If you are any sort of baseball fan that spends time on some sort of social media talking about a team, it’s almost incumbent upon you to sketch out your postseason roster at some point or another. Of course, “postseason roster” is a bit of a misnomer, as teams can change their rosters before every round (and, in case of injury, actually within a series). So just because you pick 25 men to go up against the Dodgers doesn’t mean the same 25 will be in play in the NLCS. Kyle McClellan can painfully testify to this effect, given he missed both the NLDS and World Series in 2011 (and while he was on the roster for the NLCS that year, he only threw 0.1 innings in a series dominated by bullpen usage).
Far be it from me to shirk my responsibilities as a fine, upstanding member of Cardinal Nation. Let’s take a gander.
THE STARTERS (7)
No real discussion here, save the fact that I listed only two outfielders. It’s tough to put another player in the “starter” category given how much shuffling is done out there, though as you’ll see, the usual suspects will make an appearance.
THE ROTATION (4)
The only potential discussion point would be the fourth starter slot, but given the struggles of Michael Wacha and Lackey’s postseason experience (helped out by a couple of good starts to close the season), it’s pretty clear that it is Lackey’s job. It would be fairly stunning to see Mike Matheny go a different direction there.
THE OBVIOUS BENCH (2)
There are probably a few others that you could put here, but there’s enough potential for discussion that I’ll put them in a different group. No matter what you think of Descalso, his versatility, playoff experience and strong hitting in the second half (.835 OPS after the break) will have him as much of a lock for this roster as anyone listed above. My guess is Bourjos will get plenty of playing time in these games as well, especially as a defensive substitute. We could see Matheny go to him much earlier than you usually see defensive subs go in, given the struggles of the offense. If the Cards are up by one in the sixth, it might be time to start swapping him in.
THE OBVIOUS BULLPEN (5)
I’m not enamored with what Choate has done, but he’s that veteran LOOGY that will be on this roster even though there are a number of left-handed (and, for that matter, right-handed) options that might be just as good of a selection. Choate’s second half was better than his first, but he threw half as many innings as well. Still, I can’t see a scenario where he’s left off the roster, especially given the mindset of Matheny. John Mozeliak will make the final roster, true, but Matheny will have a large bit of input on it.
That’s 18 of 25. Now, I’d probably lean toward a 14 hitter/11 pitcher split for this series, given the fact that it’s shorter, there’s two off days if you go the full five, and having some capable bats on the bench would be really nice to see. I don’t expect that the Cardinals will do that–13/12 seems to be so prevalent these days–but that’s the way I’m making out my roster. If you don’t like it, you can start your own blog for free on Blogger or WordPress!
THE FINAL HITTERS (5)
I tend to think of Pierzynski being a better hitter than he is because he had some good games right after the Cards brought him in and he’s had a long career of being fairly successful. However, he only hit .244/.295/.305 in 30 games with the Cards, but his bat still outplays Tony Cruz’s glove, I think. Now, if Matheny’s not actually going to use Pierzynski as a pinch-hitter, maybe you go with Cruz to make sure that if you have to run for Molina, you have a good receiver for the late innings. However, odds are Molina will play every inning and whomever goes here won’t get but an at-bat, maybe two, in the entire series.
Even though Scruggs didn’t show a lot in his limited playing time (it’s a shame Matheny limited him to 15 at-bats, especially when it was obvious Adams could use some rest), I think you have to go in with a guy that has a power profile. Odds are he’s not going to hit one out, but you’d rather take your chances with him than Mark Ellis, wouldn’t you? Plus Adams doesn’t need to start against Clayton Kershaw and putting Descalso at first base there, even with his limited success against the Dodger hurler, is just asking for outrage.
Taveras and Grichuk both give you potential pop off the bench, even if they’ve not completely shown it either. Taveras has proven himself to be a more-than-capable pinch-hitter and Grichuk played quite well down the stretch. Bring them both, knowing that one of them will likely be starting in right much of the series.
After all that, it boils down to Kozma vs. Ellis for the back-up infielder role. Kozma has a great glove, Ellis not as much. Kozma had seven hits in 14 games, Ellis has 32 in 73. While there’s no doubt Ellis signed his $5 million contract with the Cards specifically because he expected to play in October with the club, he’s not shown anything all year that really makes you feel like there’s a reason he should be on the roster. His usage bears this out as well–Ellis got 11 AB in September. Kozma got 19.
THE FINAL PITCHERS (2)
I think you take Freeman because you don’t want to rely on just Choate to get lefties out and you’d like to be able to go to that LOOGY weapon more than once a game if necessary. It’s obvious that Kevin Siegrist isn’t right, so he can’t be the other one, and Tyler Lyons (Patron Pitcher of the Blog, of course) is more useful as a long man, something that you shouldn’t need in October.
And if you do need that long reliever, you could use Gonzales in that role, but he’s not limited to just that. We saw him come into some big spots and do well down the stretch and the usage of him indicates that Matheny trusts him. With his changeup as a weapon, he can get some powerful people out and he can either take an inning or take three. Flexibility is usually a good thing.
CLOSE BUT NOT QUITE
We’ve talked about Cruz already and he easily could make the team over Pierzynski. I said this on Gateway to Baseball Heaven Sunday night, but the emergence of Gonzales makes Wacha–just for this postseason, not for his career!–a bit redundant. Wacha isn’t going to make the starting rotation and the problem right now with him is, at least in part, command, so you would be hesitant to bring him into a situation with runners on. Gonzales can eat innings, throws a changeup, etc. For this moment in time, they are pretty similar pitchers and I’d go with Gonzales, letting Wacha get an early start on his winter so as to be fully ready for Opening Day.
Greenwood and Masterson aren’t really that close to the cutoff, but I wanted to acknowledge them anyway. Greenwood was an unsung hero all year long and, without Gonzales, you might be tempted to add him to the roster as the guy that can soak up some innings if necessary. It seems unlikely he’ll get rewarded for what he did for this team, though, and that’s a shame. Masterson started to find his way in the pen toward the end of the year, throwing 3.1 scoreless innings in September. Of course, two of those innings came on the last day (when he picked up the win at Arizona) so it’s not like he did much for the month. Still, it seems strange to see a trade deadline acquisition by Mozeliak sitting on the sidelines when the postseason begins. (Well, unless you are referring to Corey Patterson, but that doesn’t count–he wasn’t the focus of the deal.)
That’s who I’d take into battle come Friday. We’ll find out just how close this hews to reality in a couple of days.