The Phillies are a few games away from clinching -- how will their playoff roster look come October?
Six game lead. Seven games remaining. Magic number of two. Best record in the NL.
I think it's safe to assume the Phillies will be seeing a healthy dose of October this year. With an eclectic mix of youth and inconsistency in the lower rungs of the bullpen, it's going to be interesting to see who Chuck and the boys decide to keep around for playoff baseball. The bench has been much better at times this season, thanks to the rebirth of Wilson Valdez as an actual baseball player, but still has plenty of holes.
In 2009, the Phils went into the NLDS with 13 hitters and 12 pitchers. Miguel Cairo and Antonio Bastardo were the last two in, Clay Condrey and Eric Bruntlett were the last two out. They lacked a power right-handed bat and a pinch-running option, which was eventually filled by Bruntlett in the NLCS when he and Chan Ho Park came on for Brett Myers and Kyle Kendrick. With the way the roster stands, 13 and 12 seems like the most likely scenario as well. Here's the no-brainers for the men with bats:
- Carlos Ruiz
- Brian Schneider
- Ryan Howard
- Chase Utley
- Wilson Valdez
- Placido Polanco
- Raul Ibanez
- Jayson Werth
- Shane Victorino
- Ben Francisco
- Ross Gload
I don't think Jimmy Rollins is a definite. Word is Charlie will have him back in the lineup today, but if he doesn't show he's healthy enough to play, I'm confident enough in Valdez to go into the playoffs with him at short. Even though it's an injury-riddled season for Jimmy, his post-ASB .239/.306/.640 looks ugly compared to Wilson's .266/.328/.646. Far from perfect, but as a replacement player batting eighth with one of the most dependable gloves in the league this season, Wilson's earned a spot.
So if Rollins is a question mark, Greg Dobbs, Domonic Brown, and Mike Sweeney are as well. I'd guess that out of the four of them, Sweeney has the best bet to slide into the twelfth spot. He hasn't performed particularly well as a Phillie, but he's a veteran right-handed bat that knows the strike zone and has a bit of pop left. He's also the nicest guy in the world and gives great hugs. Dobbs would be my least favorite pick because of his redundancy with Ross Gload and how up and mostly down he's been this season. But Charlie loves "his guys" and Dobbs is certainly one of his guys. I'd throw a party if Dom was on the roster, but he has one hit in September and his inexperience could work against him when Rube and Charlie sit down. He'd be mostly limited to a pinch-running option, but that's a necessity in playoff time. It would also be a great jumping off point for him when he (likely) opens the season as our starting right fielder.
All of this will be determined by Jimmy's health over the next few days and who hits well during the last couple games of the season after we've clinched. I want the two spots to be filled by Brown and Sweeney, but I think Charlie will go with Dobbs and Sweeney. Jimmy will probably sit until the LCS, God willing.
Here's the pitching definites:
- Roy Halladay
- Cole Hamels
- Roy Oswalt
- Joe Blanton
- Brad Lidge
- Ryan Madson
- Chad Durbin
- Jose Contreras
- J.C. Romero
Those last three spots are completely up in the air. It's safe to say one of Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick will make the roster because of the necessity for a long man available (even though in the first round, Blanton will most likely not get a start). Out of the two of them, I'm much more comfortable going to Worley out of the bullpen. His arm is bullpen-ready right now, he's got better stuff, and he's just a better overall pitcher. The other guys left are Danys Baez, David Herndon, and Antonio Bastardo. Because I don't want to use Romero for one hitter in the 6th then have to bite the bullet with Durbin against a left-handed hitter, I believe having two lefties in the pen is prudent. I'd give Bastardo the 11th spot despite having only retired eight hitters in the month of September. Between Baez and Herndon, you're looking at two polar opposites contractually. Baez making $3 mil to play backgammon with Mick Billmeyer and Herndon has hung around all season making 400K as a Rule 5 draftee, throwing double-play balls and being the victim of a high BABIP. If we're looking at one versus the other, David has Danys trumped in ERA+ (91 to 81), HR/9 (0.4 to 1.2), and K/BB (1.73 to 1.05), but I doubt Charlie will see it that way. For me, Herndon is the pick because he doesn't walk guys and keeps the ball down, capable of inducing ground ball in a tight situation. So I would go with Worley, Bastardo, and Herndon but I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up being Kendrick, Bastardo, and Baez.
To sum up, the bench players in my proposed scenario would be Francisco, Gload, Schneider, Sweeney and Brown. The last three bullpen guys are Worley, Bastardo and Herndon. Young? Yes. This is choosing talent over experience. Hopefully it will pay off.
After last night's loss to the Mets, the Phillies magic number remains at two. The sooner they clinch, the sooner guys like Brown, Sweeney, Worley, and Bastardo can showcase what they have to offer over the next few weeks. The one thing we can count on is Charlie going with the hot hand. The man likes to ride a hot streak.
We'll know for sure in ten days.