If you’re coming out of a post-champagne AL West-clinching hangover and your stomach feels queasy, there’s two things to avoid: imagining the smell of certain foods, and recollecting Wade Miley’s September.
It would have been reasonable six weeks ago to ask, depending on the matchups, whether Miley might have even started a Game 3 over Greinke. Now that’s inconceivable. Let’s go through what the meltdown means.
Rotation for the Final Week:
After today’s day off (man, last night must have been wild), it’s Cole, Greinke, Miley, and then Urquidy on Friday. It’s questionable whether AJ wants JV and Cole pitching this weekend, even though the Astros will not start the playoffs until next Friday. But the reality is that Urquidy and Miley are essentially debuting for the 4th starter role. The Astros are desperate for Miley to give them a reason to keep him in the rotation. But if Miley stinks and Urquidy dazzles, then it’s hard to see how Miley gets added to the playoff roster. He’s no good out of the ‘pen. Speaking of which...
For the ALDS, Hinch will likely go with 4 starters and 7 bullpen arms. The locks for the BP are James, Osuna, Pressly, Harris, and Smith. Devo’s been quietly solid in September, while Biagini and Framber have pitched themselves out of consideration. Peacock needs to prove he’s healthy and he’s the 6th. Rondon is probably on the cut for the ALCS, but his Saturday performance shows the problem with Rondon. If they keep Miley as SP #4, do they roster Urquidy as BP insurance? Do they potentially have 8 BP arms and use a bench of four in ALDS?
One thing is certain, with six games in six days, and with two of those games started by Miley and Urquidy, the guys in the BP will have their work cut out for them. Especially if the Yankees keep the pressure on (if the Astros go 5-1 or better, it doesn’t matter what the Yankees do), there will be moments of leverage. Two or three good showings by Abreu, the reverse for Peacock or Devo, and things will look different. If the Yankees make up a game, Hinch will not throw in the towel with Sneed if the Astros are down 4-2 in the 3rd on Thursday (Hinch might want a Sneed/C. Perez tandem on Sunday).
Questioning the Front Office
Aaron Sanchez last pitched on August 20th. He was the 5th starter. The Astros had 11 days to contingency plan the 40-man for some kind of injury or effectiveness harming one of their top 4 playoff starters. Here’s the guys they’ve given a chance to prove themselves as 5th starters since August 20th: Framber Valdez. That’s it! Urquidy has made one start, and he’s only pitched three times for Houston since the end of July. Peacock was clearly broken, as was McHugh, and they were not going to get built up to start. Rogelio made two starts, his last on August 17th, and Luhnow decided to bury him despite, in 18 IP, an ERA of 4.00, a WHIP of 1.22, and a bb/k of 5/18.
But was there anybody else? While it makes sense that Whitley was not considered, what about Christian Javier? Across three levels, batters hit .130 against him in 2019. He threw 110 IP in 2018, and 113 in 2019, so there’s not an innings threshold he was breaking. He struck out 39% of AA hitters and was nearly as good in Round Rock. There was no good reason he wasn’t added to the 40-man before 9/1, brought him up to Houston along with Tucker on 9/2, and given a trial. Instead the plan was to skip the 5th starter. Maybe Javier would have bombed, maybe Miley will recover, maybe Urquidy will be our Brandon Backe, but it’s worth asking why Luhnow kept a potential playoff arm out of consideration.
What should the Astros do about the fourth starter situation in the playoffs?
This poll is closed
Miley will be the starter
Urquidy will be the starter
Opener with bullpen day
Go with 3-man rotation in ALDS