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A Preliminary Look at the Playoff Roster

Mike SteffanosTuesday, September 12, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

With so little left to play for in the regular season, auditions are fully underway for the honor of playing for the New York Mets in the National League playoffs and (hopefully) beyond. I thought it might be a good idea to start thinking about who gets invited to dance and who remains an unhappy wallflower.

25 men will be on the roster for the opening round of the playoffs in the Divisional Series. Although the Mets have carried 12 pitchers on their roster for most of the regular season, it's a safe bet that they go down to 11 for the playoffs. With plenty of off-days and no fifth starter needed, it doesn't make sense to have a 8-man bullpen.

We've already discussed the pitching a few days ago. Although the fourth starter situation remains murky, the absolute locks (barring injury) for the roster are Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez as starters, and Billy Wagner, Aaron Heilman, Chad Bradford and Pedro Feliciano in the bullpen. That leaves room for 4 more pitchers. I would think Guillermo Mota and Darren Oliver will be in the bullpen, and that leaves 2 spots open for John Maine, Steve Trachsel and Roberto Hernandez, with Oliver Perez and Dave Williams as the longest of longshots. Of course, if Perez really wows tonight as he did last start, he could improve his chances, particularly if Trachsel and Maine continue to falter.

If you forced me to decide the pitching staff a week ago, I would have taken Maine as my fourth starter, Hernandez for the bullpen, and left Trachsel off. I probably still lean that way, but Maine needs to regain effectiveness with his off-speed stuff. If he can't, Trachsel might be the better gamble. Then I would take Maine for the bullpen in case Trax implodes and leave Bert off the roster. This really could get even more complicated if Oliver Perez does something like pitch another complete game shutout tonight, but I still think his time is next year.

Of the 14 position players, 8 are the regular lineup of Reyes, Lo Duca, Beltran, Delgado, Wright, Green, Floyd and Valentin. That leaves 6 bench players. You need at least one catcher, so if Ramon Castro doesn't make it back it will be Stinnett or DeFelice. Stinnett is the better hitter, DeFelice the better fielder. You pick 'em.

5 bench players to go. Chris Woodward, despite his abysmal hitting this year, would seem a lock. He gives you quality defensive play at short, second and third, and can play first base and outfield. Despite his offensive struggles of late, I doubt the Mets will leave top pinch hitter and team leader Julio Franco off the roster, so that leaves 3 spots open. Endy Chavez will certainly be one, which takes us down to 2 open spots.

The candidates for those final 2 spots on the bench would be a third catcher (unlikely), infielder Anderson Hernandez and outfielders Ricky Ledee, Lastings Milledge and Michael Tucker. Hernandez has no use as a pinch hitter, so I would rule him out. Ledee hasn't hit a lick since joining the club, so I would go with Milledge and Tucker. Milledge can give the bench a second right-handed bat, a decent outfielder (unless they're in Fenway -- extremely unlikely) and pinch run also. Tucker is a pro who can give them a bat off the bench and backup the corner outfield spots.

That's my thinking on it now, but it certainly can change as we get closer to playoff time.

This topic is being discussed in the MetsMerized Mets Talk Forum.

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Comments (8)

It's like we're sitting at the finals table at the World Series of Poker (my favorite show on ESPN when there's no REAL sports on).

We know we have three aces in our hand. True, all three are a little ragged around the edges, but they are our aces.

We know we're the prohibitive favorites in this hand, but we have no clue what the last two cards in our hand are going to be.

You'd think nobody else at the table could beat three aces, but, dang it, we want that fourth ace...or a coupla kings...or, heck, even a pair of 8's to make it a full house. What to do, what to do? No question what to do.

All in.

Good analogy.

i'd like to see milledge on the roster, but i think they might go with a. hernandez because otherwise woodward would be the only backup infielder. but then again, we did see j. franco play 3rd on sunday.

I'm surprised that you feel Mota is a lock and Bert is not. Although with the way Willie's been using them, he probably agrees with you!

I would take on my bench (in addition to Chavez, Franco, Woodward and a catcher) Anderson Hernandez and Michael Tucker. Tucker would be your only other left-handed bat off the bench besides Chavez. And AnHern's speed and defense are superior to Milledge's. It's easy to imagine a scenario in which we'd need AnHern, while Milledge has a weaker bat and glove than the alternatives.

evan -- you have a point, but I wonder if they can afford to keep a .113 hitter on the roster.
C Dubb -- Mota and Bert are competing for basically the same job, and Mota has been lights out. I like Bert, but I see Heilman, Mota, Bradford and Feliciano ahead of him right now. I could be wrong, of course.

Clearly, Omar and Willie are going to be forced to make some gut wrenching decisions particularly concerning Floyd and Trachsel. It is obvious that Cliff is seriously injured and has limited mobility on the basepaths and in the outfield, but he can swing the bat. This makes him a potential quality DH in the World Series, but a big detriment in two playoff rounds. Trachsel is clearly a pitcher who is fine if the Mets are up 3-0 or 2-1 in games, but not a starter you want on the mound at 0-3 or 1-2. However, there is no way either guy will be left off the playoff roster. Likely, the Mets will unfortunately leave off Maine and go with Pedro, Glavine, El Duque and Trachsel. Pen will likely be Wags, Heilman, Mota, Feliciano, Bradford, Bert and Oliver. No brainers all!

With Cliff so impaired, the Mets will be forced to have Milledge (not ready for prime time) and Tucker on the roster, along with Chavez, Woodward, Franco and one catcher, who will not really play barring injury. Notice that yesterday Willie had Franco playing 3rd and look for a little Franco at 2nd before the season is out. In fact, Franco is likely (and rightly so) to get quite a few at bats during these last 18 games. His righthanded bat is probably going to be much more crucial than anyone expected earlier in the year. Franco and Floyd WILL be the DHs in a World Series with Chavez and Milledge platooning in left. Bet the farm! Of course, the playoffs do not offer the same benefit to hiding Cliff's maladies.

To discuss in detail something that will never happen: the Mets have a deep and powerful team, a starting staff headed by three oldsters backed up by a flotilla of younger pitchers, none of whom has really pulled away from the pack, and what must certainly be the deepest if not the very best bullpen in baseball. The question is, how best to maximixe these assets going forward into the playoffs?

How about a three man rotation, with the clear understanding that no starter will be allowed more than five innings of work, or 100 pitches, whichever comes first. Plan on going early and often to the bullpen, in other words.

I see more than a few advantages to the approach. None of the chosen starters are dragging their arms through the final month of a long season; to the contrary,each has seen significant time off recently, and besides none of them is a fragile 22 year old. There are numerous television-required days off built into the playoff schedule, which in effect would reduce the workload of the shorter rotation to something more nearly resembling a five man Ro anyway. We would be going only with our best, each start. And besides, what has been the real pitching strength for the Mets this year? It's been guys named Bradford and (the injured)Duaner, Heilman and Feliciano, Wagner, Mota and Roberto. Add to that batch John Maine and/or Oliver Perez as long men and you've got your innings-eating insurance.

Of course, one could adjust the plan to fit the changing circumstances as the playoffs unfold. Maybe Glavine is pitching lights-out, about to put the Mets up 2-0 in the first round; then you decide to go deeper with Tommy and use your designated long man as a fourth starter -- and if you sweep the board the next game you've bought yourself another day off; you can go back to the original plan. You COULD make course corrections along the away, but you'd be planning your attack based upon team strengths, not perceived weaknesses.


DaMetsman -- Maybe Cliff will surprise us a little. I watched him go after that ball in the first and thought it might be the last time I see him play in a Mets uniform. Then he gets 3 hits including the game winner off a leftie.
dd -- That's a really intersting idea, and it wouldn't shock me at all if they actually gave it a try.

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