How baseball managers should plan for the World Series
Small market teams can’t compete. It’s the Yankees and a few other teams vying for the world championship, while teams like the Royals and Athletics play 162 glorified minor league games a year, then lose their best players to the richest teams. This sentiment could not be farther from the truth: small market teams must compete differently from rich teams, but can compete nonetheless.
Teams with large payrolls have enough talent to facilitate resting their veterans and deep enough pitching staffs to keep their best starters and key relievers well rested and ready for action. Managers like Joe Torre of the Yankees also have the luxury of giving their injured or tired players the day off, and make use of the Disabled List. When major league rosters expand each year on September 1, rich teams generally have a division lead, and are able to give talented rookies valuable experience, while making important decisions as to who to keep on the playoff roster.
Small market teams, which generally must fight the whole season for a playoff spot, are not afforded the same luxuries as richer teams. They must rush rookies to the show before they are ready to perform on a daily basis in order to give their regulars rest and must take care to keep their more talented players off the DL. Additionally, they must manage their pitching staffs so that their most talented pitchers match up against their most talented opponents, making use of off days and taking into account relative talent when inserting a relief pitcher into a blowout game.
All of these factors must be taken into account by managers throughout the regular season as they prepare their teams for the playoffs and eventually the World Series, but once the playoffs start, the planning done by managers must be the same for all teams. It is most important that managers keep hot players, whether rookies or veterans, on the playoff roster regardless of their contributions in past years.
The other important keys to planning for the World Series relate to the use of pitchers. Managers must ensure that their most dominant pitchers are ready to go during a short series. In the best case scenario, a team’s three best starting pitchers would be prepared to pitch games one, two, and three of a series, then be prepared to pitch again in games four, five, and six, with the ace of the staff ready to go again in game seven. Most importantly, a manager must plan to use his dominant pitchers more often than tradition would dictate. In 2001, the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the New York Yankees in the World Series by riding their two stud pitchers, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. Managers would do well to heed the aforementioned advice and take a page out of Bob Brenly’s book from that year, as Brenly was unafraid to use his best pitcher, Johnson, as both a starter and closer during the series victory.