and true. But Brian Cashman did rule out Sabathia as a Game 7 starter. The role would be too taxing, and the Yankees have Sabathia under contract for a while. They’d like the guy to stay healthy.

Perhaps a little too much is being made of this, I don’t know. Let’s use the simplest math possible and estimate that the Yankees had a 50-percent chance of winning each of their remaining individual games. Based on that, the Yankees’ odds of winning four games in a row would’ve been 6.3 percent. Now take that last 50 percent — the Game 7 50 percent — and drop it to, I don’t know, 40 percent, to account for replacing Sabathia with someone else. Based on that, the Yankees’ odds of winning four games in a row would be 5 percent. Overall, it’s not that much of a change, and I probably overestimated Sabathia’s impact.

But it’s clear that the Yankees went a day without playing any baseball, and their odds of advancing got worse. Phil Hughes was removed from his last start with a back injury, and even though he says he feels okay, he’s Phil Hughes. David Phelps posted some interesting numbers, but there were concerns, and neither of these guys is Sabathia. In fact, they’d be righties in Yankee Stadium, instead of a lefty who could shut down lefties and keep hitters away from the right-field porch.

What matters the most is Game 4, and after that Games 5 and 6 before a Game 7, but one just can’t not think about the potential implications of the rain-out in the series. It’s funny; a few days ago, I was thinking about writing a post suggesting the Yankees start Sabathia on short rest in Game 3, opposite Verlander. Then he’d be on full rest in a Game 7. I was talking to Dave about the potential advantages and disadvantages of matching up aces, and ultimately we both decided it didn’t make much of a difference either way. So that post never got written. But now in hindsight we can say, yes, absolutely the Yankees should’ve started CC Sabathia in Game 3. What were they thinking!

If we’re going to allow ourselves to get ahead of ourselves, and we pretty clearly are, we can say that the Yankees’ best plan for Game 7 might be going with a bullpen game. Start Hughes and give him a short leash. Follow with Phelps and give him a short leash. Maybe Sabathia would be available in relief, since I believe that would be his throw day. In last year’s ALDS against the Tigers, Sabathia threw 106 pitches on October 3, then he threw 37 pitches in relief on October 6. Just because Sabathia wouldn’t start doesn’t mean Sabathia wouldn’t pitch at all, as all hands would presumably be on deck. A bullpen game might give the Yankees their best shot at beating an ace.

But that’s a ways off, and of course any number of things could happen between now and that potential reality. If the Tigers win on Thursday, it all hardly matters. If the Tigers win on Friday or Saturday, it all hardly matters. It matters for a seventh game, and that’s three consecutive Yankees wins away. The Yankees need to take advantage of one Sabathia start before they can lament the unfortunate lack of a second.

I think, without question, Wednesday’s rain-out made the Yankees’ odds of making the World Series worse. If it’s any consolation to Yankees fans, it didn’t make them much worse, because with one Sabathia start or two Sabathia starts, the odds are still highly unlikely. For now, this is just something worthy of acknowledgment. But in the event that we get to a seventh game? In the event that, with the stakes the highest, Justin Verlander opposes Phil Hughes, because the weather in Detroit had an attitude? The Yankees were victims of a bad call in Game 1, and they were victims of a bad call in Game 2. Those fans probably aren’t in the mood to deal with this.

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

45 Responses to “Partisan Rain Deals Yankees Further Damage”

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  1. Evan says:

    Shouldn’t it be “Partisan Threat of Rain,” not “Partisan Rain?” Look at the rainfall data for Detroit (admittedly the weather station is not located at the stadium), it seems like this game was delayed and then canceled by the threat of rain, not actual rain falling from the sky.

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    • Kevin says:

      I lived about 20 minutes from the stadium, and it rained pretty good last night around what would’ve been the 4th inning or so.

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  2. Person says:

    I thought of this repercussion immediately. They’re even more toast than before.

    Of course, if you give them, say, a 55% chance when Sabathia starts and a 45% chance when he doesn’t (random numbers), their odds go from 6% to 5%.

    It’s still another problem, and if they miraculously do get to Game 7 it will certainly come into play. Although, they could probably use Sabathia for an inning in relief in a Game 7 if they wanted.

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  3. Jim Bouldin says:

    Big mistake by the Yankee brass. Improved chances of winning games three and seven right out the window. Not all that difficult to look at a 2-3 day weather forecast and realize it’s possible implications for your scheduled rotation.

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  4. brett says:

    I’ll offer one more thing about this, without any supporting evidence of it’s impact.

    Had the Tigers won game 4 last night, they would have waited 6 days before Game 1 of the WC. That’s more consecutive off-days than they’ve had since February. They’ll likely have several regardless but does this kind of thing make a difference? Has their been a study?

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    • Jim Bouldin says:

      That’s exactly what happened in 06 when they lost to the Cardinals (the 83 win Cardinals who happened to sneak into the playoffs because of league and playoff structure, sound familiar). Yes, it can make a BIG difference.

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      • Anon says:

        The 83 win Cardinals who had the same core from ’04 and 05′ when the team had the best record in MLB each year. (Also, even with the 83 win ’06, the ’04-’06 Cardinals averaged 96 wins per season.) Yes, they were lucky to get in, but they were an extremely talented team.

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      • Baltar says:

        Yes, one cherry-picked example is impressive proof.

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      • joser says:

        It made a BIG difference that one time. Or maybe it didn’t, and one or more of myriad other reasons was the reason for their loss (like maybe, I don’t know, the Cardinals were the better team. And I say that as someone who kind of dislikes the Cardinals.) Maybe it’ll make a BIG difference this time, and maybe it won’t. My suspicion is that it affects different players in different ways — some players might lose focus, others might find renewed energy from a little rest — and since there are different players on this Tigers team compared to the ’06 team, any conclusions you might infer are probably pretty bogus.

        Anyway, if they do sweep, they end up with one less day to wait. And we end up with on less day of NL-only baseball. Win-win for everybody.

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      • BronxBomber says:

        Keep in mind as well that this was a Tigers team riding two unlikely hot hands: Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman, both of whom sport career FIP’s over 4.25.

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  5. Nathan says:

    Eh. It only really matters if they make the longshot of coming back to tie the series.

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  6. Mel says:

    At this point the Yankees would be thrilled to be confrotning the problem that Jeff identifies.

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  7. Fred Vincy says:

    I know Jeff’s math is about right, but psychologically it just seems so much more likely that the Yankees could win the next three in a row than that they could beat Justin Verlander with David Phelps on the mound. This is a big blow.

    (At BP, PECOTA gave the Yankees only a 35% chance in Game 3 against Verlander with Hughes on the mound, and I’m not betting on his back being OK.)

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  8. Detroit Michael says:

    All this assumes that there are no further postponed games in the ALCS. Friday’s game in Detroit could easily be postponed. (It’s raining currently in downtown Detroit, but it is supposed to clear for a few hours in time for today’s late afternoon start time.)

    Also, this isn’t completely unforeseen. For example, if Saturday’s game had been scheduled for Detroit, it would have been postponed based on the weather in Detroit. Rain happens in Detroit. If the Yankees really wanted to start Sabathia on short rest, the time to do so was Game 3 instead of gambling that there wouldn’t be a rain delay for Game 4.

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  9. Ken says:

    This all goes back to Bud Selig’s childish need to have his precious second wild card game this year, even after the schedules were already set. The Yankees and Tigers both had to play the full five games to win their division series, but the Tigers got an off day before the ALCS, and the Yankees didn’t, meaning that they could use their ace twice on normal rest, while the best the Yankees could hope for was to use their ace on short rest once, and now with the rainout, not at all. An off day between series might not have been a bad thing for the offence either. No evidence to suggest that it would have made a difference, but it at least would have been fair.

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    • Baltar says:

      Give me a break, Yankee whiner.

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    • Lauren says:

      It wasn’t childish to have the one-game playoff between the two wildcards; it’s childish to complain about baseball being unfair. The Tigers won their division. The Yankees did not. I think it’s perfectly normal for the wild card teams to enter the playoffs in a less opportune way. Most sports have byes for the top seeds in the playoffs, do they not?

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    • Joe Mauer says:

      Yes, if Bud hadn’t jammed in the playin game between the Orioles and Rangers, then… they would have had to jam in a playin game between the Orioles and the Rangers, since they both finished with 93 wins.

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  10. Matt Hunter says:

    While it made their chances of making the World Series worse, it may have made their chances of winning the World Series if they get there better, as they can now start Sabathia 3 times, albeit on short rest two of those times. And since winning the World Series is the end goal, it may not matter whether Sabathia’s start comes in game 7 of the ALCS or game 1 of the WS, as long has he doesn’t lose a start at the end.

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  11. Chris says:

    The real question is, why doesn’t every stadium have a retractable roof? Then rain would be an issue…and we could have baseball year round! The Boys of Winter…

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  12. Chris says:

    *would not be an issue

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  13. MX says:

    Let’s not kid ourselves. The Yankees can’t get to game 7.

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  14. Jeff says:

    2004 ALCS….Derek Lowe started and went 5.1 on 10/17, then started and won Game 7 with 6 IP on 10/20. Two days rest can definitely be a thing if it has to be.

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  15. Rob says:

    If this article isn’t pure comedy, cynicism, sarcasm the writer and the editor should petition their college for a tuition refund.

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  16. Sleight of Hand Pro says:

    its hard to ever feel bad for the yankees, but they really got screwed with this playoff format. opening round 1 on the road, not getting a day off between series, forcing them to use a 5th starter or throw someone on 3 days rest.

    the tigers had the 7th (for emphasis, SEVENTH) best record out of 14 AL teams… and they got to rest their regulars, line up their starters for the playoffs, and were granted an off day, enabling verlander to pitch twice potentially, on full rest both times. if im the yankees, im hoping for a better explanation than “its just how the TV format had to work”

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    • joser says:

      While the postseason format didn’t help them, I guess their stopping hitting before the postseason even started out of protest? And then Hughes and Jeter injured themselves for the same reason?

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      • Sleight of Hand Pro says:

        i get it. you hate the yankees. most of us do.

        however, your post didnt really address mine in any way or add anything to the conversation. theyre not hitting… no shit, joser.

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      • joser says:

        Actually, this was nothing about hate for the Yankees. What my post was adding to the conversation, and by way of addressing yours, was that whatever problems the playoff schedule and format may have posed, the far bigger problem the Yankees had was within the team itself, and the performance of the players thereon. A team that wasn’t already mired in a slump, and bitten by ill-timed injuries, would likely have shrugged off those schedule and format issues like the small factors they actually are.

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    • TIm says:

      They get the advantage of playing the wild card team, which has already had to play an elimination game (likely using their best starter) and getting an extra off day against that opponent. So it’s not like the schedule has provided them no examples.

      And if they don’t like it, they’re always welcome to not have the best record in the AL next year.

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  17. Jason B says:

    I have learned that the rain is in fact “mischievous”, not “partisan”, from those super-annoying Michelin commercials.

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  18. jpg says:

    It truly was a dumb decision not to start Sabathia in game 3. When you’re down 0-2, game 3 essentially becomes an elimination game because 0-3 comebacks in team sports happen about as often as Tim Tebow gets laid (well a little more often than that but still…) Also, starting Sabathia in game 3 guarantees that he starts another game if the series gets back to the Bronx. It’s a stunning lack of foresight in my eyes. Even if every meteorologist on the planet predicted clear blue skies, the possibility of a rainout has to be accounted for. Considering Sabathia’s track record on short rest and the fact that JV was the guy you had to beat to basically save your season, it’s mystifying why they didn’t go with Sabathia.

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    • Rageagainstthenarrative says:

      It was pretty much a wash either way. The Yankees had a choice between:

      Sabathia (short rest)/Hughes/Pettite/Kuroda/Sabathia


      Hughes/Sabathia/Pettite/Sabathia (short rest)

      So really, moving Sabathia up changes absolutely nothing. You still get the exact same starters, just in different order. That’s assuming, for the sake of argument, that you’d rather have CC on short rest than Hughes on full rest. My guess is that CC was never going to come back on short rest, regardless of the situation, because he’d be nightmarishly awful.

      You go with your best pitching lineup, regardless of the situation in the series. Game 3 doesn’t count any more than games 4-7.

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  19. I would say that the biggest damage dealt by the Game 4 rain-out (and I am sure that everyone will agree with this) is the game being moved to 4:07 today, when I will be teaching an Ethics class from 4:30-7:00. As a further bit of cruelty, I will be teaching roughly 5 minutes from Comerica Park.

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  20. Tom B says:

    This is EXACTLY why CC should have pitched game 3 on short rest instead of game 4.

    They new on Sunday that it was going to rain later in the week. They had to know that if one game got bumped they would get hosed like this.

    Since it would be outrageous for the TV schedule to bend to the game being played ON THE FIELD… we are stuck with this year’s mess.

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  21. MrKnowNothing says:

    i feel like the odds don’t go from 6% to 5%. the yankee’s odds of reaching game seven are unchanged by this development. the only odds that have changed are the odds of game 7 itself, and those have changed from whatever the odds of winning with CC are compared to whatever the odds of winning with whatever/whomever the replacement is.

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