One aspect of the MLB postseason schedule, which was unveiled this week, is that an extra off day allows for National League teams to use only three pitchers on regular rest through the five-game Division Series, if they so choose.
Both NLDS start on Saturday, October 7, but there is a non-travel off day before Game 2. This is to stagger with the American League, which also starts the Division Series on October 7, so that there are fewer days with no baseball.
Coupled with the travel days before Games 3 and 5, the NLDS if it goes the distance would take eight days to complete. The off days allow the Game 1 starter to pitch again in Game 4 on four days rest, and for the Game 2 starter to pitch on four days rest in Game 5.
2023 NLDS schedule
|1||Sat, Oct 7||TBS|
|2||Mon, Oct 9||TBS|
|3||Wed, Oct 11||TBS|
|4*||Thu, Oct 12||TBS|
|5*||Sat, Oct 14||TBS|
It’s an advantage for teams with top-heavy rotations, to get as many innings out of their best pitchers as possible in a short series. Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urías would presumably be the first two postseason starters for the Dodgers, but the staff had been so hurt this season, including both Urías and Kershaw spending over six weeks on the injured list.
The Dodgers would also need to be one of the top two division winners in the National League to earn the privilege to be able to order their NLDS rotation as they see fit, but a gander at the standings shows that won’t bee too much of a problem.
Having your best pitchers is a huge advantage, but in October there are no guarantees. In the 2015 NLDS, the Dodgers had the peaks of Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and closer Kenley Jansen pitch in 70 percent of the innings, but still lost in five games to the Mets. Maybe this year, teams can use the extra division series off days to practice covering third base.
Last year, the American League had the extra off day in the Division Series. Houston-Seattle was a sweep, but Yankees-Guardians went the full five games. Gerrit Cole started in both Games 1 and 4 for New York. A rainout pushed Game 2 back a day, which messed up the potential Games 2-5 gambit, but Nestor Cortes Jr. still started both games, the latter on three days rest.
But weather permitting this season, the Dodgers will have a chance to consolidate the rotation during the NLDS if they so choose.