How crazy would it be for a team to start their closer in a one-game wild card play-in game? Not so crazy according to FanGraphs Dave Cameron.
Give Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty, Luis Avilan, and Cristhian Martinez the last couple of days of the regular season off in order to make sure they’re fresh for the play-in game. Then, announce Kimbrel as the starting pitcher, and tell him he’s getting the first six outs of the game. He’s faced 5+ batters nine times this year already, so it’s not a drastic departure from a quantity standpoint. Then, for the next few innings, you can mix and match right-handers with left-handers, taking advantage of the platoon match-ups to quash any early rallies. You’d hope to get another 9-12 outs from these four, which would take you into the sixth or seventh inning.
So would this logic apply to the Orioles and closer Jim Johnson? I don’t see why it wouldn’t, he’s tied for the league lead in saves (43), has a 2.82 ERA in 63 games and opponents are hitting .223 off of him this season.
I’ll leave the tough decisions up to Buck Showalter though. The O’s skipper seems to know what he’s doing.