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Indians Indians Archive Byrd On A Wire
Written by Paul Cousineau

Paul Cousineau
Eric Wedge had three options tonight for his starting pitcher.  Paul Byrd, Aaron Laffey, or C.C. Sabathia on three day's rest.  Paul Cousineau says, ultimately, starting Byrd is what he probably would have done too ... but that Byrd shouldn’t be on a short leash tonight … he should be held by the collar.  Paul says he'd have Aaron Laffey ready from the first inning on, and that the differences between he and Byrd could cause the Yankees trouble 'till we get to the back end of our pen. 

All of the options for Game 4 having been apparently weighed by the Tribe and Yankee deep thinkers have netted the match-up of Paul Byrd facing Long Duck Dong … er, Chien-Ming Wang going on 3 days rest. There has been much hand-wringing over the Indians’ decision to go with the veteran RH over C.C. on 3 days rest (allowing the Tribe to throw Fausto on normal 5 days rest if he would be needed for Game 5) or having the LH Laffey go against a Yankee lineup with a lower OPS vs. LHP (.789) than against RHP (.844).

The idea to throw C.C. sounds great in theory, and I’m sure that it was not something that was simply dismissed out of hand by the Indians. The concern is that C.C. has thrown on three days rest only once in his career and keeping him ready for a Game 5 in Cleveland (likely against Pettitte, if it gets to that) in an elimination game would be right in the aCCe’s wheelhouse.

The last time the Indians tried to throw their top starter to save a Divisional Series on the road…um,
it did not go well. Obviously, C.C. is not Bartolo and no situation is identical, but if “what’s past is prologue”, then it is important to know how pitchers (Colon was 18-5 that year with a 3.95 and a 1.27 WHIP) have reacted in similar situations.

While throwing C.C. would keep the bottle of TUMS in the bathroom and not on the table next to my couch tonight, saving him for a potential Game 5 (with Fausto ready at a moment’s notice) on a full rest looks more prudent in the long run, particularly when you consider that many of the 114 pitches that the Crooked Cap threw in Game 1 were of the "high stress" variety that are purported to be infinitely more burdensome for a pitcher.

The other option, though, to throw Laffey instead of Byrd is infinitely more interesting as it becomes a question of the known (Byrd v. Yanks) versus the unknown (Laffey v. Yanks). Generally, you take the known, right? Not when the known quantity (Byrd) is the type of pitchers that Yankee hitters feast on – a nibbler who tends to get the ball up in the zone and pitches on guts and guile – while the unknown (Laffey) presents an option that the Yankees have never seen and a young guy just out there playing catch with Victor.

Consider Byrd’s start against the Yankees on August 12th:

2 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HR

Once the Yankees got into a groove against Byrd in the 2nd inning, the feathers really started flying:

Matsui singled to center.
Cano doubled to right, Matsui to third.
Cabrera hits SF to left, Matsui scored.
Phillips walked.
Molina singled to center, Cano to third, Phillips to second.
Damon doubled to right, Cano and Phillips scored, Molina to third.
Jeter struck out swinging.
Abreu singled to left, Molina and Damon scored, Abreu to second advancing on throw.
Rodriguez homered to center, Abreu scored.
Matsui grounded out to second.

Unfortunately, it’s not like the Yankees just got a few clutch hits or were able to take advantage of Indian mistakes. That is a comprehensive dissection of Paul Byrd in one inning, as they batted around and forced Wedge to blow his bullpen apart to salvage the final 7 innings. The Yankees were patient, waiting for their pitch to hit, systematically working the body until A-Rod delivered the knockout punch.

Anyone else getting nervous and seeing a repeat of the above sequence happening in Game 4? I don’t know how the young Tribe would react to something like that happening again in the 2nd inning in the Bronx as the Yankees’ confidence swelled and the TBS announcers started making out with each other.

So let’s not get it to that point.

If Byrd is getting the start (and he is, so there’s no use debating it…just accept it), Aaron Laffey should be warming up in the bullpen next to him as he gets ready for the game. At the very first sign of trouble, The Atomic Wedgie should get out there and do to the Yankees with Laffey what the removal of Clemens and insertion of Hughes did to the Indians in Game 3. If the Yankees come out ready for Byrd and are suddenly inundated with Laffey’s extreme groundball-producing pitching from the left side of the rubber, it may buy the Tribe offense enough time to get to Wang the way that they did in Game 1.

Clemens and Hughes are similar pitchers and the Tribe offense was thrown into an adjustment mode that did them in. Imagine what Byrd to Laffey could do. Laffey has never faced the Yankees and, more importantly, the Yankees have never seen Laffey. By the time the Bombers figure out Laffey’s arm angle and tendencies, one could think that the sequence of Lewis, Perez, Betancourt, and JoeBo could take the ball and put the Yanks away.

Of course, Byrd could come out with the proper mix of Vaseline, guts, Crisco, guile, and “veteran experience” and battle his way through the game to get the ball to the aforementioned bullpen. That possibility isn’t going to help the lining of my stomach much though, as Byrd “battling” through innings means tightropes and the feeling of jumping out of an airplane unsure if your parachute will open.

Byrd shouldn’t be on a short leash tonight … he should be held by the collar.

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