We don't know right now if the Giants will face the Cards or the Nats in the NLDS, and we don't know if game 1 will be in SF or DC, but we do know game 1 will be played on Sunday and game 2 will be played on Monday. So how should Boch and Rags set up the starting rotation to provide the Giants with the best chance for success and a return trip to the World Series?
I don't think that Boch is going to care much about which team the Giants will face and where the games will be played when he sets up his starting rotation - and I agree with that approach. The key thing, IMO, is getting the starters the proper amount of rest and going with the hot hands. Cainer pitched a full game today, so he's out until game 3 on Wednesday, because I'm not going to bring him back on only 3 days rest to start game 2. In addition, Zito and Timmy threw a lot of pitches on Wednesday, so I think that should knock themboth out of consideration for the Sunday start - when thet would be going on only 3 days rest.
That leaves MadBum and Vogie as the best candidates for game 1 on Sunday. Vogie would be pitching on his normal 4 day rest cycle, while MadBum would be well-rested with 6 days off since his last start. Vogie did warm up in the bullpen today (Thursday) at the end of game 5 against the Reds, but this would have been his normal day to throw in the pen between starts so I have to believe that Boch and Rags told him not to throw his normal bullpen session on Thursday. If Boch goes by his regular season format then he'll start MadBum on Sunday, but I think that Vogey is throwing the best of any of the starters right now and should be thought of as a hot hand. In additon, MadBum has been struggling with mechanical and fatigue issues since the last few weeks of the regular season. Because of those 2 reasons, I'd like to see MadBum get some really extended time off. I think tht the rest will be much more beneficial for him than any risk of making him rusty, and he should also benefit from extra time working with Rags in the pen to tweak his mechanics.
That's my case for choosing Vogie to start game 1 on Sunday. Game 2 would then come down to a choice between MadBum, Timmy and Zito. In my mind, Timmy is the obvious choice due to the way he performed in the 2 games against Cinci. By using Timmy in game 2, Boch would also have him ready to come back well-rested for the crucial game 6 on 5 days rest, if the series goes that far.
For game 3, on Wednesday, we would then have to choose between Cainer (on normal 4 days rest), MadBum (on extended 9 days rest) and Ztio (on somewhat extended 5 days rest). That seems like a no-brainer to me. Cainer's the veteran stud with big-game esperience, he would be pitching on normal rest, and he would then become the logical choice to come back and start a deciding game 7 on normal 4 days rest for all the marbles, if the series goes that far.
That only leaves game 4, on Thursday, as needing a final decision. The only real choices are MadBum and Zito. I think that 99% on this site would choose MadBum, and I'd put myself in that crowd. The only plausible reason that I can think of to go with Zito is if we wanted to use MadBum in the series in the same way that Boch used Timmy against the Reds in the NLDS. Withouit a douibt, MadBum would be the superior pick if you want to have a starter that can come in and throw 3-5 quality innigs in relief should one of the starters stumble early in games 1, 2 or 3. He would even seem to me to be a good choice to pitch to a few batters at the end of a game in case the other relievers have a melt-down I don't think that Zito would be very effective in a role like that, whereas you know that MadBum can come in and throw quality strikes right away in any situation. It's an interesting option, but in the end I'd rather leave that role to Manny Mota or Zito and have MadBum set to start game 4. Of course, Bochy has the luxury of just naming the game 1 and game 2 starters by the end of Saturday, and then playing things by ear once he sees how the first 2 games end up - similar to what he did in the NLDS.
To sum up, here's my ideal starting rotation for all possible 7 games of the upcoming NLCS:
Vogie - Timmy - Cainer - MadBum - Vogie - Timmy - Cainer