We’re just one day away from playoff baseball in Cleveland again! In light of that and the Tampa Bay Rays’ win last night, the WFNY writers discussed some of the hot button issues surrounding the roster, bullpen use, and lineups for the Indians.
Assume the following players are locks: Salazar, Masterson, Smith, Shaw, Allen, Albers, Rzepczynski, Hill, Gomes, Santana, Swisher, Kipnis, Cabrera, Chisenhall, Aviles, Brantley, Raburn, Giambi, Bourn, and Stubbs. Pick your last five players for the wild card roster.
Kirk: Ramirez, Carson, Carrasco, Kluber, and I guess Chris Perez. Ramirez and Carson have been key late inning replacements. With Carlos likely playing first, he could slide behind the plate in event of injury, so no Shoppach. I’d love to sentimentally add Vinnie or Tomlin, but just can’t do it. Carrasco has pitched some key moments, and he’s found it in the pen.
Jon: I’ll take Carrasco, Shoppach (in case of emergency), Perez (yes), Kluber OR Kazmir (long-man), and Carson. Sorry Vinnie.
Jacob: That 20-man Wild Card roster draft leaves you with three bench position players. Against a right-handed starter, they’re likely to be: Chisenhall/Aviles, Stubbs and Raburn. I’d think, in a Wild Card game, the Indians probably wouldn’t need many more bench hitters to the plate. Perhaps then Jose Ramirez makes the squad as the last position player as a possible pinch-runner. I give him the nod over Matt Carson. Then, my final four bullpen guys: Nick Hagadone as an extra matchup lefty, Zach McAllister since he’s on regular rest, Josh Tomlin as another late guy and Chris Perez. Biggest question: Do you trust Perez more than Chen-Chang Lee for any playoff innings? I love CC Lee, but I give the edge more to Perez as your final guy. Neither would likely pitch anyway.
TD: For me the last five should be:
Carson – need him for possible late inning defensive replacement or pinch running. Also Bourn insurance
Ramirez – you may need him tp pinch run for Giambi late in the game
Kluber – right now, he is better suited to come out of the pen early should Salazar get in trouble than say Kazmir would be.
Carrasco – you never know when you may need a strikeout or length in extras
Perez – I dont want him on the roster, but he will be there for this game
Rick: I take Carson and Ramirez for the bench. Give me Tomlin, C.C. Lee and Corey Kluber.
How short of a leash does Salazar have tomorrow? Who do you go to first? Who would you throw multiple innings?
TD: He will have an extremely short leash. This is a one game win or go home. You have to pull the plug early if you see signs of struggle. As much as I like the kid, he isn’t Justin Verlander. Early, I go to Kluber. If he can get through five, I go to Shaw, Allen, Smith, and Rzepcynski to get to Masterson in the 9th.
Rick: I think that Francona has been pretty good with his short leash lately. I wouldn’t hesitate to put in one of the previous starters (Kluber or Tomlin) for an inning or two, but I would have them start an inning. Use someone who is used to coming into a jam if you have to go get Salazar.
Kirk: A pretty short leash. If he falls more than two runs behind, he’ll be out. I think ideally they want him to give them six and let Masterson finish it out. That could stretch Masterson out in time for a potential division series start and allow him to close it out. Shaw, Allen, and Smith could all throw multiple innings if needed, and I wouldn’t hesitate at all. Tito needs to manage such that Salazar, Masterson, Smith, Allen, Shaw, and Scrabble are the only guys who have to pitch in a regulation 9-inning game, preferably holding one of those six back for extras.
Jon: The leash will be short–I think even if he’s effective, you don’t let him throw more than six innings, but if he shows cracks you get him out early.
Jacob: As Jon and others said, the target is likely six innings. But don’t be surprised about any other kind of incredibly short leash; heck, Joe Maddon brought in his bullpen in the second inning on Saturday. Tito has been managing that way all September. Although Salazar is no longer on a pitch count, you still watch it very closely and probably go to Shaw or Allen first, if late enough. Everyone has had two days rest now.
Biggest concern in the Tampa lineup?
Rick: James Loney. Best hitter for the Rays on the road this year and he did well against the Tribe earlier in the season.
Jon: My biggest concern is home runs. The Rays have some pop (Longoria, Zobrist, Myers, even Delmon Young) and Salazar has let up some bombs this season.
Jacob: Longoria has been their best hitter since 2008 and is just starting to heat up. He’s the biggest concern and always will be. But Wil Myers is having a great season, too.
Kirk: Longoria, can’t let the best hitter beat you. Danny has to avoid the long ball.
TD: Evan Longoria. You cannot let this guy beat you. He is such a stud. I’d rather take my chances with Will Myers, James Loney, and Ben Zobrist.
Would you start Aviles or Chisenhall at third tomorrow?
Jacob: I think Chisenhall is my starter. For all the flack he receives, he still hit .241/.286/.419 against righties, compared to .269/.293/.396 for Aviles. Very similar. I’d like Aviles’ versatility off the bench and would bring him in ASAP in the case of a lefty reliever.
Kirk: Play the numbers and use Lonnie. Aviles is at the ready for late inning action. Throw 8 lefties at Cobb with Giambi starting too.
Jon: I’d start Chisenhall, only because he has more HR potential than Aviles, but I don’t really feel great about his defense.
TD: Tough call. Assuming Alex Cobb is the starter, his splits call for Chisenhall to get the start. However, Francona loves Aviles and gave him the starts over the last weekend. Plus, in a game of this magnitude, you may want the better defender out there. I think he stays with Handsome Mike.
Rick: I would start Aviles always.
Who’s the guy you want at the plate most for the Indians with the game on the line?
TD: Michael Brantley. Name me anyone else on this team who has been as clutch all year long.
Kirk: Because of his clutch ability and strong at bats that he puts up, I’m going with Brantley with Swisher a close second for how well he’s been playing.
Rick: I would have to say Michael Brantley. He has been the most consistent hitter and you know he is likely going to put the ball in play.
Jon: The guy I want at the plate with the game on the line is our best offensive player: that’s still Carlos Santana, as much as people don’t want to admit it.
Jacob: Agreed with Jon: Cleveland’s best hitter is Carlos Santana. Folks forget he had an .832 OPS compared to just .728 for Brantley. Kipnis was second best at .818, but he was mediocre for the final two months.