Being that Greinke has already stated that starting games 4 and 7, both on short rest was a possibility, we have to believe that Dodger’s management is currently strongly considering it. It seems like a sure thing Greinke pitches game 4 if the Cards win game 3. The Dodgers will need to win four in a row and that sounds a lot easier to the Dodgers if Greinke pitches two of those games. Even if they beat our ace, the Dodgers will probably want their $147 million man to pitch two more games. If they win game 3 the Dodgers would need 3 more victories and they would see that possibility if Greinke throws 2 games and Kershaw throws one more. This is also a situation where if Mattingly DOESN’T pitch Greinke in game 4 then he opens himself to criticism. No one is going to mad at him for betting on their second Ace rather than Nolasco. Unfortunately for the Dodgers and Mattingly, the stats don’t line up to support the idea of starting your aces on three days rest. The average playoff starter on 3 days rest pitches a significant amount worse than the average playoff starter on normal rest (3.99 to 4.66), even though pitchers going on short rest in the playoffs are much better than the average pitcher. In this case, Greinke will be get two starts at a lower level of dominance and will take a start from either Nolasco or Ryu, depending on how they line up the rotation after game 4.
If Ryu makes a strong start against the Cardinals in game 3, the Dodgers could adopt a traditional three man rotation the rest of the way. That is, from game 4 on it would be Greinke, Kershaw, Ryu, Greinke, all on short rest, leaving Nolasco out of the picture. This I think would be a dream situation for the Cardinals, as it would be Kershaw’s second start on short rest, and Ryu on short rest could really be a bad idea.
If they have confidence in Nolasco, the Dodgers could alternatively go Greinke, Nolasco, Kershaw, Greinke from game 4 on so that Greinke would be the only pitcher going on short rest. Kershaw would not only be two starts removed from his short rest start, but also have five days of rest. Which the Dodgers choose again will probably hinge on game 3. If Ryu shuts down the Cardinals they’ll probably want him to go rather than Nolasco, even though that means he’ll face them on short rest and he’s not the ace level guy Kershaw and Greinke are. It’ll also cause Kershaw to go on short rest. However if Ryu struggles like he did against the Braves, the Dodgers will probably be willing to bet on Nolasco, especially since it gives Kershaw extra rest.
Although it would lead to a lot of anger in their media, I think the best move by the Dodgers is to stick to a four man rotation. Greinke pitched great against us in game 1, and on regular rest he’d be expected to do it again. On short rest in game 4 he could dominate, but there is a better chance that he’s less effective. As for game 7, he could be really average in game 7, pitching his second time in a row on short rest, against Wainwright on normal rest. The Dodgers probably feel pressure to rush back into the series, but for them to win the series will at least be 6 games, of which in any scenario, Greinke and Kerhaw will get two starts. That will also give Ryu two starts on full rest should the series go to game 7, which as a talented LHP could give us fits. If the Dodgers get through game 4, they’ll have Greinke, Kershaw, and Ryu set up to all go on regular rest, with Greinke and Kershaw again benefiting from favorable matchups against Kelly and Wacha. If the Dodgers needed to win 3 in a row this would be there best chance to do it. If they needed to win just two out of three they may even have the advantage in the series us.
However it’s much more likely that Mattingly helps us out and at least pitches Greinke in games 4 and 7. In game 7 Ryu on regular rest would be a better option than Greinke on his second consecutive short rest start unless we really light up Ryu in game 3. Whether he chooses to go with a 3 man rotation and cuts out Nolasco or not is up in the air. Throwing just 3 creates two mismatches for the Dodgers, with Ryu on short rest against Wacha in game 6 and Greinke on his second consecutive short rest start against Wainwright. Hell, games 4 and 5 also become somewhat toss ups with Lynn against Greinke on short rest (and Lynn kinda on short rest but also kinda not) and Kelly against Kershaw starting on short rest for the second time in three starts.
Using the alternative rotation of Greinke, Nolasco, Kershaw, and Greinke creates an even game 4 of Nolasco vs. Kelly and a repeat of game 2 in Kershaw vs. Wacha, all on regular rest. This isn’t too bad for the Dodgers except when you consider it still sets up a worn down Greinke against a rested Wainwright in a possible game 7.
So while the stats and matchups dictate that the Dodgers be patient and stick to their four man rotation, old baseball strategy supports betting on your aces, even if on short rest. Mattingly will likely go with Greinke in game 4, especially if we win game 3. If they can win game 3, Mattingly could test Nolasco in a non-elimination game, knowing that it sets up their 3 strong pitchers to all throw on regular rest to end the series. But more than likely he’s anxious to even the series in game 4 in an attempt to swing the momentum towards the Dodgers, which would be a mistake. Mattingly could even start Greinke in game 4 despite thinking its the wrong idea, just to avoid getting blamed for giving up on the series. Looking right and making the right decisions are of course often two different things in baseball.
All I know is the Cardinals are way ahead and no matter what choice the Dodgers make the odds are in the Cardinals favor. But hopefully Mattingly can make the odds even more in our favor by favoring conventional strategy over what the numbers say. Go Cards!