With a postseason berth guaranteed, the Phillies will look to lock up the NL East, and to assure themselves of homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. The Phillies, through their impressive regular season performance, have afforded themselves two luxuries: they can use these final two weeks to give their regulars some much-needed rest, and to determine the makeup of their postseason roster. Perhaps surprisingly, considering their success, the Phillies have some decisions to make when constructing that roster. The Phils won't make any choices based solely on the final two weeks, but there are several "bubble" players who should have the opportunity to help (or hurt) their chances. In this post, we'll determine how many/which players appear assured of playoff roster spots, and how many openings will remain for the rest.
There is one question to answer first- how many pitchers, and how many position players will the Phillies carry? This question could very well have one answer for the first, shorter best-of-five series, and a different answer in the later rounds. For now, we'll simply consider the first round.
A typical playoff team would likely carry fourteen position players (six bench players), and eleven pitchers on the postseason roster, even in the shorter opening round. A seventh reliever (assuming four different starting pitchers are used) would seem to be more potentially-valuable, than a seventh reserve position player. That hypothetical seventh position player is not likely to be very good, and would be relegated to pinch-hitting/serving as an additional (redundant?) insurance policy against injury. The seventh reliever could be used situationally (a LOOGY, perhaps?), or provide another option in an extra-inning (or rain-delayed) game.
However, the Phillies are not a typical playoff team. Yes, their seventh reserve position player won't be very good. But the team's strength is an innings-eating starting rotation, which severely mitigates the need for a seventh reliever, particularly in the shorter first round. It appears probable that the Phillies will begin the playoffs with fifteen position players, and ten pitchers.
Definite Starting Pitchers (4): Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt
If the Phillies fall behind in the series, two games to one, it's possible that Halladay will come back on three days' rest for Game 4, with Lee on regular rest in the fifth game. Most likely, the Phillies will use four starting pitchers. An argument could be made that Vance Worley, and not Roy Oswalt, should be the fourth starter. Worley has had an excellent season, but does anyone really think Phillies' Manager Charlie Manuel will choose him over the established veteran Oswalt? Given Oswalt's career success, and a balky back that makes the irregular usage of a reliever a poor fit, expect Worley to be the one coming out of the bullpen.
Definite Relievers (3): Madson, Bastardo, Worley
Yikes. Not a lot of definites here. Three projected openings remain, with the likes of Brad Lidge, David Herndon, Mike Stutes, Kyle Kendrick, Joe Blanton, Michael Schwimer, Justin De Fratus, and Joe Savery in the mix. Interesting decisions to be made here, which we'll discuss in our next post.
Definite Position Players (9): Ruiz, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Polanco, Mayberry, Jr., Ibanez, Victorino, Pence
As Mayberry, Jr., has earned (at minimum) a platoon with Raul Ibanez, six projected bench openings remain. We'll look at the options for those spots, in a later post.