When I first started this site, I was 26 years old. The first year I ran the site, I was driving 45 minutes back and forth from Lynchburg every night. The second year on the site, I finished the season with a driving tour that took me from Charlottesville, VA to Richmond, Bowie, State College, Williamsport, Altoona, West Virginia, and back to Charlottesville, all in the span of two weeks. I don’t consider my current age of 31 to be old. But it is old enough to make me wonder how I ever did all of that driving, with very few breaks.
I spent most of today in the car, driving the near 700 miles from Florida to Raleigh, which is my official “I can’t make the drive to Virginia in one day, so this gives me an excuse to stop in Raleigh and see my best friend” trip. I’ll be heading up to Virginia tomorrow, which will hopefully be my travel hub for a long playoff run. Then I’ll be going up to Pittsburgh on Tuesday to start my Wild Card game coverage.
Tonight’s article is going to be short, because I’m exhausted. But I did get to spend the entire day in the car, which consisted of about three turns through the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, listening to the Pirates game, hearing about the Steelers loss in a call from my Dad shortly after it happened, and a lot of focus on who will start the Wild Card game in Pittsburgh. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the latter.
There were rumors today, along with a lot of speculation, that Edinson Volquez would be the starter in the Wild Card game for the Pirates on Wednesday. Volquez is currently listed as the starter on the Pirates’ main page as of this writing. It appears that he will be the guy, which suggests that the Pirates don’t want to go with Liriano on short rest.
I wrote over the weekend that I think Liriano is the clear option for the Wild Card start, even on short rest. If he’s healthy, that’s who I’d start. Volquez has been great this year from a results standpoint, but the advanced metrics say that he won’t keep this up. That’s true even in his final two months, which have produced an impressive 1.63 ERA, but a 3.87 xFIP. The Pirates are taking a gamble here that Volquez can hold on for at least one more game without the regression kicking in.
You might be able to go back and second guess the decision to go for the division, which made Liriano and Gerrit Cole unavailable for the Wild Card start. I think it was a good move to go for the division. It could have been won with a few key hits by Arizona, and a few key hits by the Pirates.
So now the Pirates are left with Volquez, unless they eventually decide to go with Liriano on short rest. The flip side to this is that if they win, they will have Liriano and Cole for the first two games against the Nationals, along with one of those starters for a possible game five. That’s a big if, though, as it would require a win from Volquez.
We’ll probably find out more on the Pirates’ strategy on Tuesday. For now, the matchup looks to carry some risk. If they can get the “results” version of Volquez from the last two months, then they will be in great shape. If they get the “xFIP” version, then the Pirates had better hope that their top offense shows up against Madison Bumgarner, because they’ll need to provide some support.
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