09 October 2014

Postseason Roster Crunch: Reviewing the ALDS and Previewing the ALCS

Photo by Keith Allison

Leading up the the ALDS, I wrote a few posts on roster decisions facing the Orioles. I looked at the pitching staff, De Aza vs. Lough, the 3B situation, as well as an overall look at what I projected the final roster would be.

There were a couple things I was wrong about. I looked at 2012 and concluded the Orioles would again go with 12 pitchers in the ALDS. However, this time around the team went with 11 pitchers, which allowed for the Orioles to carry an extra hitter, who, it could be argued, was either David Lough or Jimmy Paredes. Since I am volunteering what I got wrong, I'll also point out that I did mention that Brian Matusz could be excluded if the Orioles faced the Tigers. However, while I acknowledged the possibility, I wouldn't have bet on it. I was also wrong about Ubaldo Jimenez being included on the roster. I didn't see that one coming, and figured the Orioles would carry Ryan Webb or T.J. McFarland instead (or Brian Matusz, but I thought he'd be safe, regardless).

But on to the ALCS roster. While no assumption is safe given the clever way in which this team manages its roster, I would think it's likely that the Orioles carry 12 pitchers this round. And, since a 5-man rotation isn't necessary, pushing a starter to the bullpen capable of being the long-man, Brian Matusz is likely to be the pitcher added, not McFarland.

So, who is going to be excluded in order to make room for Matusz, Lough or Paredes? My guess is Lough. While he's the Orioles best defensive option in LF, De Aza is a perfectly capable defensive replacement for games when Delmon Young or Nelson Cruz start in LF (likely vs LH starters). On top of that, Buck has a lot more options for OF replacements should an unexpected need arise. This isn't the case in the infield, which is why I think Paredes will be included over Lough. What if J.J. Hardy's back flares up and Flaherty has to start a game at SS? Without Paredes on the roster, the Orioles would be left without a backup infielder.

Prediction number 1: Brian Matusz replaces David Lough on the roster. 

In terms of the rotation, I expect it to consist of the same 4 pitchers. As Jeff Long wrote about already, Kevin Gausman could (and probably should) be in the rotation, but it seems unlikely that Buck would change his mind now as to who he thinks are his 4 best options as starters.

There's also the question of Ubaldo. I disagreed with including him on the ALDS roster. However, his inclusion on the ALDS roster makes it all the more likely that he'll also be on the ALCS roster. While it is possible that McFarland could get a spot on the 25-man instead of him, it's not likely.

Prediction number 2: The same 4 pitchers are in the Orioles rotation
Prediction number 3: Ubaldo remains on the roster for the ALCS. 

There's also the issue of Chris Davis. Thanks to the Orioles making quick work of the Tigers, Davis is not eligible to play until Game 6 of the ALCS. However, he must be included on the roster from the start of the series, so the Orioles would have to play with a 24-man roster for 5 games in order for Davis to be available for Game 6. I don't think this will or should happen. Working with a short bench in order to possibly get 2 games worth of plate appearances from a player who was below league average production this season and hasn't seen game action in almost a month (over a month at the time he's eligible) because of an amphetamine suspension? Pass

Prediction number 4: Chris Davis will be left off the ALCS roster. 

Like I said above, the Orioles are clever in their roster management, so they could again surprise us with the roster they submit for the series. But I think the only change that will take place is Brian Matusz being added to the roster at the expense of David Lough.


FearItself said...

I think McFarland will replace Jimenez.
I think McFarland was only left off the ALDS roster because of the way the Tigers crush left-handed pitching. Some of the Royals most important batters hit left-handed (Aoki, Gordon, Hosmer, Moustakis), and I think Buck will want to be able to choose between a lefty and a righty if he needs a long man from the bullpen.
The biggest argument for keeping Jimenez is stability, but I get the impression Buck doesn't value that as much as some commentors do; he wants his guys to buy into the "do whatever it takes" approach, and to accept that no one guy is more important than another, regardless of contract size. Only team success matters. Including McFarland over Jimenez would reinforce that message, and probably also result in a stronger team (even assuming that the Jimenez who would show up would be the guy who pitched well late in the year, not the one who struggled early).

Pat Holden said...

I agree that McFarland should be included over Jimenez. I just don't think he will be. I hope I'm wrong because, you're right, McFarland makes the team stronger.

FearItself said...

I hear you. The cynical view is that they have to include Jimenez because of how much they're paying him. There may be something to that, but I honestly don't think it's going to swing the decision. If Jimenez does make the roster over McFarland, I'll just remind myself that Buck and Dan Duquette are baseball lifers who work with these pitchers every day. I'd be a fool to think I'm better equipped to make a decision than they are. There's enough of the blind fan in me that I want to trust them (in part, because I think they've earned it). So, like you, I'm eager to see what they decide.

Pat Holden said...

Yeah, the biggest thing Ubaldo has going for him is that he was on the ALDS roster. Not the greatest reason to include him on the ALCS roster, but I was shocked when he was included vs. the Tigers, so...

On top of that, McFarland has never really been used as a matchup pitcher, so maybe they see Gausman as filling his role. But, like you said, it's the postseason so it would be nice to have L and R options in that spot.

Anonymous said...

What chances do you give Quinton Berry to make the roster?

Pat Holden said...

I'd be shocked if Berry made the roster. But hey, Ubaldo made the DS roster, so anything can happen.

While his speed could be an asset, it's not something that's generally emphasized on this team and I don't see who would realistically be excluded to make room for him.

Rick said...

I agree with this post. Initially, I was thinking that since Flaherty was strong defensively in the ALDS that we might not keep Paredes but I think we need him in there as a pinch hitter still, more so than Lough. Clevenger might be a wild card for this spot because he faced all of their pitchers this year, but he didn't do very well and I can't see him catching in a game (or playing at first, that was terrible) so his value seems low here.

As for the pitchers, it looks like their lefties, besides Moustakas, aren't too much worse against LHPs--in fact, TBS constantly pointed out that Aoki is the best LvLHP hitter in the league. But I STILL think we bring McFarland in for Ubaldo. I think Ubaldo was only there to eat a game if we really fell behind but McFarland would be more useful in tighter situations and extra innings--Gausman can't be the long man twice in a row.

Whatever happens, Buck Knows Best

Rick said...

And I'm already second-guessing myself. Maybe Buck keeps Lough over Paredes because he still LOVES defense and he's more likely to keep around a guy who has been here all year.

-Opinion likely to change again

FearItself said...

Oh, I forgot to mention that Ubaldo's slow times to the plate against a team that runs as much as the Royals might be a factor. I understand the official roster is due at 10 a.m., so we should know soon!

FearItself said...

And the verdict is...
We were both wrong. The roster is out, and the O's are going with just 11 pitchers. Matusz replaces Jimenez, but both De Aza and Lough made the cut.
Interesting. Can't wait to crack open a cold beverage and see how it all shakes out.