I was sitting in the barber’s chair yesterday reading the recent Sports Illustrated story about Mariano Rivera, when a pretty basic thought occurred to me: The more the Yankees can use Rivera in the postseason, the better off they are.
This, of course, is pretty obvious. But the reason I mention it is because there are several scheduling quirks this postseason that could allow the Yankees to use Rivera (as well as Phil Hughes) more often than one might think.
If the Yankees opt for the longer ALDS, the schedule of the series will be: Game 1-OFF-Game 2-OFF-Game 3-Game 4-OFF-Game 5.
In other words, only one set of back-to-back games which means that in three out of five games Joe Girardi could use Rivera for more than one inning and not worry about burning him out for the next game. He could also use Hughes for two innings under the same rationale.
Should the Yankees make the ALCS, the schedule of the series would be: Game 1-Game 2-OFF-Game 3-Game 4-OFF-Game 5-OFF-Game-6-Game 7.
For whatever reason (probably TV and the new World Series start day), MLB added an extra off day into the ALCS this year which means there are no sets of three games in a row and three off days during the series instead of two. Again, more of an opportunity for the Yankees to pitch their best two relievers with less worry about overuse.
I’ve heard Girardi talk about not being afraid of using Hughes for two innings during the playoffs and Rivera is definitely a four- or five-out pitcher then, too. Because of the schedule, the Yankees could be looking at getting somewhere near 10 outs from their top relievers and shortening the games considerably – something that was always a key for them during the dynasty years of the late 1990’s.