With plenty of time to set things up, the Tigers have already announced their rotation for the World Series (Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and then Max Scherzer). The Giants have some decisions to make.
Here’s one guess at how it could go:
Game 1: Wednesday – Barry Zito – four days’ rest
Game 2: Thursday – Ryan Vogelsong – three days’ rest
Game 3: Saturday – Matt Cain – four days’ rest
Game 4: Sunday – Tim Lincecum – eight days’ rest
Game 5: Monday – Barry Zito – four days’ rest
Game 6: Wednesday – Ryan Vogelsong – five days’ rest
Game 7: Thursday – Matt Cain – four days’ rest
By starting Vogelsong in Game 2, the Giants would essentially be making the same compromise the Yankees did in the ALCS; it’s the one way to guarantee that the team’s top two starters would get to pitch twice apiece in a seven-game series. And as disastrous as the ALCS was the Yankees, the decision to start Hiroki Kuroda on three days’ rest in Game 2 actually worked out quite well, as he was brilliant in a losing cause.
The alternative for the Giants would be to start Lincecum or Madison Bumgarner in Game 2. Vogelsong would most likely start Game 4 in that scenario. It’d be his only start of the series unless the Giants elected to bring back both he and Cain on short rest for the final two games.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.