By TED SILLANPAA
The Giants had 11 pitchers and 14 position players on the 2010 postseason roster. There’s no reason to think the club won’t do roughly the same thing this fall.
The only real question in 2010 was whether or not to carry Barry Zito on the postseason roster. It wasn’t so much a tough call based on his performance, but rather based on the reality that professional sports franchises don’t typically bench and embarrass their most highly-paid players. It was a simple decision, though. Zito was the worst pitcher in the rotation and he’d never been a reliever in his life. He had no business on the active roster.
There are questions this year. The Giants have to choose between Zito and Ryan Vogelsong as the No. 4 starter. Not an easy decision. They have 10 pitchers with locks on roster spots and 2, 3 pitchers who can make a case they deserve the 11th spot. Finally, there seem to be 11 position players who have spots secured. Where are the other 3 position players coming from? What will the postseason Giants need from the talent on the bench? Perhaps, there’s a 12th pitcher who would play a more important role than that 14th position player?
They’ll carry all five starting pitchers this time around. Zito should be the fourth starter … behind Cain, Bumgarner and Lincecum. Vogelsong has spent a career adapting and adjusting to survive, before emerging as an outstanding starter in the last two season. He was, however, terrible late in the season and two good, not great,wins over the hapless Padres didn’t reveal that the best Vogelsong is back. The Giants have won 20 of Zito’s starts, including the last 10 in a row. He belongs in the rotation with the same short leash he’s been on all season long.
If the Giants fall behind in the series, they could bring Cain and Bumgarner back in Games 4 and 5 on three days rest. The hunch is that manager Bruce Bochy will start Zito in a Game 4, even if it’s a win-or-go home game. It’s just how Bochy manages and his patience and confidence in his people has paid off repeatedly.
Vogelsong could be important with Lincecum and Zito both 6- or 7-inning guys. If he can adjust to pitching back-to-back days in the 6th or 7th, or to get a right-hand batter in a set-up role, the bullpen would really get a lift. Sergio Romo and Sergio Casilla are the only rightys who have secured spots. Guillermo Mota was part of the 2010 team and he can work as a long, middle or set-up guy. He’s hardly a guy the club wants to call on consistently in high-pressure situations at this point in his career. So, seriously, Vogelsong in relief could be a crucial component to the postseason roster.
Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez are part of the closer-by-committee, along with Romo and Casilla. Those leftys can’t be getting the call in the middle innings very often. (Obviously, with a series on the line, they pitch when Bochy needs them.) That means lefty Jose Mijares has a postseason roster spot and could actually be very important as a situational pitcher when the Giants are trying to get to late innings.
If Mota has a spot secured, that actually means 11 pitchers have spots locked.
Given the lack of value among lesser position players, expect the club to keep 12 pitchers on the roster this October.
The argument can be made that George Kontos deserves the spot reserved here for Mota. Bochy has relied on Kontos throughout the playoff run. It would be a surprise if he were to be left off the roster. However, left-hander Dan Runzler could grab the last spot because he has strikeout stuff and the club did like his performance down the stretch in 2010 and in 2011 before he was injured.
Figure the bullpen to include: Romo, Casilla, Affeldt, Lopez, Mijares, Vogelsong, Mota and Kontos.
Buster Posey and Hector Sanchez will both start games behind the plate in October. The Giants got here with Sanchez catching Lincecum and Zito, with Posey playing first base. It’s hard to understand why there’s a controversy now over that particular situation. Stick with what’s been working.
Brandon Belt’s bat needs to be in the lineup when Posey’s at first base. He’ll play some left field. Remember, he started his big league career in the outfield. Keep in mind that the 2010 Giants won a world title with defensively-challenged Pat Burrell in left. Belt is just fine out there when Posey’s at first base.
Marco Scutaro, Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval and Joaquin Arias will be on the roster, obviously. Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence will start in the outfield.
The left field platoon of Xavier Nady and Gregor Blanco has sufficed to date, so both will be on the postseason roster. The other day one of the Giants’ broadcasters mentioned that Nady “can further state his case for a postseason roster spot” in the Padres series. He’s earned a roster spot already.
Still, anyone who thinks the Giants take a huge hit when Belt plays left field ahead of Nady and Blanco are crazy. Belt can defend out there as well as Nady can and he’s a far more productive hitter than Blanco.
Add them together and the aforementioned players give the Giants 11 players on the postseason roster: Posey, Sanchez, Belt, Scutaro, Crawford, Sandoval, Arias, Pagan, Pence, Nady and Blanco.
There aren’t three other position players who deserve postseason spots, so that seals the deal on a 12-man pitching staff and means two position players not among those 11 will play in October.
Second baseman Ryan Theriot will be on the postseason roster. He just … will.
If pressed, I’d far prefer Brett Pill on the postseason roster over a 12th pitcher or any other position player … even over Theriot. Pill’s shown ability at times as a pinch-hitter for a team that has an alarming lack of power. Bochy hasn’t used Pill like a guy he plans on taking into October, but Pill’s ability to provide the long ball would make him valuable as a righty swinger on a team dominated by lefty hitters.
The 13th spot will go to a pinch-runner who can provide a defensive upgrade in left field. That kills any chance Emmanuel Burris has of making the 25-man group. It also makes impossible the idea of keeping veteran Aubrey Huff. Huff has gotten some pinch-hits lately, but he just can’t run the bases due to those banged and beaten legs. There’s some attraction to his potential for home run, but haven’t most of us waited the last year and a half for Huff to find the magic power stroke of 2010?
The candidates for the pinch-runner role are outfielders Justin Christian and Francisco Peguero.
My preference would be Peguero because he’s a kid who has stolen three bases and shown improvement at the plate in September. He’s got a strong, accurate throwing arm, too. Christian is a journeyman who hasn’t utilized his speed very well in the big leagues. He seems to be getting worse at the plate. Logic indicates that the club brass has noticed Christian’s baserunning mistakes and would give an edge to Peguero.
My final two roster picks would be the longball threat of Pill and Peguero. The Giants are most likely going with the veteran Theriot and Christian. If Pill and Peguero were postseason guys, they’d have played a lot more the last week, don’t you think?
The four starters, six relievers and those 11 position players are going to win or lose for the club in October.
Which 25 Giants would you take into October?