The 162-game regular season is over, and now we’re just waiting for playoff baseball to start. I don’t know why baseball feels like it needs two off days between Game 162 and Game One, but whatever. Before the postseason can start, the Yanks much first decide on a 25-man playoff roster, not always the easiest task. Brian Cashman has already hinted that the team will use a 10-man pitching staff for at least the Division Series, which means we’re looking at a six man bench.
Barring something completely unforeseen, these ten players are a lock for the postseason roster:
For all intents and purposes, Eric Hinske and Jerry Hairston Jr. are in as well. Hairston’s wrist is healthy, so he’s a go as the jack-of-all-trades. Juan Miranda is a less versatile and less experienced version of Hinske, so there’s no point in bringing him along. Shelley Duncan is a classic AAAA slugger and offers very little beyond running into the occasional fastball. I like Shelley as much as the next guy, but there’s no use for him in October. That’s already 12 spots accounted for, basically leaving you with four players vying for the final three spots: Jose Molina, Frankie Cervelli, Freddy Guzman, and Ramiro Pena.
Obviously there needs to be a backup catcher, so let’s hammer that out first. Molina, never a threat with the bat, has sunk to new offensive lows this year thanks to his .292 OBP and .268 SLG. Among the 387 players with at least 150 plate appearances this year, only Aaron Miles (.466 (!)), Alexi Casilla (.532), Brian Giles (.548), and Willy Taveras (.559) have a worse OPS than Hava Molina’s .560 mark. Cervelli isn’t striking fear into the heart of opposing pitchers anytime soon either, but his .309 OBP and .372 SLG are’t nearly the eyesore Molina’s lines are. Small sample size warnings apply here, but in reality the backup catcher shouldn’t see much, if any playing time in the postseason anyway. Whether or not that’s how it goes down is a different story all together.
On the defensive side of the ball, both guys are pretty good at blocking balls in the dirt and making throws (Molina’s thrown out 28.1% of basestealers, Cervelli 43.5% in a small sample). Molina’s reputation as a gunslinger might give him a slight edge because teams may think twice about going, but that’s probably a negligible effect. Also, Cervelli is a way better runner than Molina. No stats needed and there’s no debating it, however just because Frankie is an above average runner for a catcher doesn’t mean he’s fast, it’s just means he’s one of the faster slow guys.
I have zero interest in starting another debate about Molina’s game calling merits, in my mind the backup catcher shouldn’t see the field in the playoffs unless he’s warming up pitchers between innings or there’s an injury. I’m going to go against the grain and say they should take Cervelli as Posada’s backup, mostly because he’s more likely to put together a decent at-bat and he runs better. He’s the lesser of two evils, I guess.
As for the other two spots, I’m giving them to Pena and Guzman almost by default. I’ve said it twice already, but I might as well repeat it: I don’t think the backup backstop should play much in the playoffs, and based on that there’s no reason to carry a third guy. Guzman is obviously on board for one specific reason, and that’s to pinch run in a big spot late in games. No more, no less. Pena is pretty much in the same boat, but at least he offers outstanding defense and some versatility around the infield as an added bonus. However, it’s unlikely A-Rod, Jeter, or Cano will not be on the field at any point, so Pena doesn’t figure to see much action beyond pinch running either.
Based on all that, here’s the 15 position players I’m bringing to the ALDS:
As has been the case the last few years, the players the Yankees carry on the bench won’t play much because of the quality of their starting lineup. The only time Hinske will play is if Gardbrera comes to the plate with ducks on the pond in the late innings of a close game. That’s also when Gardner (if he’s not starting), Guzman, and Pena will be getting their pinch run on. Hairston could pinch hit for Gardbrera against a tough lefty, although it seems unlikely.
Later this afternoon I’ll take a look at the pitching staff, but until then use this thread to talk about the position players.