The final day of the 2022 major league baseball regular season is Wednesday, October 5. For teams that have clinched a postseason spot, their eyes are set on playoff baseball. While the postseason doesn’t begin for another week, there are decisions that must be made in the coming days. One of those decisions is the postseason rotation. Having clinched a first round bye, the Houston Astros have the luxury to alter their current rotation in whichever way they want. Houston has employed a six-man rotation for much of the season, so they have no shortage of starting pitching options. These are the candidates for the Astros’ playoff rotation.
It goes without saying, Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez will be atop the Astros’ postseason rotation. Verlander has arguably been the best pitcher in the AL this season, and in all likelihood will win his third Cy Young award. Valdez set a major league record for most consecutive quality starts within a single season with 25 in a row. The left-hander has taken another step forward this year, and is one of the best pitchers in baseball. There is a lot of combinations the Astros could have for their postseason rotation, but nearly every one will begin with these two pitching games one and two.
The Rest of the Rotation
Teams typically use four starters for a postseason rotation. This means that the Astros have to pick between four guys for two spots. The other candidates are Cristian Javier, Lance McCullers Jr. Jose Urquidy, and Luis Garcia. With how great Houston’s rotation has been, it seems like it would be a really tough decision, however the numbers point to Javier and McCullers.
Javier has been used out of the bullpen a lot over the past few years, and he wasn’t guaranteed a consistent spot in the rotation. However, with the way he has pitched this year, he has earned a spot. Entering Saturday, he had a 2.65 ERA in 142 2/3 innings. Swing-and-miss is important in the postseason, and Javier is striking out batters at a rate of 11.8 per nine innings.
McCullers missed most of the season dealing with a forearm injury, but when he has been healthy, he has been effective. In seven starts this year, he has a 2.38 ERA. Command has been a bit of an issue as he is walking batters at a rate of 4.5 per nine. Both Javier and McCullers have had starts where their pitch count got elevated in a big way. This leaves the door open for Urquidy and Garcia to still be an important part of the Astros’ postseason plan.
Ways to Utilize Urquidy and Garcia
Urquidy and Garcia could easily be part of the Astros’ postseason rotation. Both have sub-4.00 ERAs, and have been critical towards Houston’s success this year. However, with the other names likely filling out their rotation, this pair could be on the outside looking in. Or, they could be used to piggyback off of Javier and/or McCullers.
Neither Urquidy or Garcia have been used out of the bullpen so far this year, but this could be the way they log important innings in the postseason. Houston has a plethora of options, so having to make decisions on a postseason rotation is a good problem to have. No matter what the Astros’ playoff rotation looks like, they have an intimidating staff to face in October.
Embed from Getty Images