Smoltz believes Braves should skip Hudson and Medlen in the Wild Card game
While most of you have spent the past couple of weeks debating whether the Braves should start Kris Medlen or Tim Hudson in the one-game playoff that will be played between the National League’s two Wild Card entries, John Smoltz has been arguing that the Braves should look at the big picture by bravely opting to send one of their other starting pitchers – Mike Minor, Paul Maholm or Tommy Hanson – to the mound for this one game.
This would allow Medlen and Hudson to be available to start the first two games of the Division Series, which is scheduled to begin two days after this one game playoff. Of course, if the Braves were to lose this one game, this unconventional gamble could cost manager Fredi Gonzalez his job.
Smoltz holds Gonzalez in high regard and is sympathetic of the fact that he is making this argument without his current job as a broadcaster being on the line. But the former pitcher believes the Braves’ best chance to achieve their ultimate goal of winning the World Series would be to line Medlen and Hudson up to start the first two games of the Division Series which would be played at Turner Field.
“I know it’s unconventional,” Smoltz said. “I know it’s outside the box and I know I’d get fired if I was the manager. But this is what I would do if I was the Atlanta Braves. I wouldn’t start Medlen or Hudson in that one-game playoff. I will tell you why. So what if they win that first game? So what? My theory is the Braves’ best chance to win the World Series is to line up their rotation in the (Division Series) with Medlen and Hudson or Hudson and Medlen.”
Because the extra Wild Card was added after the postseason schedule had been made, Major League Baseball opted to cut travel by determining the winner of this one game playoff will host the first two games of the Division Series and go on the road for the final three. Part of Smoltz’s thinking is influenced by the opportunity for the Braves to send their top two starters to the mound in these two home games.
“I think baseball wanted to make managers to use their best pitcher just to get in,” Smoltz said. “That has an advantage for the team that is waiting to play them. But if their best pitcher doesn’t get them in or they don’t have to use either of their best two to get in, then what advantage does that team that is waiting have? It is flipped. Now the team that is hosting the first two games has the advantage.”
Smoltz is right when he says, “who cares if you win that one game and then lose the Division Series?” In the grand scheme of things, every team’s plans should center around attempting to win the World Series.
With the addition of this one-game playoff the road to the World Series will be a little different this year. It will likely take a few years for teams to determine the best approach to this new format.
Those who have come to understand Smoltz’s confident and competitive nature over the years are likely not surprised that he has formed this unconventional opinion.
When sitting 250 yards out on a Par 5, I will occasionally attempt to clear the water with the hope of doing something spectacular. Smoltz looks at the same opportunity as a great attempt to create an eagle putt. This is the approach that has made him tick and prove so successful in his many endeavors both on and off the field.
While Smoltz strongly believes the Braves should take this gamble, he is well aware of the fact that Medlen or Hudson will be on the mound if the Braves have to play this one game against the other Wild Card entrant.
Let’s say Medlen gets the start in the one-game playoff. He could return on regular rest for Game 3 of the Division Series. This would set up the possibility that Hudson could start Game 1 and be available for Game 5 on regular rest.
Of course if Hudson starts the one game playoff, Medlen would be available for two potential starts in the Division Series. T
If the Braves were to take Smoltz’s advice and advanced to the Division Series, they could start Medlen in Games 1 and 5. Hudson would likely be limited to one start in Game 2.
However you slice it, Medlen or Hudson would be lined up to make two starts during the Division Series. The other one would be available for one start.
But before worrying about the Division Series, the Wild Card entrants must first worry about winning that one game to get there. With this in mind, the Braves can’t afford taking the gamble of saving Medlen and Hudson for the Division Series.