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Guess the postseason roster

Posted by Adam Kilgore, Globe Staff  September 24, 2009 01:58 PM

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Their magic number down to five, the Red Sox are likely days away from clinching the American League wild card. Game 1 of the ALDS is, at the latest, precisely two weeks away. With that -- and a spirit of 'Why the heck not?' -- in mind, here's one educated guess at the team the Sox will carry into the playoffs.

STARTERS
1. Jon Lester
2. Josh Beckett
3. Clay Buchholz
4. Daisuke Matsuzaka

Notes/Thoughts: The Sox could easily start Becket in Game 1. He is the staff leader and he has unrivaled postseason success. But Lester has been perhaps the best pitcher in the league since June began, and looking at how the end of the year sets up, it may be easier to start Lester in Game 1. Itís explained in more detail here.

Which series the Yankees select if/when they clinch the league's best record will have an effect on this. The thinking with the above choices is that the Yankees will choose Series A, which starts a day earlier. Tony Mazz did a good job breaking the choice down in column the other day:

The likelihood is four, though that depends on which series the Yankees select. As was the case last year, the American League team with the best record -- in this case, New York -- will have the right to choose its schedule for the first round. If the Yankees choose Series A, that series would begin Wednesday, October 7, and there would be an additional day off between Games 1 and 2. Series B begins Thursday, October 8, with no day off between Game 1 and 2.

So whatís the difference? Because of the additional off-day in Series A, the participating teams would need only three starters. In Series B, four starters are necessary unless a team opts to pitch someone on short rest. Last year, the Angels had the right to choose the series schedule and opted for Series A. Whether the Yankees would do the same remains unclear, particularly because such a decision might allow a team like the Detroit Tigers to throw ace Justin Verlander twice in the first four games.

BULLPEN
5. Jonathan Papelbon
6. Daniel Bard
7. Billy Wagner
8. Ramon Ramirez
9. Takashi Saito
10. Hideki Okajima
11. Paul Byrd

Notes/Thoughts: Manny Delcarmenís recent ineffectiveness and the arrival of Billy Wagner may squeeze him off the roster. If he can straighten himself out in the next 10 days, he still has some value because he can get lefties out. That being said, three other Sox relievers retire lefties with great success, too. If anything, the Sox need help getting righties out in their bullpen.

Here are the splits of the six bridge-to-Papelbon candidates in terms of batting-average-against and OPS-against:

Daniel Bard
Against righties: .204, .547
Against lefties: .263, .839

Manny Delcarmen
Against righties: .318, .921
Against lefties: .217, .644

Hideki Okajima
Against righties: .308, .887
Against lefties: .168, .471

Billy Wagner
Against righties: .214, .683
Against lefties: 077, .404

Ramon Ramirez
Against righties: .207, .579
Against lefties: .246, .802

Takashi Saito
Against righties: .295, .896
Against lefties: .180, .483

Paul Byrd is the choice over Delcarmen because he gives the Sox a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency long man. Michael Bowden has pitched well out of the bullpen recently and is gaining comfort in the role, making him a good candidate for that spot, too. But Byrdís experience wins out.

LINEUP
12. Jason Bay
13. Jacoby Ellsbury
14. J.D. Drew
15. Victor Martinez
16. David Ortiz
17. Kevin Youkilis
18. Mike Lowell
19. Alex Gonzalez
20. Dustin Pedroia

Notes/Thoughts: Pretty straightforward. Obviously, this is not a projected batting order.

BENCH
21. Joey Gathright
22. Chris Woodward
23. Jason Varitek
24. Rocco Baldelli
25. Casey Kotchman

Notes/Thoughts: Last season, the Red Sox carried three catchers so they could pinch hit for Varitek. When Martinez caught Beckett last night, it was likely a sign that the Red Sox will have Martinez start in every postseason situation except, maybe, when Daisuke Matsuzaka starts to give themselves their best offensive lineup. So Varitek would then be on the roster primarily as a backup, negating the need to pinch hit for him and for a third catcher. Ö Not carrying a third catcher allows for the luxury of Gathright, who like Dave Roberts in 2004, could serve as something of a designated pinch runner late in games. Ö This assumes Nick Green will not be healthy. Chris Woodward would likely only be used in case of emergencies.

Now, what do you think? If youíve got some time to kill, list your guess at the postseason roster in the comments section.

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