John Farrell has switched Clay Buchholz and John Lackey in his ALCS rotation, allowing Buchholz to pitch Game 2 while pushing back Lackey until Game 3 in Detroit.
Why the change? A couple days back, when Farrell wouldn't commit to any starter past Game One, we speculated it might be to get the far more homer-prone (at least this season) John Lackey out of Fenway and into a bigger park, despite his rather severe home/road splits on the season.
Well, now they're headed to Detroit, not Oakland for Game 3, which means a slightly less massive park to work with, and actually one which has been consistently more homer-friendly than Fenway. That's the thing, though, Fenway park isn't really about the homers so much as just...fly balls. The Monster saves more homers than it (and the deeper areas in CF/RF) allows, but it also turns more than enough outs into hits to compensate.
This, for the record, is the sort of thing that should bother Clay Buchholz much less than John Lackey. Lackey has allowed one fly ball for every four batters he faces, Buchholz one-per-five. It doesn't seem like such a huge difference, but it's not too hard for one fly ball--be it a double or a homer--to change the complexion of a game.
Is that a good reason to go against the conventional wisdom of "pitch Lackey at home with his good splits?" Frankly, yes, because Lackey doesn't have significant home - road splits, with just a .015 OPS against difference. This year's gap? Not hard to chalk up to simple statistical noise.
It might, however, not be so complicated as all that. The decision could simply come down to the Red Sox feeling confident in Buchholz--more than they did before his first playoff start, which was really marred by just one bad pitch. Compare that to John Lackey's start, which was really saved by the Red Sox putting up quite so many runs behind him, and its' not too hard to see why they might be making the switch. After all, Buchholz was really only kept out of the 1/2 spots by his injury. Sure, it's not a switch which really has many implications beyond who's playing where, but getting off to a better start could get the Tigers pressing to catch up, and if there's no downside to putting your best foot forward, well, why not?
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