As important as it is during the regular season, starting pitching becomes even more crucial in the postseason. Rotations are trimmed to three or four pitchers, and – particularly in a short series, when an ace can start twice in five games – the team with the starting pitching advantage is often the favorite.
Between unpredictable weather conditions and the possibility of three-game sweeps, there's no guarantee these are the 16 starters we'll see in the ALDS. However, at the moment, they're the guys penciled in to attempt to win at least one playoff game this week. So let's take a look at how the four American League postseason qualifiers assembled their October rotations.
Matt Moore: Selected in the 2007 draft (8th round).
James Shields: Selected in the 2000 draft (16th round).
David Price: Selected in the 2007 draft (1st round, 1st overall).
Jeremy Hellickson: Selected in the 2005 draft (4th round).
Not only are the Rays the only AL playoff team with four homegrown pitchers expected to start – no other club has more than two. Of the four Rays starters, only Price was a first round selection, a testament to the team's ability to make the most of its mid-round picks.
C.J. Wilson: Selected in the 2001 draft (6th round).
Derek Holland: Selected in the 2006 draft (25th round).
Colby Lewis: Signed for two years, $5MM in January 2010.
Matt Harrison: Acquired from the Braves in July 2007.
The Rangers may have assembled the most unlikely rotation of the four AL contenders. As recently as 2009, Wilson was a setup man and Lewis was pitching in Japan. Meanwhile, Holland was a 25th-round pick and Harrison was often the forgotten man in the Mark Teixeira trade that also sent Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Texas.
C.C. Sabathia: Signed for seven years, $161MM in December 2008.
Ivan Nova: Signed as amateur free agent in 2004.
Freddy Garcia: Signed a minor league deal in January 2011.
A.J. Burnett: Signed for five years, $82.5MM in December 2008.
After last night's postponement, it appears the Yankees will have to scrap their plan for a three-man ALDS rotation, meaning that one December 2008 signing (Sabathia) may log significant innings in Game 3 only, while their other '08 signing (Burnett) could be pressed into a Game 4 start.
Justin Verlander: Selected in the 2004 draft (1st round, 2nd overall).
Doug Fister: Acquired from the Mariners in July 2011.
Max Scherzer: Acquired from the Diamondbacks in December 2009.
Rick Porcello: Selected in the 2007 draft (1st overall, 27nd overall).
The Scherzer trade could have a tremendous impact on the 2011 postseason. All three teams involved in the deal qualified for the playoffs and will be relying heavily on players they acquired, including Curtis Granderson for the Yankees and Ian Kennedy for the D'Backs. As for the 2011 trade that most affects the postseason, the Tigers are hoping it's their July acquisition of Fister, who posted a 1.79 ERA after coming to Detroit.