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Monday, September 24, 2007

FIRST STEP 

Well, the Angels have won yet another division title. Ho-hum.

Obviously, it's a cause of celebration, especially given the fact that in terms of injury and performances by a few key players, this season has been somewhat cursed. But the depth of the organization allowed our Lads to survive injuries and struggles, and we outlasted some inferior teams, some fueled by good fortune (the M's) and other derailed by bad (the A's).

The Angels are technically in a push to get the best record in the league, and secure home-field advantage through the playoffs. Though this would be nice, I think priority number one has to be getting our guys set for the postseason, getting them rest while keeping them sharp. It can be a difficult balance, but I have faith in Mike Scioscia getting it right.

What of the postseason roster? This is definitely not set in stone, so let's take a look at what we have.

Here are the guys who I consider to be locks, provided everyone is healthy:

Catcher (2): Mike Napoli, Jeff Mathis
Infield (5): Casey Kotchman, Howie Kendrick, Chone Figgins, Orlando Cabrera, Maicer Izturis
Outfield (4): Garret Anderson, Gary Matthews Jr, Vlad Guerrero, Reggie Willits
Rotation (4): John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders
Bullpen (4): Francisco Rodriguez, Scot Shields, Justin Speier, Darren Oliver

So that's 19 of the 25 spots right there. I think most of these choices are not controversial; we need two catchers, one backup infielder, and one backup outfielder who can play each spot. We'll likely only use three starters in the first round, and I think Jered should have that third spot, but you'll probably want the lefty as an option and/or as a long man. The bullpen guys are our top bullpen guys.

So that leaves six spots for some combination of:

Robb Quinlan
Kendry Morales
Erick Aybar
Juan Rivera
Nathan Haynes
Ervin Santana
Bartolo Colon
Dustin Moseley
Chris Bootcheck

First of all, I don't think we need both of Aybar and Haynes; Willits can fill the pinch-running slot in games he doesn't start, and between he and Ztu we've got the skill positions covered. If I had to pick one, it might actually be Haynes. He's not reliable offensively, but he can deliver the mail on the basepaths, and is a far more accomplished basestealer than Aybar. Five spots left.

Has Juan Rivera earned a spot? His bat looks good, he can hit lefties, he can spot the outfield corners.

It might seem odd to not include Q, given his time against lefties this year, but the fact is that he hasn't really bashed southpaws this year as he normally has. But another fact is that Kendry hasn't done well against lefties, either.

I don't know if there would be room for all three of those guys, given their redundant skills. I'm prone to say that Rivera and Kendry should get the spots, even though that kinda sucks for Q, but it's hard to say. Giving two of them spots leaves three for the pitching staff.

Bartolo Colon's health is something of a question mark in my mind, even though he (apparently, it was a rare game I didn't watch) pitched well on Saturday. I'd be shocked if he were given a starting spot in the postseason, given the inconsistency of his pitching and health this year. Would he still be effective coming out of the bullpen?

And the same questions plague us with Ervin, except for the injury concern. Would they carry both into October? I can see it happening, if Bartolo's body allows it. Neither Bootcheck nor Moseley are great shakes, either, and if push comes to shove I'd rather see Ervin pitching when it matters than either of them. Of course, one of them should get the last spot, just for mop-up duty.

That would give us 14 position players and 11 pitchers, which sounds reasonable. For the shorter series, we could even cut down on the pitching (either cutting out Bootcheck/Moseley or Colon and Santana), allowing room for either one more runner (Aybar) or bat (one of the Rivera/Morales/Q troika).

We actually have more guys with cases to make the roster than actual roster spots to dole out, which is a sign of strength. It'll be interesting to see who Mike elects to take into the divisional round with him.

Comments:
Given the way Fox TV has rescheduled the playoffs this year (it's much more like the NBA arrangement than what we're used to from years past), we could probably go with fewer pitchers and more position players.

This whole discussion may be irrelevant anyway if we don't do better on the road in the playoffs than we've done in the regular season...
 
I would definitely take Kendry, and I'd take both Colon and Santana over Moseley. I'd prefer Santana to Colon at this point.
 
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