National League wild card affect on NLDS Rotation

The National League wild card picture got more clear over the weekend, still nothing is close to settled. With thirteen games remaining, there is still much to be determined, and a three way tie is still real possibility.

Because the teams have completed their season series, the first tiebreaker is settled, and it is a tie between the Cardinals and the Mets, who bother have a head-to-head record of 7-6 against the other two teams, while the Giants have a 6-8 record. So, if they end in a three way tie, the Giants would be the biggest loser, as they would have last choice of their destiny in the play-in games.

The second tiebreaker is currently held by the Cardinals with a 36-30 intra-division record, while the Mets have a 33-32 intra-dvision record. The Cardinals would win this tie-breaker, because they would have identical records from here on out if they ended in a tie, and all remaining games are intra-division.

The Cardinals would likely choose to host the first play-in game, to guarantee themselves one home game, and winning that, they would go straight to the wild card game, but a lose would still give them an extra chance the next day.

The Mets would then choose between getting one home game to try to get in on October 5th, or playing the Cardinals on the road on the 4th, and if they lost that, playing the Giants on the road on the 5th. The Mets would likely choose two chances on the road to win one game. The Giants would be left with whatever the Mets did not choose, which would likely be one home game on the 5th against the loser of the game from the 4th.

Right now, on normal rest, Noah Syndergaard, Madison Bumgarner, and Carlos Martinez are all on track to start the Wild Card game on October 5th, if needed. If there are play-in games, Madison Bumgarner would be available on regular rest on October 4th, and that would set him up to come into game two of the NLDS on short rest, and allow him to pitch game five of the NLDS also on regular rest. Johnny Cueto would probably start the Wild Card game, which would leave their NLDS starters as Moore-Bumgarner-Cueto-Samardijza-Bumgarner.

The Mets’ schedule is tricky, because their off day occurs on September 29th. This would be Noah Syndergaard’s normal day to start, so if they throw him a day early, he would be available on normal rest for a play-in game on October 3rd. I can’t see them making that decisions with 3-4 games left in the season. So, Syndergaard is probably out of the play-in games, unless he comes in on short rest for the 2nd one.

This would only allow him to make two starts in the NLDS if he came in on short rest again for game two. I cannot see the Mets doing this due to Syndergaard’s age and injury concerns this year. More likely, I think he pitches the Wild Card game if they get there, so I think that leaves Steven Matz for the first play-in game, and Seth Lugo for the 2nd, if necessary. This would leave an NLDS rotation of Gsellman-Matz-Syndergaard-Colon-Gsellman.

Carlos Martinez  is scheduled to pitch for the Cardinals on the 25th, which means he would likely pitch the 30th, and not be available for the play-in game(s). This would leave Mike Leake or Luke Weaver for the first play-in game and probably Alex Reyes for the second.

Carlos Martinez would then pitch the wild card game, with an NLDS rotation of Wainwright-Leake or Weaver-Martinez-Reyes-Wainwright. There are some short start permutations with them as well, but for the long-term health of the organization, I can’t see them pushing their young arms too hard.

The play-in games would leave some tough situations for all three teams, and no team wants to face two, three, or if you include the last day of the season, four do or die games in a row. But it seems like the Giants schedule and usage set them up best to be prepared for the play-in games. Getting two starts out of their ace, while having Bumgarner and Cueto in their most important games is a big win for them.