Wild rules could alter playoff games
September, 18, 2012
By Buster Olney | ESPN Insider
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesCraig Kimbrel could be one of many relievers featured on Atlanta's wild-card game roster.Some of the San Francisco Giants spoke recently about how they view the Atlanta Braves as a really dangerous postseason team because of their dominant bullpen pieces and the power in their lineup. It's possible that the Braves will finish this season with the second-best record in the National League, a reflection of how well they've performed.
But it's also possible that their postseason will last exactly one game. If the Braves finish as the No. 1 wild-card seed -- and right now, that appears likely -- then they'll have to win the wild-card game against the St. Louis Cardinals or Los Angeles Dodgers or one of the other five teams vying for the last NL playoff spot. "When it's just one game, the worst team in baseball can knock out the best team," a GM mused last week. "Anything is possible."
The wild-card games will be conducted under circumstances we've never seen before in the postseason. The participating teams will set 25-man rosters for this one-game, winner-take-all extravaganza -- rosters that don't have to carry over to the division series matchup.
So the Braves and the other wild-card entrants don't have to carry multiple starting pitchers.
If Atlanta decides to start Kris Medlen in the wild-card game, there won't necessarily be any reason to carry Mike Minor, Paul Maholm and Tommy Hanson. Rather, the Braves could round out their roster with specialists. They could carry a third catcher, for example, whose presence would allow Fredi Gonzalez to aggressively pinch-run for Brian McCann or David Ross, and extra pinch-hitters, pinch-runners and relievers. You might see the wild-card teams carry rosters of 11 pitchers and 14 position players -- but with 10 relievers available, allowing the managers to focus on matchups batter after batter down the stretch.
Because the new playoff format and rules had to be put together quickly, it may be that changes will be forthcoming, as the practical use is evaluated. As part of the reward for division winners, for example, it might make sense to ask the wild-card teams to declare their 25-man rosters for the first two rounds of the playoffs -- forcing them to carry starting pitchers for the wild-card game and perhaps use them.
But on the other hand, allowing a separate 25-man roster for the wild-card games alone could be very fair, giving the managers as many weapons as possible in a winner-take-all situation. The work of an entire summer will be at stake.
The Cincinnati Reds have time to put together their playoff roster, as John Fay writes.
• Watched the Tigers' loss to the Chicago White Sox on Monday, a crusher for Detroit, and yet again the Tigers had to try to overcome a defensive play not made -- the turn of a double play -- a failure that cost them two runs in a 5-4 loss. Jim Leyland said the Tigers have been talking about defense. From Lynn Henning's story:
- They didn't field ground balls with enough skill to compensate for some isolated pitching miscues, nor did they handle double-play tasks with the flair to support those precious leads Detroit hitters had gouged from White Sox pitchers.
- "Yes, that's the one thing we've been preaching," Leyland said after the Tigers had lost their ninth consecutive one-run road game. "Twenty-seven outs, not 30.
- "And we've paid for it."
Omar Infante's defense has been a problem, writes Drew Sharp. Alex Rios helped to create the error with his hard slide into second base, writes Mark Gonzales.
The Tigers know that time is running out.
Meanwhile, Alex Avila suffered a sprained jaw on a collision with Prince Fielder.
By The NumbersFrom ESPN Stats & Information
7: Double plays lost on bad throws by Omar Infante, most of any player this season.
8: Consecutive relief decisions won by Nate Jones, the most ever by a White Sox rookie.
19: 10-strikeout games for Cliff Lee since 2010, most in the majors.
217: Minutes the Pirates/Cubs game was delayed by rain before first pitch at 10:42 p.m. CT on Monday.
The five contenders most in need of a victory today:
1. Detroit, which is in jeopardy of falling out of the AL Central race. The Tigers play host to Oakland.
2/3. Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, two teams tied in the standings, 2.5 games behind St. Louis. The Pirates got a badly needed victory Monday.
4. Philadelphia, which beat the New York Mets to pick up a half-game in the wild-card race.
5. The Los Angeles Angels, who are three games out in the AL wild-card race and open a home series today against the Texas Rangers.
• The Milwaukee Brewers have won 20 of their last 26 games to give themselves hope, writes Tom Haudricourt.
• We'll learn more today about the words written on the eye-black patches of Yunel Escobar, as Major League Baseball begins its investigation. Will Escobar say that he's a victim of a prank from an unknown teammate? We'll see. But if he says he applied the patches without use of a mirror, he might be the first.
Dings and dents
1. Danny Espinosa is having an MRI on his shoulder.
2. Andy Pettitte is set to be activated from the disabled list, writes David Waldstein. The New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays may have trouble playing today, though, as the New York weather forecast today is awful.
3. Giancarlo Stanton was out with a sore oblique.
4. Jorge De La Rosa will take the mound for the Colorado Rockies on Thursday.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Amanda Comak wonders: Does Adam LaRoche's impressive season price him out of Washington?
It's an interesting question, for any number of reasons. LaRoche will get some votes in the lower half of the 10-rung MVP ballots for the season he's had, and his left-handed bat has helped balance what is generally a very right-handed lineup. He's got good hands defensively, too.
But the Washington Nationals already have Ryan Zimmerman locked up well into the future, and as they negotiate with LaRoche, the Nationals will naturally assess what they project Zimmerman's position will be in three years, four years, etc., and how former No. 1 pick Anthony Rendon fits into that equation.
2. Chase Utley is seemingly preparing for a shift to third base.
3. Lonnie Chisenhall is making a case to be the Indians' third baseman.
4. Denard Span wants to stay with the Minnesota Twins.
5. The Houston Astros are targeting Mexico.
6. Colby Lewis agreed to a one-year extension.
7. The Angels had big signings, but this hasn't translated in attendance, writes Bill Plunkett.
AL East notes
• The Tampa Bay Rays keep taking on water: They lost to the Boston Red Sox on Monday, and in the midst of the defeat, a couple of teammates had a heated exchange. Alex Cobb says he didn't initiate it.
• The Baltimore Orioles gained a half-game on the Yankees after wrecking the Seattle Mariners.
• No team will have more opportunities to be a spoiler than Boston, and it took advantage of that Monday, as Peter Abraham writes.
AL West notes
• The Rangers hope to lock up their division soon, and their last 16 games are against AL West teams, writes Drew Davison.
• Hector Noesi had a really bad day.
• Jonny Gomes has become the heart and soul of the Athletics, writes John Shea. From the piece:
- It was speculated that Jonny Gomes, hitting in the low .200s, would lose his job once [Manny] Ramirez arrived, considering there was some redundancy. Both right-handed hitters. Both designated-hitter/left-field types, though left field was more of a memory for Ramirez.