The Pirates, who took over undisputed possession of second place last night with a win over the Cubs but remained two games behind St. Louis, are headed for the postseason, and with that comes the fun of plotting the 25-man roster.
There's a different roster for every round of the postseason, which means figuring the one-game wild-card roster, where the Pirates appear headed, can get a little ridiculous. For example, there's no need for a team to have more than one of its starters on the wild-card roster and that opens up three more spots.
The Pirates, for example, might carry both of their backup catchers for the one-game playoff, but not for the next rounds. A player like Felix Pie could find his way on to the roster on Tuesday for his pinch-running ability. Case in point on how crazy this might get: One website suggested Chase d'Arnaud (position flexibility) might be on the wild-card roster.
For the moment, I'm going to pass on the wild-card roster and advance to a more meaty discussion: The 25-man roster for the division series.
This is working on the theory the Pirates will keep only four starters and will take the extra opening to add an additional position player as opposed to a reliever. This will give them a postseason roster of four starters, seven relievers and 14 position players.
Let's start with the givens:
Four starters: Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton.
Twelve position players: Russell Martin, Justin Morneau, Gaby Sanchez, Garrett Jones, Neil Walker, Jordy Mercer, Pedro Alvarez, Clint Barmes, Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Marlon Byrd, Jose Tabata.
Six relievers: Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Justin Wilson, Jeanmar Gomez, Vin Mazzaro.
That's 22 players. We need three more.
These are the options:
Catcher: John Buck or Tony Sanchez.
Position player: Josh Harrison, Andrew Lambo, Pie or Travis Snider.
Reliever: Kyle Farnsworth or Bryan Morris.
Catcher: Buck, a veteran of 10 MLB seasons and a right-handed hitter, looked like the odd-man out when for a period of time in September Sanchez was getting more playing time. But both started one game when Martin took a two-day rest prior to the Cincinnati series. The fact Buck replaced Martin Sunday against Cincinnati, with the game still in doubt, would indicate he is the No. 2 catcher. Which makes perfect sense. He's the veteran and Sanchez is the rookie. Buck also has a power bat off the bench, 15 home runs, although for reasons not clear he's rarely been used in that role by manager Clint Hurdle.
Position player: Let's eliminate Pie and Lambo. Both are long shots, at best. Harrison, a right-handed hitter, has more position flexibility than Snider. He can play both corner outfield slots, although not well, and three infield positions. Snider, a left-handed hitter, is limited to corner outfield duty.
These are their batting lines:
Harrison: .244/.287/.425 -- .702
Snider: .230/.329/.384 -- .713
As a pinch-hitter, Harrison is 5-for-29 (.207) with two homers and six RBIs. Snider is 9-for-43 (.209) with three homers and seven RBIs.
Without Snider, the Pirates still have two extra outfielders, Tabata and Jones. Without Harrison, they have only one extra infielder, Barmes.
The tie-breaker: Side of the plate. The Pirates have the backup catcher, Sanchez, Tabata and Barmes as right-handed bats off the bench. The only lefty is Jones. Snider gets the nod.
Reliever: Farnsworth has been impressive as a Pirate (stats before last night) -- seven appearances, 6 1/3 innings, one run, four hits, two walks, seven strikeouts. He has a 9.45 K/9, a 0.90 WHIP and a 1.30 ERA. What's not to like? This: Earlier this season with Tampa Bay, he had a 5.76 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. With Indianapolis in August, he had a 4.05 ERA in six appearances, although he was not scored upon in his final four.
Morris had a very good first half for the Pirates -- 2.72 ERA, .193 BAA. But he's been pretty much terrible the past two months. In August he had a 4.38 ERA and a .333 BAA and in September those numbers were 10.38 and .429.
Although Hurdle has shown surprising confidence in Morris, the nod goes to Farnsworth.
The 25-man division series roster (if the Pirates get there): Position players: Alvarez, Barmes, Buck, Byrd, Jones, Marte, Martin, McCutchen, Mercer, Morneau, G. Sanchez, Snider, Tabata, Walker.
Starters: Burnett, Cole, Liriano, Morton.
Relievers: Farnsworth, Gomez, Grilli, Mazzaro, Melancon, Watson, Wilson.
For those who deeply care: A guess at the wild-card roster:
Pitchers: Liriano, Farnsworth, Gomez, Grilli, Kris Johnson, Mazzaro, Melancon, Watson, Wilson.
Position players: Alvarez, Barmes, Buck, Byrd, Jones, Marte, Martin, McCutchen, Mercer, Morneau, Pie, G. Sanchez, T. Sanchez, Snider, Tabata, Walker