<
>

Should Cliff Lee pitch on short rest in playoffs?

9/27/2010

OAKLAND, Calif. -- It's a question the Rangers may be asking during the first round of the playoffs as Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis are scheduled to pitch Games 1, 2 and 3.

Manager Ron Washington indicated Sunday that the club would consider using Lee on three days' rest to pitch in Game 4, depending on how the series going. Of course, if the series gets to a Game 4 that means the Rangers are either up 2-1 and Lee could wind up having a chance to clinch the series in Arlington or down 1-2 and Lee could be needed to keep the series alive.

But you could also look at that another way: If the Rangers are up 2-1, Tommy Hunter could pitch on full rest at home and if he falters, Cliff Lee could go on full rest on the road in Game 5. And if Hunter were to get the job done, Lee would be available to start Game 1 of the ALCS with some extra time off.

We're getting way ahead of ourselves, naturally. But what do the numbers say about pitching Lee on three days' rest? Elias Sports Bureau helped with that. Here are how starting pitchers have done on three days' rest in the postseason the last three years (this is all rounds, both leagues):

2007: 0-2, 20.77 ERA (two games started on short rest)

2008: 1-1, 6.00 ERA (three games started on short rest)

2009: 2-1, 5.24 ERA (four games started on short rest)

Interestingly, Lee has never started on three days' rest in his career. So it's very difficult to know how he might respond. Lee's only postseason was 2009 and it was a memorable one. He was 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in 40 1/3 innings. Lee pitched on at least four days' rest in every postseason start. And when he got additional rest, he was even better. When Lee got five days' rest, he was 2-0 with a 0.53 ERA (17 innings). On six days' rest, he pitched a complete game shutout at Yankee Stadium in the World Series.

Lee said his only focus is getting ready for the playoffs.

"I've got another start to make and we have to finish the season," Lee said. "But it's the first game. You always want to win the first one, and I'm going to do everything I can to help the team win."

The stats, at least recently, show that pitching on short rest doesn't necessarily mean success. I would think the Rangers would see how Lee does in that first start, how many pitches he needs, etc., before making a firm call. And if the club is up 2-1, I would pitch Hunter in Game 4. But that's just me. If the team is down 1-2 and Lee is the best option, I'd throw him out there even on short rest.

I know others would suggest that Lee should go up 2-1 to try to make sure the Rangers don't have to go back on the road. But my decision to hold Lee for a possible Game 5 or Game 1 in the ALCS under that scenario also speaks to my confidence level in Hunter. I think he's got the bulldog attitude to go out and pitch well in the postseason.

What do you think? Would you pitch Lee on short rest?