Kris Medlen made a statement Friday night as he went head to head against Cliff Lee in what would become a classic face-off between two pitchers who were nearly impossible to hit against. Since that game, many people have determined that Medlen has taken his place as the Atlanta Braves‘ ace and that he should start game one of the NLDS, but it wouldn’t be wise to choose a pitcher just because he has been hot of late; we can dig deeper to make a more informed decision on who to pitch when.
Medlen has been outstanding in the second half of the season, posting a 2.38 ERA over 83.1 IP, a sample size worthy of trust, but Mike Minor hasn’t been bad himself. The left-hander has been less than perfect, posting a 3.52 ERA over 76.2 IP, but that is a generalized number over the course of many games. In the playoffs, throw out season statistics; we should be discussing more specific numbers.
At the very least, the pitcher for Game 1 should be determinant of who the opponent is. Each pitcher has had different success against each ball club. If the Braves play the Cincinnati Reds for instance, it would be wise to start Minor against them. In two starts this season, Minor accrued 14 IP with only three earned runs. On top of that, the Reds have hit .253/.332/.391 against right-handers and .241/.317/.392 against lefties.
The Pittsburgh Pirates on the other hand, have hit .262/.328/.407 against lefties and .241/.309/.392 against right-handers. Minor played the Pirates once and went six innings and gave up two ER, while Medlen has 13 IP logged with only 3 ER given up. Medlen should start against the Pirates but against the Reds, Minor should probably start.
Against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Medlen has logged 13.2 shutout innings while Minor has logged 12 IP with three ER.
While the sample sizes of these performances aren’t all too reliable, throw sample size out the window. We’re talking about the postseason here and looking at season long performance isn’t what gets the job done in October. Put the pitcher who has been most successful against each respective opponent regardless of season ERA or overall opponent batting average.