Back in May, Major League Baseball announced that the playoffs would be structured differently this year, in hopes for higher TV ratings on FOX. The big headline to come out of this was "World Series to start on a Wednesday".
Which is great and all, but I think everybody ignored the bigger story here. The WS is starting four days later than usual, and the regular season is ending the same time it always does (on a Sunday; this year it's September 30).
Those four extra days have a huge effect on how the Division Series and League Series are scheduled. Here's the Division Series schedule:
The first three series are five games over seven days, so those six teams will have the option of bringing their ace back on three days rest for Game 4. The only thing different from normal there is that if they did that, they would then have their #2 starter available on full rest for Game 5.
The thing that's interesting here is the "AL B" series. Five games over eight days? That's closer to an NBA schedule than MLB. This opens up all kinds of options.
The first, and most dramatic, is that a team could actually bring their ace back for Game 3 on three days rest. This would only happen if they were down 2-0, and even then it wouldn't make much sense. This is because that team would still need their #3 starter for Game 4, and then the could bring their #2 back for Game 5. So that situation won't (or, at least shouldn't) arise.
What this does to is eliminate the need for a fourth starter entirely. The team's top two starters will each be available on full rest for Games 4 and 5, respectively. So what effect will this have?
Let's see what changes this will have in the rotations of the four teams that (I think) are going to make the playoffs in the AL.
Boston Red Sox
(For the purposes of this exercise, I'm assuming that Buchholz won't be in the rotation.)
Boston's top two starters are clearly Beckett and Matsuzaka. Schilling is probably third, and Wakefield is 4th. So if the Sox end up in this series, Beckett and Matsuzaka will be taking Wakefield's innings.
Beckett and Daisuke have an average ERA of 3.70, while Wakefield is at 4.16, a difference of 0.46.
New York Yankees
The Yankees' top two guys, Wang and Pettitte, both have ERAs right about 3.80. I'm asssuming Clemens would go third, and Hughes would be after him. Hughes is a hard guy to gauge- his ERA is 5.65, but his fielding independent ERA is 4.48, and BP has his QERA (which includes his minor league innings this year) at 3.83. I'll put him at 4.10, which is a difference of 0.30 from Wang and Pettitte.
Well, this one is easy. Sabathia and Carmona are easily 1-2, with ERAs of 3.24 and 3.31, respectively. Westbrook (4.43, but 2.30 over his last eight starts) is their #3. So that makes Byrd fourth, and he has a 4.19 ERA. They Indians benefit enormously from this, as the difference between him and Sabathia/Carmona is 0.92.
The Angels' top two are extremely strong, with Cy Young contenders Lackey (3.26) and Escobar (2.99). Weaver comes in third, at 3.79. I would think they'd throw Joe Saunders (3.62 ERA, 3.73 FIP) after that, so their difference is a pretty significant 0.53.
So that concludes my extremely unscientific analysis. This much is clear though- the Indians would get a huge boost from being put in that series, as there is a huge drop off in their rotation after Westbrook. Because of all the uncertainty, it's unclear what effect on the Yankees' rotation would be, but it would most likely be small. And Boston and Anaheim would benefit by about a half run on ERA.
Pictures taken from Zap2It, Boston.com, and AOL Sports.