The postseason has begun, and this year more than ever before, the schedule can be very overwhelming. I’ve decided to breakdown the starting pitching matchups daily every day until the end of the World Series, including which one I think should be the highest priority to watch.
2:00 pm EDT: Zack Greinke, Astros @ Kenta Maeda, Twins
Zack Greinke is a future Hall of Famer, and 2020 has been another stellar season for him. At age 36 with a fastball that averages a mere 88.1mph, Greinke posted a 4.03 ERA, 2.80 FIP, 3.51 xFIP, and 3.72 xERA. He placed second in the American League in fWAR, and, numbers aside, may be the most fun pitcher in baseball to watch thanks to his deep arsenal and quirky antics. On the other side is Kenta Maeda, one of 2020’s breakout stars. Were it not for someone I’ll discuss in a bit, Maeda would likely win Cy Young, as he ranks in the top 5 in the AL in ERA, FIP, xFIP, fWAR, and RA9-WAR. He’s dominated thanks to halving his walk rate and is a more than worthy opponent for the all-time great Greinke in Game 1.
Where to watch: ABC
3:00 pm EDT: Lucas Giolito, White Sox @ Jesús Luzardo, Athletics
Lucas Giolito followed up a breakout 2019 by essentially replicating it in 2020. The range of his ERA and its estimators was tight and very good – 3.06 at lowest and 3.48 at highest. He’s also been very good at limiting loud contact, a definite skill against a hard-hitting A’s offense. Benefiting from that offense will be rookie Jesús Luzardo. Luzardo hovered right around league average in 2020, but was great in his last start, and has nasty stuff. He also dominates the first time through the order, so the deep A’s bullpen will be of help to him.
Where to watch: ESPN
5:00 pm EDT: Matt Shoemaker, Blue Jays @ Blake Snell, Rays
The 2020 season was not a successful one for Matt Shoemaker, with a 107 ERA- and 132 FIP-. His velocity was increased in his only start since returning from the IL, but he still wasn’t too sharp. The Blue Jays will, thankfully, not be expecting much length from Shoemaker, as they have a bevy of multi-inning relievers at the ready. The Rays, on the other hand, have a very good starter on the mound in Blake Snell. Snell isn’t at his Cy Young peak, but the only issue he’s had in 2020 has been home run suppression, and his 29.4 HR/FB% is unsustainable. While Snell isn’t likely to pitch deep into the game either, the Rays always have another elite arm waiting, if the one starting the game should falter.
Where to watch: TBS
7:00 pm EDT: Gerrit Cole, Yankees @ Shane Bieber, Cleveland
Coming off a year in which he looked world-beating, 2020 was a step back for Gerrit Cole. He was still quite good, with a 2.84 ERA and 26.7 K-BB%, but a brutal HR rate drove a 3.89 FIP. Shane Bieber, on the other hand, was baseball’s best player in 2020. He led all pitchers in fWAR, and, if using a blend of fWAR and RA9-WAR, was the most valuable player in baseball. All of his FIP, xFIP, ERA, and xERA signified an elite arm, and Bieber certainly was that.
Where to watch: ESPN
Must-Watch Game of the Day
This was an easy call. Cole and Bieber have both had stretches within the last two years were they were the best pitcher on earth. This is the best matchup of the day, and will probably be the best of the first round.