Major League Baseball recently released the 2022 postseason schedule, and there’s a potentially crucial change in it: In the NLDS and NLCS, there will be no days off from Game 3 until the end of each series. This means top-heavy rotations, like the Mets, will be slightly disadvantaged by the switch compared to a team like the Dodgers, who have a higher volume of quality starters.
To build on the Mets example, Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer would have to pitch on three days rest multiple times in order to get the same type of usage as previous formats. This seems unlikely, because as Dodger fans remember, Scherzer could not pitch on short rest last postseason and had a dead arm that led to him not pitching in Game 6 of the NLCS, while DeGrom is just back from injury and forcing him to go on short rest could put him at a risk level the Mets aren’t willing to take. Likely gone are the days of team being able to have two aces cover four games of a five-game series and five games of a seven-game series. The new schedule will force teams to go deeper into their starting rotation than prior years and/or stretch aces more than they want to. That’s not to say these teams don’t have other quality starters, but the drop off is significant.
Meanwhile, the starter depth for the Dodgers is seemingly boundless and is going to force some interesting decisions with regards to the postseason roster and rotation. With Dustin May‘s return, the Dodgers starting pitching is as impressive as it’s been all year, and future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw looks like he will be back in enough time to build up some innings as well. That makes for six starters — a whopping five of them with similarly great numbers — and that is where things get interesting.
The Dodgers are in a rare spot where being forced to go to their fifth and even sixth starter doesn’t have much of a downside for them. By the end of the year, Andrew Heaney might be their emergency starter/swingman type, and he’s been the best out of everybody at run prevention. A starting rotation of Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, Kershaw, May, and Tyler Anderson (that list is in no particular order) — with Heaney piggybacking a couple games — seems daunting for opponents to match up with in a playoff series, and all could now be deployed in a seven-game series where there is only one day off.
So that’s the advantage the new schedule provides this Dodgers team come the postseason. Every starter in the rotation is very good, which makes having to use more of them relatively better compared to the situations of other teams, and they all can be on full rest. In years past, the Dodgers have often looked like the Mets do this year. The Kershaw solo ace years, the Kershaw/Zack Greinke duo years, and the Kershaw/Walker Buehler years standout in particular. This year, it feels like each starter is working on a no-hitter or shutout each time they go out and could be the team’s ace on their day.
The depth of the Dodgers pitching staff has never been better, and with some help from the new postseason schedule, they’ve never had a better time to deploy that in the playoffs.