Sep
14

No need for a backup catcher in the postseason

By

Every team carries one, just in case. But with the way the schedule works, it’s largely a superfluous position. While teams routinely go a week or even two without a day off during the regular season, there is no instance where any team will play in more than three consecutive days during the postseason. That leaves built-in rest days for the starting catcher, which means little to no role for the regular season backup.

In most situations teams opt to carry the backup anyway, but for the most part they’re not on the roster to give the starter a breather in a day game after a night game. They’re around just in case the starter takes one off the thumb, as Russ Martin did a few nights ago. They’re around in case the starter pulls a hammy rounding the bases, or gets hit on the head on a backswing. No team wants to get caught in that situation without an adequate replacement, so they bring the backup catcher along for the ride.

This season the Yankees have zero reason to carry a true backup catcher into the postseason. Earlier this week they placed their regular backup, Francisco Cervelli, on the 15-day DL. As Mike noted in that post, the 15-day DL is largely meaningless in September, since rosters have expanded to 40 anyway. While there might be other reasons for the Yankees to place him on the DL — Mark Feinsand of the Daily News notes that it creates a public record of Cervelli’s concussion — chances are it’s merely a move that allows the Yankees a little more flexibility when they create the playoff roster.

Austin Romine has taken over the backup catcher duties for the moment, and with all the men the Yankees have on the 60-day DL they could easily add him to the postseason roster. But there is no need. They’ll already have two players on the postseason roster, Jesus Montero and Jorge Posada, who can strap on catcher’s gear and fill in should Russ need to leave the game. And since they both fill the same lineup spot, DH, they won’t be playing at the same time. In other words, the Yankees can make a substitution without sacrificing the DH.

If a situation arises where Martin cannot continue, the Yankees can make a mid-series swap and add Romine to the roster at that point. That is, if Martin gets hurt in Game 3 of the ALCS, the Yankees could call in Romine for Game 4. The only catch is that Martin would then me ineligible for the World Series roster. That might be the only reason to carry a backup catcher in the playoffs: to ensure that the starter can remain on the roster in the following round if he sustains a nagging injury that will cost him a few games in the short-term. But that doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to carry a backup when another, more useful player could be available.

Using the above reasoning, here’s how the Yankees postseason roster could play out:

Catcher (1): Russell Martin
Infielders (6): Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, Eric Chavez
Outfielders (5): Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Andruw Jones, Chris Dickerson
DH/PH (2): Jesus Montero, Jorge Posada
Starters (4): CC Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Ivan Nova
Relievers (7): Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Cory Wade, Boone Logan, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett/Luis Ayala/Hector Noesi

The last man in the bullpen is pretty unnecessary, but it’s doubtful that the Yankees carry only 10 pitchers. That means if they wanted to add Romine they’d have to remove Posada, Dickerson, or Chavez from the roster. Since all three of them can provide more value than a backup catcher, it stands to reason that the Yankees should just use the advantage they have — two emergency catchers — and run with that. It allows them to have a stronger and more flexible postseason roster.

Categories : Playoffs

39 Comments»

  1. ADam says:

    How bad is Logan’s Arm?

  2. YankeesJunkie says:

    Sounds like a pretty good plan to me.

  3. MattG says:

    I would argue the fifth outfielder–Dickerson–is even less useful than the third catcher. But teh pinch runner!! Well, that’s Nunez’s role for the post-season. Unless Rodriguez can’t play everyday.

    Also, I hate pinch runners. They really don’t add much, but the very often take a potent bat away in a critical spot.

    Anyway you look at it, the Yankees really don’t need their 25th spot.

    • Yank The Frank says:

      Can you say Dave Roberts?

      • MattG says:

        You know, at the time it was 3-1, I hated the Dave Roberts incident mostly because it would spawn a whole new generation that believe pinch running is important. A pinch runner’s contributions are miniscule. This was the exception that proves the rule.

        Of course, I hate it more for other reasons now.

        • Yank The Frank says:

          I hated to even mention it.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          If a pinch runner takes an extra base to score that the original runner would not have been able to… he was important.

        • Jesse says:

          3-1? Like the score of the game or the series?
          Unfortunately I remember everything about that series because it seemed like it was just yesterday. But I remember it was game 4 of the ALCS and the Sox were down 3-0 in the series and down by a run in the 9th. Millar walked and Roberts pinch ran, stole second and scored on a hit. Then the next game they brought him in to run and he went first to third on a single and scored on a somewhat shallow fly.

          I’m sorry to bring this up, because I hate it just as much as you guys, but I remember everything about that series and it sucks a bag of dicks.

    • Dan says:

      I agree Dickerson doesn’t have much of a use except for maybe as a defensive replacement. Nunez would be the pinch runner. Another option could be to swap Nunez for Pena and Dickerson for Golson. This would give you better infield defense off the bench and a pinch runner outfielder who can play decent outfield defense. Nunez only really has value as a pinch runner because he should never be in the game for defense and has started to be more exposed as a hitter.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        I think you take the better player in both cases, which is Nunez in the first and Dickerson in the second. You don’t plan to give the back-ups more playing time, but that doesn’t mean you might not be forced to. Dickerson has a .345 wOBA across 563 career PAs. Guy is a legit big leaguer. I’ll take Nunez over Pena even with the throwing problems.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Mostly agree, though I don’t have any problem with pinch runners if they’re used late enough in a game.

      If A-Rod isn’t playing Chavez is probably as likely to play as Nunez… but who knows.

    • JoeMoes says:

      Nunez maybe playing? Or needed in case of injury. I put Dickerson out there all day for pr. We don’t need 4 catchers!!! Fokine barely has his feet wet so no.

  4. steve says:

    only an idiot wouldnt see the need to carry a backup catcher for the playoffs. Montero stinks as a catcher evidently and posada only caught that one game. You would lose his bat for a few days cause hed be sore.

  5. CW says:

    Just because our DH options happen to be catchers doesn’t mean that a backup catcher isn’t neccessary for anyone.

    Mid-game injuries happen, and by that logic, if Posada had gotten injured mid-game during the 2009 serires, we’d have had to go with Jerry Hairston behind the plate for the rest of that hypothetical game… because we’d have outthought ourselves and left Molina off the roster. Don’t agree with this plan at all.

    • thenamestsam says:

      I mean did you read the post?

      The point is that it could work in this situation precisely because they would always have someone on the bench capable of coming in as catcher…unlike Jerry Hairston. Joe is not saying you NEVER need a backup catcher in the playoffs, just that you don’t need one if all your dh options are capable(and they’re not the best but they could certainly fill in for a few innings) catchers, and countering that claim with a completely unrelated example is irrelevant.

      • CW says:

        I missed the “this season” part.

        Mea culpa. Won’t be the first mistake I made reading an article on the Interwebs. Won’t be the last.

  6. Brian S. says:

    This is ignoring the fact that Girardi loves playing matchups. Somehow I bet Laffey makes the roster.

  7. Kevin M. says:

    I agree with the roster, except I wouldn’t be so sure Hughes has locked up a roster spot. I feel like Ayala may be more beneficial out of the bullpen, we shall see how the last couple of weeks plays out.

  8. Hughesus Christo says:

    This is a Joe Girardi team–there’s a better chance of carrying 4 or 5 catchers than carrying 1.

  9. Charlee says:

    I would prefer a 2nd lefty, Laffey may be.

    • Monteroisdinero says:

      Laffey? laughable

      Any righty with a changeup and a good 2 seamer>>>>Laffey

      • Ted Nelson says:

        Yeah, I also don’t see much use in Laffey. If you trust him to get a good or even decent lefty out in a key situations… ok. I don’t, though. Guy has a FIP of 4 against lefties in his career. Ayala has a FIP of 3.56 and xFIP of 3.31 against lefties this season. I’d vote for him over Laffey.

  10. Frank says:

    I don’t see Burnett on the roster, especially as a reliever. When has he relieved? Unless they plan on him being one of 4 starters (assuming they get past the division series), Burnett would just be taking up a spot better reserved for Laffey as the second LOOGY. And I don’t see Burnett being the 4th starter.

    • Dan says:

      I agree, I think if Burnett makes the roster it would be as a starter and Colon gets moved to the pen. I doubt Laffey makes the roster because he hasn’t been too successful so far as a LOOGY either or at least it hasn’t seemed like he has been that successful.

      • Frank says:

        As far as I’m concerned, Burnett can take himself and his MLB record setting number of wild pitches home for the winter. I don’t want that guy anywhere near the postseason roster.

        • Dan says:

          I would agree with you, but I think there is an outside chance that if he comes out and throws gems or possibly even quality starts in his next two starts against the Red Sox and Rays, Girardi might be seduced enough to give him a start at least in the ALDS.

          • Frank says:

            There’s a better chance of it snowing in NYC in July than Burnett having back to back quality starts vs. even the most offensively challenged teams like the M’s and A’s, much less the Rays or RS.

      • riversfan says:

        If AJ makes rotation I would rather Garcia go to the pen. Colon has been much better in my opinion. But really would like to see AJ left off the roster completely.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      I don’t have a problem with leaving AJ off, but I’d vote for Ayala and Noesi over Laffey. Might even vote for Betances over Laffey… even if he doesn’t get into a game.

  11. David in Cal says:

    Not only is a BU catcher unnecessary, we also don’t need both Jorge and Jesus IMHO. Suppose, e.g., Jesus were DH and Jorge not on the post-season team. Then, if Martin got injured in the middle of a game, Jesus would switch to catcher and we’d lose the DH for the rest of the game. That’s really a tiny risk.

    First of all, the chance that Martin gets injured during a game is small — probably 1 in 100. Then, if we lost the DH for the rest of a game, it might be late enough in the game that we were using relief pitchers, so a pinch hitter could be used for the pitcher. Chances are that the worst that would happen is one AB by a pitcher. One AB is unlikely to cost us the game.

    A 1 in 100 chance that a pitcher has to bat one time is a negligible risk.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Who are you going to put on the roster if you don’t carry either Posada or Romine? 2 of Ramiro Pena, Golson, Laird? More pitchers? Jorge has a .357 wOBA against righties this season, so he serves a legitimately useful role on the roster. I’m not sure you can say the same for a 3rd SS/3rd PR like Pena, a 4th 3B like Laird, or a 6th OF like Golson.

  12. Ted Nelson says:

    I’m on board with the strategy given that Montero or Posada can catch a game, but at the same time I don’t know that Dickerson is likely to be any more useful than Romine. To me it’s pretty marginal whether Dickerson, Romine, or maybe even someone else gets that last spot.

    • Cris Pengiuci says:

      Agree. Unless you’re using Dickerson as a defensive replacement for Swisher (how much is that really worth?), you could carry Romine. Nunez can clearly handle the pinch runner role should one be needed. He’s not there for his defensive value. I’m not sure any of the bench players will add much to the team unless there is an injury requireing one of them to play a game or 2. If it’s a major injury that would take someone out of the next series, you’d just roster someone else.

  13. Bronx Byte says:

    Burnett serves no purpose being on the roster. Too chancy that he’ll overwork the bullpen when he starts to implode. If he’s put in the bullpen and comes in with runners on base, his wild pitches either move runners up or they score.

  14. YankeeJosh says:

    I tend to agree with this but post-season is also about match-ups. Girardi could want to pinch hit or pinch run for Martin at some point and I don’t think the Yankees feel comfortable with Montero or Posada coming in to catch. Carrying a backup catcher gives in game flexibility, and I think the Yankees will.

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