It’s almost impossible to prove empirically, but the anecdotal evidence is fairly strong: teams put bad lineups on the field the day after they clinch the postseason. Especially if they’ve clinched the division. Look at this stinker the Dodgers sent out on Friday, the day after they jumped in Arizona’s pool:
Now *this* was an opportunity for streaming excellence. Robbie Erlin started that day for a few of my teams and a few of yours, and he gave us 7.2 innings of shutout ball with seven strikeouts and five baserunners (one walk). I like Robbie Erlin, but that was mostly due to the lineup being full of guys that just hopped off the Triple-A shuttle bus on September first.
One reason it’s hard to prove this empirically is that some teams are good enough to put up good Hangover Lineups. The Red Sox clinched Friday, and their Saturday lineup still won — even with John McDonald at second, Will Middlebrooks at first base, and David Ross at catcher. Deep teams might even play some interesting lineups on hangover days.
It’s also a tough strategy to use because you basically just have to run to the wire when other people are congratulating a new team. You can’t plan this one ahead of time. And we’re running out of teams left to clinch, too. The Braves clinched today, so if you can pick someone up for Monday, and Marco Estrada is available, have at him. The A’s clinched Sunday, too, so Garrett Richards is a better play. Both of those guys might have been gone in your league anyway, since they’re probably two-starters in the final week.
Detroit’s magic number is two. They could do that in one day if the Indians lose, so it’s worth noting that Scott Diamond is scheduled to pitch against them on Tuesday. In a weekly lineup, though, it’s going to take some stones to run Diamond out there without knowing for sure he’ll see a hangover lineup. With some of the veterans on that team hurting, though, Wednesday’s starter Kevin Correia seems safer. If they clinch Monday, Miguel Cabrera might still be resting his woes on Wednesday. And you *might* get the bonafide Ramon Santiago at first base Hangover Lineup.
The Cardinals are tougher. They are deeper than anyone’s business, and they have a larger magic number (four). Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are going to fight to the bitter end in order to host the wild card game — provided they can’t catch the Cardinals. And the Cardinals won’t really want to drop into any wild card scrum. You might see a day off for Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina, but they may not all come on the same day.
Cleveland and Tampa don’t have the greatest offenses, so even giving a star or two the day off after a celebration will be meaningful. There’s just no way to know what day that’s going to be. You’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for light beer and ski goggles.