Monday, May 21, 2012

High Risk, High Reward Strategies in the ACC Tournament

Let's start by going through the Pack's pool:

No. 2 North Carolina (42-13, 22-8 ACC)
No. 3 NC State (38-15, 19-11)
No. 6  Miami (34-19, 16-14)
No. 7 Wake Forest (32-22, 13-17)

If you aren't familiar with the format, the four teams in the pool will play round-robin and the winner will advance to the finals on Sunday to play whoever emerges out of the opposite pool. Usually some complicated tie-breaker scenarios come into play because multiple teams finish at 2-1. It's not necessarily the best way to determine a champion, but it beats the previous double-elimination format.

The toughest thing about a format like this is figuring out your pitching rotation. Here are State's three games:

Wednesday, 3pm: Miami
Thursday, 7pm: Wake Forest
Saturday, 7pm: UNC

Both UNC and NC State get the benefit of a Friday off, which will give their bullpens a day to rest and should make just about everyone outside of the Wednesday and Thursday starters available. Your best pitchers are, in order:

1. Carlos Rodon - Duh
2. Ethan Ogburn - Doesn't miss a lot of bats but he's a consistent strike thrower
3. Anthony Tzamtzis or Logan Jernigan - Tzamtzis holds the better ERA but their underlying performance is essentially equal. They both are good pitchers when they throw strikes but they don't throw strikes nearly often enough.

The dilemma for the Pack is which pitcher to put where. You have to win three games or, failing that, win two games and beat the other team(s) that wins two games in order to hold the tiebreaker and move on to Sunday. Therefore I think you have to assume that Saturday is the game to win because even if you split the Wed/Thurs games and UNC goes 2-0 you simply have to beat them on Saturday to advance. The worst case scenario here is that you lose both games and blow your hopes of advancing before even playing UNC.

I would make a big gamble here and throw Jernigan on Wednesday and Tzamtzis on Thursday. After all, the ultimate goal is to win the ACC title and you'll have to throw your No. 3 and No. 4 starters at some point to win it. Might as well throw them against the two worst teams you are likely to face.

Avent tried a strategy similar to this in the 2010 regional and it blew up in spectacular fashion, but the idea isn't wrong. Winning an ACC title in this format requires some gambling and Avent should absolutely gamble. The only difference between losing the title on Sunday and losing the title on Thursday is that you get more rest for the regional by losing on Thursday.

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