Looking At The Playoff Roster: Position Players

Fan Confidence Poll: October 5th, 2009
Comparing lineups of Yankees playoffs past

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:

Melky Cabrera
Robbie Cano
Johnny Damon
Brett Gardner
Derek Jeter
Hideki Matsui
Jorge Posada
Alex Rodriguez
Nick Swisher
Mark Teixeira

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:

C: Posada
1B: Teixeira
2B: Cano
SS: Jeter
3B: A-Rod
LF: Damon
CF: Gardner/Melky
RF: Swisher
DH: Matsui

BUC: Cervelli
UTIL: Hairston
OF: Gardner/Melky
PH: Hinske
PR: Guzman
PR: Pena

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.

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Fan Confidence Poll: October 5th, 2009
Comparing lineups of Yankees playoffs past
  • Sammy Fed

    There’s a 0% chance that the Yankees leave Jose Molina off the playoff roster.

    • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime

      Agreed, but Cervelli is the better choice.

      • AndrewYF

        You know what’s a better choice? Taking both and leaving Pena off.

        • Joba Rules

          Yeah, because a versatile plus glove in the infield doesn’t have value.

          • AndrewYF

            Not when all the infielders will never, ever be pinch-run for, pinch-hit for, or replaced defensively. You’re right.

    • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      I agree. I like Cervelli more than Molina, too, but there’s no chance they take Cervelli over Molina.

      • Ben

        Cervelli? A nice player but he can’t run a game like Molina

  • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    Interesting turnaround on Guzman, Mike. I remember you being strongly opposed to the idea of Guzman making the postseason roster, to say the least, when the rumor that Guzman might be on the postseason roster was first floated. Was your earlier aversion to Guzman on the postseason roster simply a matter of not having looked at the full roster and not realizing it’s probably a decision between carrying either Guzman or a third catcher?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      I thought they were going to take an 11th pitcher. In that case it was Pena vs. Guzman.

      • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        Right, we didn’t know how many pitchers they’d take.

        I love how looking at possible postseason rosters makes you realize how much better the Yankees’ bench and bullpen is than it’s been in recent years. Good times.

        • Tom Zig

          You mean to tell me you don’t miss TJ Beam and Colter Bean or Wilson Betemit?

          • vin

            True Story:

            My wife had a patient a couple weeks ago… none other than TJ Beam. He was pitching here in Vegas for the Jays’ AAA team, and was having some minor optometric issues. Since she only knows the names of maybe 12 guys on the roster, she had no idea who he was.

            Nice guy, told us to contact him if we wanted tickets to watch him pitch that night. We passed, mostly because it was still summer weather here in LV.

        • Chris

          I love how looking at possible postseason rosters makes you realize how much better the Yankees’ bench and bullpen is than it’s been in recent years. Good times.

          In recent years? What about this April?

          It’s amazing that the discussion is really about how to fit all of the useful players on the roster rather than which dead weight to keep around.

  • Jose
    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      A copy-and-paste for those who don’t want to wait for another thread to load:

      Jose Molina has the second lowest SLG (.261) of any player this year with 150 PA. The only player lower is Alexi Casilla (.256).

      • Jose

        Thanks, I didn’t know if it was acceptable to post the same comment in a new thread.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          As long as it’s something relevant to this topic and it’s not something worth typing out again, go ahead.

          It’s when people copy and post 1,000 comments on why the Yanks should sign Manny, that’s annoys the crap out of us.

      • Andy In Sunny Daytona

        Remember earlier in the year when people thought the Yankees should pick up Brian Giles? Good times…

        • Doug

          i believe the sox were very close to picking him up in the offseason. damn, a missed opportunity.

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

            They tried to trade for him last year, but he played the NTC card.

    • JMK aka The Overshare

      Also, Casilla has been much better with the bat since the beginning of August, hitting over .250 since then. Although, considering his futility with the bat earlier, it’s hard to be much worse than Casilla was. Molina, on the other hand, has been under .200 since July.

      Almost a guaranteed three outs.

      • Doug

        yup, post-ASB, molina’s slash line is: .189/.267/.211
        .478 OPS is worst in baseball among players with 100 PAs.

        • Chris

          I bet he’ll hit a critical home run at some point this post season. It always seems to work out that way.

          • Doug

            god i hope not. then that’d give girardi more ammunition to play him a 2nd game.

  • Andy In Sunny Daytona

    The Yankees should show supreme confindence and only have 5 pitchers for the ALDS. CC, AJ, And, Phil and Mo.

  • http://myspace.com/lincolnsworld Link

    I agree Sammy, Mike I think Girardi has already decided that Molina will catch AJ this postseason no matter what and I think there is a school of thought that says the they may go with the third catcher in case they DH Posada and/or allows for multiple pinch runner opportunities. Just a thought.

  • Chris

    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.

    I disagree about this. I would prefer having someone like Cervelli who teams will try to run on but won’t succeed. Those extra outs teams run into could be huge.

    The only potential mistake that I see is the possibility of having both Cervelli and Molina on the ALDS roster. There is absolutely no need to carry 3 catchers for a 5 game series.

    • Doug

      except when your backup is slated to start one of the games. for that reason alone, we may carry 3.

      • Sam

        Is Posada’s bat better than Matsui’s? I think you sit him, play Molina until the first time Molina has to bat when AJ’s not in the game and then pinch hit for him. Honestly, if it means AJ will pitch better, I’m definitely willing to sacrifice those two or three outs.

        • Doug

          posada offers the flexibility of being a switch hitter. i like that in the starting lineup, but i guess that plays off the bench well too.

          • Doug

            as far as the question on whether molina should play at all, i’m from the camp that says aj is just as likely to throw a gem (and vice versa, a stinker) to posada than he is to molina. so, i’d have posada (and his much better bat) start with aj on the mound.

          • Chris

            I like the flexibility of having a power right handed bat off the bench, which you have if Matsui is DH, but not if Posada is DH.

            • Doug

              agreed. yeah, i can see posada riding the pine if molina catches aj.

              • Chris

                I think the exception would be if there is a lefty starting against us (not likely in the ALDS, but possible in the ALCS or WS). Despite the evidence that it really doesn’t matter, I think Joe would start Posada as a DH in that case and not Matsui.

                • Doug

                  true, except that posada has been terrific vs. southpaws all season. but i can see that as well.

    • toad

      Will they?

      Against Cervelli opponents had 346 stolen base opportunities and tried it 23 times – 6.6%. Against Molina the numbers are 512 and 32 – 6.25%. Not much difference.

      Posada had to deal with 108 attempts out of 1279 SBO’s. That’s 8.4%.

      I think those numbers are more interesting than % of runners caught. That’s where the sample size hurts.

      For comaprison, Mauer caught 26% (19/73) but only faced attempts in 5% of SBO’s.

  • 5th Starter

    I think Mike’s assessment is dead-on. But Girardi will take Molina over Frankie. BUT, I think he’ll also take Frankie over Pena. I have a weird feeling that Joe is going to take 2 back-up catchers and only 1 speedy bench guy. Seems illogical, but I think Joe has so much faith in Jeter and Robbie, that he won’t have a defensive back-up for them.

    • Doug

      as i wrote directly above, cervelli will likely be on the roster if molina’s catching AJ

      • 5th Starter

        If i was Posada, I would not be happy that my manager thinks I need two back-ups. What does this say about the amount of playing time Jorge gets at catcher next year?

        • Doug

          for the yanks sake, jorge better play 120 games behind the plate. his $14M salary plays better there. that, and there’s no way the yanks go into the season with molina or cervelli as their starting catcher. so, if posada’s not back there, it means we go out and spend $ on another catcher. $ that’d be better spent elsewhere.

          • 5th Starter

            If for some reason, we can’t re-sign Matsui for low $$ then maybe the powers that be have Jorge going DH the majority of the time while having Jose or Frankie catch the majority of the time. The Yanks would lose some serious OPS that way, though.

            • Doug

              yeah, that could happen i guess. but personally, i can’t see the yankee plan going into the season having molina/cervelli catching 80+ games. i just don’t see it.

        • A.D.

          Eh, I doubt he thinks into it, its more that you want to pinch run Posada, so right away a 2nd catcher could be used every game, then if something happens (or the 2nd one come up to hit) you’ll want a 3rd one.

          • Doug

            but you truly think that if posada was going to catch every game, they’d really bring along a 3rd catcher?

            • A.D.

              When its between that & a 2nd back-up infielder, maybe

            • http://pinstripepalace.blogspot.com/ Brien Jackson

              Maybe. I think that would depend on how flexible they think they are with the other 5 bench players. I mean, if Melky is starting in CF, you’ve got 3 very serviceable pinch runners, and given that Posada isn’t really great on the bases, they may find it appealing to be able to potentially PR for him late and still have another option at catcher just in case Molina comes to the plate for some reason. I don’t think they will do this, but it doesn’t seem totally crazy either.

    • A.D.

      Seems illogical, but I think Joe has so much faith in Jeter and Robbie, that he won’t have a defensive back-up for them.

      Hariston would be backing both of these guys up.

      • 5th Starter

        Oh,yeah. My bad.

      • AndrewYF

        There is absolutely zero chance, barring injury, of either Cano or Jeter getting replaced defensively in any inning of any postseason game.

        Zero.

  • Ed

    I don’t know why baseball feels like it needs two off days between Game 162 and Game One, but whatever.

    Well, reason #1 is because of today’s situation. A 1 game playoff is necessary, but the stadium is booked today, so they have to play tomorrow.

    Reason #2 is because although it rarely (if ever?) is an issue after the season ends, you often go into the final weekend of the season with the possibility of 3+ teams tied for 1 or 2 playoff spots. In those cases, you need multiple playoff games.

    MLB really really doesn’t want to have to reschedule postseason games, so they build in leeway.

    Oh, final reason. The network profit from postseason games is made from the final two games of a series. So the networks want those games on weeknights as much as possible to get higher ratings.

    • Chris

      You could also have a rain out of a game needed to decide the playoff teams. For example, if one of Detroit and New Yorks games had been rained out and they couldn’t schedule a make up game, then they would be playing today, with the possibility of a one game playoff tomorrow between the Twins and Tigers.

  • petey t

    On top of all that has been said, i think bringing cervelli is important for another reason (similar to jeter in ’95): he has a good shot at backing up Jorge next year, and would be important to have him in the mix this go around with the future in mind. Molina is wrapping up his 2-year contract this season, and I don’t see the Yanks signing him with Cervelli doing as well as he has this season.

    • andrew

      True, but i doubt getting him some playoff exposure is the reason, especially when it would come at the expense of other more useful guys. The Yankees management cares MUCH more about winning the WS than about Cervelli’s development.

  • Mike bk

    exactly how many pinch runners do we need? we are going to take Pena, and Guzman just to PR along with Gardy who will be a pinch runner/defense since I expect melky to get all the starts.

    i assume that when we go to the alcs one of these pinch runners will be gone due to needing another pitcher.

    • Doug

      i think if guzman gets a roster spot, it opens up the possibility that gardner may start a game a two vs. a lefty.

      and yes, guzman or pena loses their spot in the alcs to a pitcher.

      • Mike bk

        neither the Tigers nor the Twins are going to start a lefty in all likelihood. Jackson, Verlander, Porcello for detroit. Blackburn, Pavano, Baker the likeliest for Minnesota.

        • Doug

          i actually meant a righty, mike. gardner will never start vs. a lefty.

          • Mike bk

            i figured that was what you meant, but it wasnt what you said. lol.

        • mryankee

          I think Minnesota would start Duensing to get a lefty in the rotation.

  • mryankee

    I say you go with Cervelli. Molina really should not be playing major league baseball the way he hits. Is there a worse hitter who is actively playing right now. He is like a pitcher at the plate. I know Cervelli is not Johnny Bench but at the very least he will put the ball in play and he is a decent hitter, enough that a pitcher actually has to thik about how he pitches to Cervelli as opposed to Molina. I woner if Guzman is neede when you have Gardner coming off the bench, unless you start Gardner and want more speed. BTW thanks to Ozzie Guillen for playing it the right way this weekend.

    • Mike bk

      if you want a second pinch runner that is one thing, but then to carry pena as well for the same purpose when hairston is going to be the backup infielder is pointless.

      • mryankee

        I would much rather have Pena over Molina . Cervelli is a solid backup option. Pena is in my mind a better player than Hairston. I think Pena has some speed and is better defensively, he does lack experience but he has played in some big games this year and has come through. Hairston hasn’t done much since he came over. I hope Girardi does not let experience overtake ability. I also dont like the idea well the Yanks offense is good enough to overcome Molina. I disagree when your facing quality pitching on a night in night out basis. I think every good hitter you can get in the lineup is important.

        • Doug

          agree that posada should start every game. but even if this is what the yanks were planning to do, don’t think there is any way that girardi takes cervelli over molina. not happening.

          • mryankee

            Your porbably right but I think the issue will surface when Molina comes up ina key situation and fails. I hate to say that because he is a Yankee but there is just no confidence in him hitting. I honestly think he is the worst hitter in baseball. Thats fine to have in the regular season for a day or two. In the post season I dont like the idea of giving away outs.

            • Doug

              100% agree with you. much more difficult to win a game when the opposition gets 27 outs and you only get 23.

              • mryankee

                Especially if you face a power rotation like Detroit-they can make mistakes all day to Molina and not get hurt. Minnesota is more of a finesse rotation maybe Molina could run intoone against them, but still Cervelli is a much better option.

                Of course I could not see why Posada wont play every game. I mean this is a possible HOF catcher who you have to have in the lineup. Hopefuly the point will be moot and Posada will play everygame.

                Would they be bringing Molina along as a pinch fielder to say catsh he ninth inning of a one run game. If Mo lets someone on Molina would be useful in that rolse to maybe throw someone out. That is about all I could see him being good for.

                • Doug

                  well, some people think he’s good for AJ. i’m not one of them…well, at least not to the point of starting him over posada.

                • mryankee

                  Tat might be true, but you know what you say to AJ. Your not exactly in a position to be demanding a personal catcher. If he were the following pitchers might listen
                  cc,lester,halladay,wainwright,carpenter,lincecum. etc-

                  Otherwise you get Posada and be happy about it-

  • YankFanDave

    I like your post season roster, particularly Cervelli over Molina and adding Pena. Unfortunately, Girardi has talked up the need for a third catcher and a pinch runner, so Pena seems to be the odd man out. Too bad, he adds defense, a bit of a bat and pinch running ability while Guzman is as one dimensional as they come. Guzman is a a waste of a roster spot: his career lines are: 47 gms, 9 sb, 4 cs, .211 avg, no post season exp, 0.0 UZR. Why is Girardi so hot for him? Just add Cervelli over Molina and you eliminate the intense need for multiple pinch runners. I have more faith in Pena in that role even with less exp; he has shown more reason to be in the mix than Guzman. Who figured the ghost of Dave Roberts would still haunt the Yanks so!

    • AndrewYF

      I really don’t understand this argument of Pena’s value. Exactly where does he provide defense? Does anyone really think that, barring injury, A-Rod, Jeter or Cano will be pinch-hit or -run for, or replaced defensively?

      Pena provides absolutely zero value. His only value comes as an emergency 6th outfielder, and the 3rd pinch-runner off the bench.

      Cervelli provides much, much, much more value.

      • Chris

        Cervelli’s value is only that he can catch if Posada is pinch run for AND Molina is pinch hit for.

        Pena’s value is that he can pinch run if you need a 3rd pinch runner for Posada, Matsui and Hinske (or Tex or Swisher).

        Considering that you will only pinch run for Posada late in the game, the chances of needing a pinch hitter for Molina seems slim. With the pinch runners, you could potentially use all of them in the same inning.

  • Mike bk

    Am I the only one who hasnt been all that impressed with the speed that Guzman supposedly has that he is somehow a must to carry? yesterday was ugly, another one of his steals the fielder missed the tag, and a third i believe he was barely in due to a high throw. i didnt see his steal on saturday so I cant comment on that one, but I have not been overly impressed if that is the only tool he brings to the party.

    • Doug

      just the added threat of a SB has some value. the distraction to the pitcher, more fastballs thrown to the hitter, things like that.

    • Ed

      He’s really only going to go in for Matsui or a catcher, and only if it’s late and we really need a run. Even if he’s not the next Rickey Henderson on the bases, he’s still a huge step up.

    • Tank the Frank

      Another reason I want to play the Twins. Joe Mauer is a terrific catcher and a phenominal hitter, but he’s only throwing out runners at a 28% clip (a career low) compared to 42% by Laird in Detroit.

      Personally, the more speed on the bench the better IMO.

      • Joba Rules

        Yeah, I’d go for Cervelli because of that…say it’s late in the game and Posada hits a double, throw Cervelli on the bases that way you only burn one bench player instead of two to throw Guzman or Pena on there and then bring in Molina to catch.

  • Ben

    Pena won’t make it. They’ll take the extra catcher or another rp over him

  • Aaron Boone

    I think that the 11 pitcher plan is preferable even in the ALDS. With Gardner and Guzman available to pinch run, and with the flexible Hairston who can play 2b or SS, we really don’t need Pena (although he wears my illustrious number).

    Use that spot to bring an extra pitcher who’ll give you a little more flexibility to mix and match or be able to get outs in an extra inning marathon.

    And I agree with all that cervelli should go over molina, but wont. In which case we may want to just take cervelli instead of pena, so that you can pinch hit for Molina in that key situation and have someone to catch afterward.

  • http://www.twitter.com/MatthewHarris84 Matt H. :: Sec105

    I don’t think you could be any more wrong about taking Cervi over Molina.

    Just like you said the backup catcher should never see time in the playoffs, especially behind the power hitting of Jorge.

    So why in the world are you taking Cervi because he runs better (you are taking two ‘speedsters’) and can put together a better AB (Hinskie)????

    If something did happen to Jorge, I’d want Molina in there as the full-time guy over Cervi.

  • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

    I still have this nagging fear in the back of my mind that Girardi is going to do something stupid in regards to Guzman.

    • Doug

      I still have this nagging fear in the back of my mind that Girardi is going to do something stupid in regards to Molina….like catch him when AJ pitches.

  • Paul O’neill

    molina is going to be catching burnett like i said last week

  • Joba Rules

    So who are the six relievers?

    Rivera
    Hughes
    Robertson
    Aceves
    Coke
    Gaudin

    ???

    • Doug

      marte…2nd lefty

    • David

      Chamberlain? They seem intent on bringing him along…

  • Pingback: Looking At The Playoff Roster: Pitchers | River Avenue Blues

  • David

    If you don’t take a third catcher, what good is having a pinch runner? Gardner is on the roster, and you figure Melky will be the starting CF, so Gardy is pinch runner #1. Guzman #2.

    Hairston can back up the whole IF. Swisher can back up Teixeira. Hinske can back up the corners (sort-of).

    What is the point of Pena? He would be a third backup IF, and third Pinch Runner. If you pinch run for Posada, and Molina gets hurt, the Yankees are stuck. Having a third catcher will allow Joe the freedom to pinch-run for one of his catchers without worry. What value does a third backup infielder have?

  • Jones

    I don’t understand why they would take Guzman over Pena. I get that Guzman is fast, but Pena can run too. & IMPO Pena plays better D than Hairston. He has so many more benefits than Guzman. Even though both will see little playing time, if they get any at all, I still think Pena is better. I wouldn’t be surprised if Pena makes the PO Roster, but I know Girardi loves speed, & Guzman is known for that.

  • Jamie G.

    Molina is borderline useless…Cervelli does everything better than or just as good as him.

  • westcoastyanks

    Now that we know Molina will be catching Burnett in Game 2 (and possibly Game 5), does this make it more likely that we see Cervelli on the postseason roster? I’m thinking of the situation where Molina starts, gets lifted in the 6th and Posada is on the bases late in a close game – don’t you want to have the option to have Gardner or Guzman come into the game and move a critical run into scoring position? And isn’t that a more likely scenario than needing a second backup infielder?