It's appearing as if one of the main storylines for the Red Sox this month will be how to set up the rotation for October. This, of course, is only worth discussing if the team is fortunate enough to know where they stand come late September. As of this writing the Sox have a 3.5 game lead over the Yankees for the AL East. If the lead remains that size for a few weeks we should be good. But it's worth noting that's far from a guarantee, and there's still a chance the Sox won't have the benefit of setting up their playoff rotation as they choose.
Anywayssssss let's assume it's a perfect world and start getting into it. Chris Sale pitches game one. That much we know. At this point Drew Pomeranz has become our number two (still not sure how we got to this point). But what about game three? I (can't believe I'm about to say this) nominate Doug Fister.
Fister is basically a very, very poor man's version of Sale...at least in the way he operates while on the mound. He works quickly, commands his spots, and despises himself when he walks guys. These are traits to admire in a pitcher. Additionally, Fister is never scared of the competition. He doesn't nibble around the corners like Dwew does. He has a plan to attack hitters efficiently and he doesn't waste many pitches.
When Fister first arrived in Boston he was...bad. Very, very bad. In his first 25 1/3 innings with his new team Fister registered a 6.04 ERA and walked nearly as many guys (17) and he struck out (21). Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he came quite good. Since July 31st Fister has a 2.79 ERA in his 48 1/3 innings while striking out 44 and walking just 14. There's a couple of ways we can go about evaluating this. On the one hand we are likely witnessing Fister's final hot stretch of his career. Would it surprise anyone if he suddenly turned back into a pumpkin in his next start? Absolutely not.
But there's also some actual reasons to be encouraged, and they're outlined in this A+ Jeff Sullivan blog. To summarize, the key to Fister's recent success seems to be an increase in velocity.
Hold that thought. I know what you're thinking. A velocity increase for a 34-year-old pitcher that was about to be out of the league? Must be steroids.
Yet the velocity increase may have also come from a mechanics adjustment mentioned in the Fangraphs piece. While on the mound most pitchers step towards home plate to throw. However, it appears Fister has made an adjustment to throw a little more across his body, which may give his pitches a little more deception. Additionally, Fister might just be healthier than he's been in a while. It's certainly tough to argue against that notion.
So look, at the end of the day, who knows. A lot could change in the next few weeks. But right now Fister is on a roll. We don't know if it'll last, but at this point what other options do the Red Sox have? Rick Porcello? I guess he has a longer track record than Fister, but he's been shit lately. Eduardo Rodriguez? He would give us six innings probably, and it would come with four runs allowed. I'll take my chance on a red-hot Fister over that. David Price? He's a ways off, and has to build up a lot of arm strength still. If he returns for October it should be out of the bullpen where he can be a multi-inning reliever that helps bridge the game to Craig Kimbrel.
Here's my preferred ALDS rotation (SUBJECT TO CHANGE):
Game 1: Sale
Game 2: Pomeranz
Game 3: Fister
Game 4: Sale (need to use him as often as possible, we're in win now mode remember)
Game 5: ???
I haven't figured out game 5 yet. I guess we could roll Pomeranz out there again depending on how he did game in his first start. We could also have a fully rested Pretty Ricky or Fast Eddie ready to go. We have options. Ideally it doesn't come to that. Maybe we find a way to win in four, or maybe we lose in four or less (again). I think, sorry I KNOW, this Red Sox team is good, but I just spent my past two blog posts talking myself into starting "Dwew" and "Doug" in critical October games for a team that has legitimate World Series aspirations. It's been a weird season for Boston baseball, and if Fister is starting come October it's only going to get weirder. Yet if he keeps pitching like he has that won't necessarily be a bad thing. Buckle up.