With Atlanta 8.5 games up on the Dodgers with 14 games to go, the Braves should be able to look ahead and figure out their playoff rotation strategy. The Braves still have an outside shot at the division title, but they should not do anything to sacrifice their chance of winning a wild-card play-in game.
There doesn’t seem to be much argument in who should be starting the play-in game if needed: Kris Medlen. He has pitched like an ace in his nine starts this year, while no other starter has been consistent enough to get the call. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs wrote a piece on making it a bullpen game, which is highly unconventional and unlikely, even for a team with a strong bullpen like the Braves. It would have been a possibility if Medlen wouldn’t have stepped up, but his emergence silences that notion.
Another somewhat tricky portion of giving Medlen the start, as he is scheduled to start tomorrow. If the Braves stay on a five-man rotation, Medlen would pitch on the 26th, then have to go eight days off between starts to be rested for the October 5 wild card game. Atlanta could give Ben Sheets or Randall Delgado a start to move back Medlen’s last start to the 28th, leaving six days of rest for the wild card game. They could also use the off days surrounding the upcoming Phillies series, pitching Medlen on the 25th and 30th, leaving him on a normal four days of rest for the play-in game.
If your belief is to set yourself up to win in the playoffs, you could keep Medlen off the mound, ready for a potential Game 1, and put Mike Minor or Tim Hudson in the play-in game. If the Cardinals remain in the second wild-card, their right-handed heavy lineup may be neutralized by Huddy as much as Medlen. This is a viable option, especially with the St. Louis matchup.
What do you think the Braves should do with the rotation? Medlen or Hudson/Minor? If Medlen, extra rest or stay on rhythm?