Ok, so your team has clinched, and there’s a handful of games left. You take a peek at your team’s trusty twitter account and see a lineup full of players names you’ve not familiar with; guys who, last you heard were in Triple-A ball. What do you feel? Outrage?! Social media snarkiness?! In the immortal words of Aaron Rodgers, quarterback for the Green Bay Packers… RELAX.
Today I’m going to help you feel better about that drubbing Friday night and Saturday’s tough loss with Clayton Kershaw on the mound. We’re going to gain a better understanding of why clinching early is a good thing and how these left-over games are then turned into mini experiments where the manager puts different guys into different situations to get a feel for how they perform. Ultimately, these last few games are to determine who belongs on the postseason roster. The roster cut-down to 25 is hard to figure and the team always leaves off guys who are deserving, as we inevitably will do this year as well. Irregardless, the cuts have to be made, so I’ll offer up who I think makes the cut, who doesn’t and why.
The MLB postseason roster a collection of the best options at every position, plus the best backup or two for that role.You bring your ace closer: Kenley Jansen. You bring your lights-out short relievers: Joe Blanton, Grant Dayton, Pedro Baez You’re gonna need a few long relief guys, and lefties, just in case: Ross Stripling, Brett Anderson, Alex Wood and Luis Avilan.
Since we have MANY capable players all over the field, but especially at these positions, the choices become tough. Which are quality problems, but they don’t come without a little distress.
For instance; last night, leading 4-3, Manager of the Year lock Dave Roberts put Brandon McCarthy in the game to pitch the sixth inning. Welp. By the time the 7th started, the Giants led 9-3, McCarthy was on the hook for the loss giving up six earned runs on five hits without getting an out. Bad outings happen, and I never want to lose to the Giants, regardless of the circumstances, but there was some productivity in McCarthy’s outing, even with that atrocious box score. I think Doc can now comfortably leave Brandon off the postseason roster without much hesitation.
What about our starting pitching; Kershaw, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda are givens, with Julio Urias and Jose De Leon as fill-in starters. I’ve seen enough of McCarthy, Brett Anderson and Scott Kazmir to feel as though the Dodgers are better off without them starting; it’s one thing to overcome a three inning, five-earned run outing in the regular season, but overcoming it in the playoffs is close to impossible.
The gimme starters on the infield are easy to name: Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Chase Utley and Adrian Gonzalez. Who backs them up is about as clear as split pea soup; Kike Hernandez can play multiple spots, so he’s in. Rob Segedin can hit lefties, so he’s in. Charlie Culberson, outside of his monster game vs. the Rockies last sunday, has two games to prove me wrong, but I don’t see him making the cut.
The outfield, oh how I love thee. Remember in the beginning of the year, when the Dodgers had more legitimate outfield starters than the rest of the NL West combined? I do! After 160 plus games, however one can see why the front office values depth so much. The starters should be: Howie Kendrick, Joc Pederson, Josh Reddick.
But here’s the fun part; who do you bring along with them? Yasiel Puig is the first on my list; he’s showing more discipline at the plate, and he can hit lefties. Andrew Toles is a must have (and Roberts let it slip that he made the roster yesterday) because of his bat, arm, range, speed and batting average. Did I miss anything?
Andre Ethier, we sure did miss you and it’s great to see you back out there. Captain clutch has returned, but was it too late? It is very possible it unfortunately is too late. I know he hit a homer at home vs. the Rockies last week but outside of that, his bat seems awfully cold and I haven’t seen him in the field lately. This leads me to believe that the other outfielders are a better bet for range and arm. Does he make it? I’m pulling for him, but I’m also aware that his spot on the roster means we leave someone like Josh Ravin, Jesse Chavez or Josh Fields behind.
Behind home plate is the mainstay Yasmani Grandal, whose pitch framing and home run hitting will be invaluable come the playoffs. Recently acquired backup, Carlos Ruiz, aka Chooch, has shown he can hit lefties and if you’ve watched any Dodgers baseball this year, you know they’re a different team facing left-handed pitching. Austin Barnes is the 3rd catcher, who can also play some infield spots too, so I see him making the roster only because of his utility.
Clinching earlier in the year has it’s benefits; you’re no longer forced to trot out your studs and wear them into the ground, you no longer have to stress over what ‘team X’ is doing versus the Miami Marlins or what the score is in the ‘team Y’ game. You have your ticket to October baseball punched, and you’re one step closer to playing in the World Series.
It’s the last few games once you’ve clinched that are open auditions for those on the playoff roster bubble and as long as you keep that in mind, the last few nerve-crippling regular season games make more sense.