Playoff Roster Setting

With most all of the injured players now back into action, it's time to forecast the Cardinals' postseason roster.

At the end of August, the Cardinals set their playoff roster makeup at 14 position players and 11 pitchers, as Randy Flores swapped places with Mike Mahoney on the 25-man roster. That ratio is set and cannot be changed.

However, anyone on the 40-man roster is actually eligible to be named to the actual National League Divisional Series squad. Once those initial 25 are decided upon and communicated, subsequent changes can be made only as injury substitutions – pitcher for pitcher or hitter for hitter.

We can learn from the past here. The roster entering the 2004 playoffs was at the same 14 to 11 ratio as this season. However, there was not a dilemma with the rotation, as Chris Carpenter was out due to a biceps injury.

The 2004 bench was infielders Marlon Anderson, Hector Luna and John Mabry, catcher Yadier Molina and outfielders Roger Cedeno and So Taguchi. The bullpen was Dan Haren, Kiko Calero, Ray King, Steve Kline, Cal Eldred, Julian Tavarez and Jason Isringhausen.

Without further ado, here are my best educated guesses as to the 2005 squad with reasoning as to why. I view 23 of the 25 spots set, with one fielder and one pitching roster position in play. The two primary contenders for each of those last two spots are noted below as "on the bubble". Of course, sudden ineffectiveness or injury could change matters in an instant.

Infield starters

Outfield starters

Bench infielders

Bench outfielders

On the bubble

Watching

Molina

Sanders

Diaz

Taguchi

Mahoney

Gall

Pujols

Edmonds

Mabry

Rodriguez

Seabol

Schumaker

Grudzielanek

Walker

Luna

 

 

Duncan

Eckstein

 

 

 

 

 

Nunez

 

 

 

 

 

Infield/Outfield commentary
You know there really isn't much suspense remaining when the only real position player decision is down to whether to take a third catcher or a backup infielder. As noted above, in 2004 Cody McKay sat out while Hector Luna made the squad.

I predict a similar outcome in 2005, as rookie infielder (and sometimes outfielder) Scott Seabol gets the call due to his versatility. Mahoney will travel with the team ready to be activated in the next round in case of injury to fellow catchers Yadier Molina or Einar Diaz. But, the fact is, if any games depend on either of these two at the plate, Seabol or Mahoney, the Cardinals will be in deep trouble.

 

AB

R

H

HR

RBI

BB

K

AVG

OBP

SLG

Seabol

100

9

20

1

10

8

22

.200

.257

.280

Mahoney

62

4

10

1

6

4

9

.161

.224

.226

Starting pitchers

Right-handed relievers

Left-handed relievers

On the bubble

Watching

Carpenter

Morris/Marquis

King

Thompson

Johnson

Mulder

Tavarez

Flores

Eldred

An. Reyes

Suppan

Isringhausen

 

 

Wainwright

Marquis/Morris

Al Reyes

 

 

 

Starting pitching commentary
Diligent students of match-ups as they are, Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan may never declare that #5 starting pitcher who would be bumped from the rotation. Instead, I forecast that they will keep all five in the postseason and make game-to-game decisions on who gets the starts.

Sure, Matt Morris has been ineffective in the second half. But, he is the longest-tenured Cardinal and I believe La Russa will demonstrate his allegiance to the veteran, who made his first appearance in 1997. I honestly cannot realistically envision a scenario where Morris would be left off the team. Also, I imagine La Russa is still not sold that Jason Marquis can be fully counted upon in the clutch, though of course, no one will ever say that.

Relief pitching commentary
The fifth starter in the pen and the decision to use 11 pitchers cast in stone means that one of the regular long relievers is going to be on the outside looking in come October. Current course and speed, this will prove to be La Russa's toughest decision.

Looking at the numbers as well as usage pattern, Brad Thompson would seem to be the slight leader in the race to get the nod. However, the statistical comparison is far from conclusive. Thompson has a better strikeout to walk ratio, but Cal Eldred has a better strikeout rate. Eldred has a better ERA, but Thompson has a lower opponent batting average, and so on…

 

W

L

SA

Holds

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

K

ERA

BAA

Eldred

1

1

0

2

34

30

6

6

1

17

27

1.59

0.246

Thompson

3

0

1

9

49.2

41

19

15

5

11

24

2.72

0.225

However, for me, what tips the scale ever so slightly in favor of Thompson is a couple of important relief stats not often quoted. His record is superior to Eldred's in terms of keeping inherited runners from scoring, though the two are comparable in getting out the first batter faced.

 

Inherited runners/scored

First batter/retired

Eldred

10/4

25/18

Thompson

15/4

34/24

Yet, there are always the intangibles. Thompson is just 23 years old and is in his rookie season, while the 37-year-old Eldred has been the feel-good, comeback, dependable sheriff of the pen and while not there yet, can probably see the end of his career from here.

La Russa's heart may tell him to take Eldred while his head says Thompson. I think the latter could win out in what would still have to be considered a mild upset. A very possible variation on the theme would be the occurrence of a sore elbow or bad back to soften the blow.

One might look at left-hander Randy Flores and wonder why he didn't join Eldred and Thompson on the bubble. La Russa loves his match-ups too much to hamstring his options by going into October with a less than on-track Ray King as his only lefty. So, in my book, Flores is a lock.

There you have it; some logic and some educated guesses. In a couple of weeks, we'll know everything but the final outcome. So, stay tuned!

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.


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