The Seattle Mariners lost brutally to the Houston Astros yesterday, taking a 10-2 bludgeoning as Chris Young allowed four home runs and the offense fell flat against Dallas Keuchel. The Royals and Athletics did the Mariners a pair of favors by losing, so Seattle at least avoided losing ground in an ugly, embarrassing manor. Nothing went right in yesterday’s game, but don’t let that take away from the fact that the Mariners are in contention with eight games to go. So let’s talk about the Mariners going to the playoffs.
September is a time unlike any other month of the baseball year. The games count in the regular season standings, but roster construction rules change significantly. During the pre-September regular season teams can only use 25 active players, but in September you can active all 40 men on the roster if you please. Teams that qualify for the playoffs, then, must fall out of love with their oversized roster and trim some fat. Sure as hell can’t roster fifteen relievers in the postseason.
The Mariners aren’t in the playoffs, but they’re close. They’re as close as can be, really, as not even a full game seperates them from the nearest wild card team (who still has to finish a game that they’re losing in extras). It is decently likely that the Mariners, in eight days, will have to think about who makes the team come playoff time. But let’s jump the gun. Let’s talk about that right now.
Regular season rotations feature five men out of necessity, but during the playoffs there’s hardly a need for four starters. Two of those starters will be Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. James Paxton seems all but certain to fill the third rotation spot since he has yet to so much as hiccup as a big leaguer. He’s a safe bet to round out an ALDS rotation. Roenis Elias‘s contributions helped the team get this far, but given his innings and injury he’s all but assured not to pitch again this year.
That leaves one spot open for a swing man/as-needed starter. Chris Young still may be that guy, but that’s also the exact role Taijuan Walker‘s been filling lately. Walker’s is a better arm, and lately his results have outpaced Young’s as well. He’s had the recent experience coming out of the ‘pen, and possesses way higher rotation upside. This one’s a hard call, but Young allowed four home runs last night so maybe it’s not a hard call.
Assuming the team doesn’t load up on bench gloves and pinch hitters (note: this team is not going to load up on bench gloves and pinch hitters) it can be assumed there will be a full twelve-man pitching staff in place. Felix, Iwakuma, Paxton, and Walker leave space for eight relievers. Which seems like plenty, until you realize how hard it might be to narrow things down after that.
There are a few names who we can consider locks for a spot: Fernando Rodney, Danny Farquhar, Charlie Furbush, and Tom Wilhelmsen will make this or any playoff roster. Dominic Leone has been a hugely important part of the bullpen all year, and if he’s not fatigued he’ll be here too. Yoervis Medina is probably going to make it, though it’s highly questionable whether or not his spot would be better used on a guy who throws more strikes. McClendon loves him, so he’s probably getting a playoff inning or two.
The last two spots come down to a few guys. Joe Beimel would make sense as the second lefty, while Carson Smith and Brandon Maurer are both potent arms who have spent recent weeks dazzling. Erasmo Ramirez would be a competent long man, but really that’s what Walker’s for, and Walker’s a lot better. You’d hope it could be Beimel, Smith, and Maurer all making it with Medina staying home, but really just pick any three of those four and things will likely be fine. Smith would be oh so fun to watch, but he may be the odd man out.
So the M’s pitching staff translates nicely to a playoff roster, but what about the position players? Let’s start with the starters who are definitely going to the playoffs: Mike Zunino, Logan Morrison, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley, and Austin Jackson. Chris Taylor and Brad Miller are going to split shortstop, as they’ve been doing with much success lately. Michael Saunders will make the team. Jesus Sucre will make the team. That leaves four spots. Four messy spots.
You want another outfielder to keep Saunders fresh? Congratulations, you probably just gave a postseason roster spot to Endy Chavez. Failing that, Chris Denorfia makes the roster. It would be nice to have James Jones around, as his legs are just made for high-leverage situations. Let’s say you take two of those guys. It makes sense to take two of those guys.
But… who else? Kendrys Morales? Morales has been batting cleanup basically since being acquired, but he’s also been batting like a pitcher over that span. He’s a total drain, but still might get a roster spot because the alternatives are Corey Hart and Justin Smoak. So Morales is on the team, probably. Hey, he could still turn it around!
So to recap in full, here’s how I see things shaking out:
SP Felix Hernandez
SP Hisashi Iwakuma
SP James Paxton
SP Taijuan Walker
CL Fernando Rodney
RP Danny Farquhar
RP Charlie Furbush
RP Tom Wilhelmsen
RP Dominic Leone
RP Yoervis Medina
RP Joe Beimel
RP Brandon Maurer
C Mike Zunino
C Jesus Sucre
DH Kendrys Morales
1B Logan Morrison
2B Robinson Cano
SS Brad Miller
SS Chris Taylor
3B Kyle Seager
LF Dustin Ackley
CF Austin Jackson
RF Michael Saunders
OF James Jones
OF Endy Chavez
Seems about right, doesn’t it? Show off your take in the comments! Hopefully we’ll get to see a real version of this imaginary roster in a week and change.