As October approaches, several contending teams find themselves without ironclad aces at the top of their rotations. The Texas Rangers will go into Game 1 with Yu Darvish, who's riding a string of several strong starts but has struggled at times during his debut season.
The Oakland Athletics may have to enter October with an all-rookie rotation that lacks both Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson. The Baltimore Orioles' rotation is fronted by Wei-Yin Chen, who's been barely better than league average. The St. Louis Cardinals are hoping the reckoning for Kyle Lohse doesn't come until 2013. If the Los Angeles Dodgers claim a wild card, their hopes of advancing to the NLDS might depend on Josh Beckett. And even Yankees ace CC Sabathia has looked uncharacteristically shaky in the second half.
Meanwhile, a few other playoff locks and hopefuls can count on handing the ball to a starter who's been consistently successful all season. The Chicago White Sox (Chris Sale and Jake Peavy), Washington Nationals (Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann), Detroit Tigers (Justin Verlander), Cincinnati Reds (Johnny Cueto), and even teams on the periphery of the race like the Los Angeles Angels (Jered Weaver) and Tampa Bay Rays (David Price) can rest secure in the knowledge that their top starter would match up well with any opponent in a play-in game or at the start of a series.
Aces are often viewed as integral to postseason success, but do the teams with stronger starters at the tops of their rotations really have more reason to be confident?