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.
4:07pm EDT: Chris Bassitt, (Athletics) vs. Lance McCullers Jr. (Astros)
His performance in ALWCS Game 2 was more of the same for Chris Bassitt. His stat line was what has come to be expected from Bassitt: 7 IP, 5 K, 1 BB, 1 ER. Including his Postseason start, Bassitt has a 2.19 ERA with 7.71 K/9 and 2.31 BB/9 in 2020. Expected statistics indicate that Bassitt has gotten lucky, as in the regular season he posted a 3.59 FIP, 4.49 xFIP, and, most concerningly for a high-contact pitcher, a 3.78 xERA. All of these numbers are still league average or better, though, and Bassitt has always outperformed his peripherals, so A’s fans would be correct to expect another solid start.
Bassitt’s opposition, Lance McCullers Jr., has yet to pitch in the 2020 postseason, but has pitched plenty in postseasons prior. In 32 career innings in October, McCullers has had his share of heroic moments, notably throwing lots of nasty curves in a row in relief in the 2017 World Series. McCullers has a 2.53 postseason ERA despite peripherals that are less kind. The opposite has always been true of McCullers in the regular season, as he routinely runs a FIP better than his ERA, and 2020 was no different (92 ERA-, 84 FIP-, 82 xFIP-). What should be of concern about McCullers is that his opponent contact quality has spiked, leading to a 4.74 xERA. His last three starts were excellent (17.2 IP, 24 K, 4 BB, 0 ER, 4 R), but the metrics and results are a mixed bag on McCullers, and the Astros may need to have another piggyback starter ready should he falter.
Where to watch: TBS
8:07pm EDT: Blake Snell, Rays vs. Gerrit Cole, Yankees
In ALWCS Game 1 against the Blue Jays, Blake Snell was dominant, allowing just 3 base runners (2 walks and a single) and striking out 9. This was a needed outing for Snell after a season in which he was plagued by home run prevention problems; among pitchers with at least 50 IP his 1.80 HR/9 was 10th highest, and his 29.4 HR/FB% was tops. This isn’t all the result of bad luck, as Snell is worse than average in Barrel%, Sweet Spot%, Hard Hit%, and xwOBACON, but it’s certainly unsustainable. His true talent likely lies between his 3.06 xFIP and 3.98 xERA, and that’s the range of a
typical Rays very good pitcher, especially with the increased GB% and tolerable BB% Snell has maintained in 2020, to go alongside with his elite 11.34 K/9.
Gerrit Cole had a performance in ALWCS Game 1 that, in conjunction with the performances of Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer, demonstrated why strike outs are so prevalent in the playoffs. In a win over Cleveland, Cole fanned 13 Indians and walked nary a soul. He did allow 2 runs, including a home run (Cole tied for third in most homers allowed in 2020), but was brilliant nonetheless. Despite the narrative that 2020 was a disappointing season for Cole, the metrics indicate that this is still an ace, as he put up 2.84 ERA, 3.38 xFIP, and 3.13 xERA. The Postseason start was his season in a microcosm: lots of strike outs, few walks, unfortunate homers. If his luck evens out, as the Statcast data suggests, Cole will be an absolute weapon for the Yankees in jumping ahead of a Rays team that hammered them in the regular season.
Where to watch: TBS
Must-Watch Game of the Day
As much as I want to say the AL West rivalry game just to avoid saying the Yankees, I can’t. Cole tips this too far in their favor. It’s very hard to choose against watching probably a top 3 starter in baseball. Add in the fact that the two teams going at it have been testy rivals this year, and that every pitcher on the Rays has the best stuff in baseball, and this this the game to watch. The A’s-Astros game should be great, though, and fans likely can and definitely should watch both.