Just Set It and Forget It

For the past month the Arizona Diamondbacks like all other teams in Major League Baseball have had the luxury of playing with an expanded roster after the September call-ups. The expanded roster is an interesting concept. For the first 5 months of the season baseball plays with a set of rules that state that a team may have only 25 active players on their roster. Beginning on September 1 the rules change and teams can have up to 40 players available on their active roster. It always struck me as strange that baseball would change the rules when the games matter the most. Adding to the confusion is the fact that once a team enters the post season the rules revert back to allowing only 25 active players on the roster. Teams are required to submit their rosters prior to the first game and this roster remains in effect until that round of the play-offs have completed. A team has the opportunity to change their roster prior to the beginning of each round of the play-offs. For the Arizona Diamondbacks, they must decide which players to identify on their active roster by 10 AM Wednesday October 3. The question becomes, who should the Diamondbacks have active for the five game series with the Chicago Cubs?

This is the great thing about being a baseball fan, you have an opportunity to weigh in on important decisions and tout your knowledge. Of course it is also a time to make yourself look like a complete idiot if you happen to select someone that no one else agrees with.

The Diamondbacks roster is a little more challenging to decide due to the fact that three important pieces of this team are disabled. Infielders Orlando Hudson and Chad Tracy as well as pitcher Randy Johnson are all injured and unavailable for the entire 2007 post season. These three represented a lot of experience for this team making the remaining roster even younger. But you deal with what you have. There was a lot of contemplation and evaluation done from the stands and in front of my computer to come up with this roster. A lot of the choices will be easy to figure out since many of the names have become familiar to anyone having even a casual interest in the Diamondbacks. I would estimate that 20 of the 25 roster spots were decided upon with little discussion or contemplation. The final five spots however came with a lot of handwringing uneasiness. Let’s start with the pitching staff. The first round of the play-offs is a short 5 game series. This means that you could get by with 3 starters or perhaps 4. In my mind in a short series I would rather have another bat available on the bench than an extra pitcher in the bullpen. For this reason I went with 11 pitchers. They are:

  • Starting Pitchers
    • Brandon Webb
    • Doug Davis
    • Livan Hernandez
    • Micah Owings
  • Relief Pitchers
    • Juan Cruz
    • Edgar Gonzalez
    • Brandon Lyon
    • Brandon Medders
    • Tony Pena
    • Doug Slaten
    • Jose Valverde

The starting pitchers should not come as much of a surprise. I briefly considered moving Owings to number 3 starter just so that he was not potentially facing an elimination game in Chicago but based on his performance in must win situations lately against Pittsburgh and San Francisco I left him at fourth. The relievers are pretty much the same as those that got the Diamondbacks to the playoffs. The late relief corps of Pena, Lyon, and Valverde have been extremely good. Doug Slaten has solidified himself as a very good left-handed specialist who is also capable of getting right-handed hitters out. Long relief will be turned over to Juan Cruz and Edgar Gonzalez who have managed that role through much of 2007. The one possible surprise is Brandon Medders. I struggled whether to include Medders or turn to rookie Dustin Nippert. I like Nippert’s stuff but Medders has been extremely good lately. In a short series I took the hot hand. That being said I expect that Nippert would be included in the NLCS round if the Diamondbacks happen to get that far.

Now that the pitching staff has been set, let’s turn our focus onto the position players. For the first round of the play-offs I selected the 14 players I felt gave the Diamondbacks the best opportunity to win. These players are:

  • Catchers
    • Miguel Montero
    • Chris Snyder
  • Infielders
    • Alberto Callaspo
    • Jeff Cirillo
    • Tony Clark
    • Stephen Drew
    • Conor Jackson
    • Augie Ojeda
    • Mark Reynolds
  • Outfielders
    • Eric Byrnes
    • Carlos Quentin
    • Jeff Salazar
    • Justin Upton
    • Chris Young

There are some interesting choices here that were necessitated due to injury concerns. I went with five outfielders due to the fact that Justin Upton may not be 100 percent after being hit in the hand in the Colorado series. I added Carlos Quentin even though he has not gotten much playing time lately. I think he is much better defensively that Upton at this stage of each of their careers. Quentin has shown that he is capable of playing both left and right field and gives you some power coming off the bench late in the game. I am still concerned that he is too aggressive and I would love to see him work the count more but even with these concerns I think he is the best option the Diamondbacks have.

The infielders were somewhat of a struggle. I’m not a big fan of Callaspo, he hasn’t shown much to me this season and he has a hamstring problem that is still not allowing him to play every day. He is a switch hitter though which gives Bob Melvin a few more options during late inning match-ups. I think Jeff Cirillo earned a spot with his flexibility showing he is able to play first, second, and third base. He’s also thrown an inning so I guess he could pitch too (heaven forbid that is necessary). I struggled leaving Robbie Hammock of the roster. I think he offers more flexibility than Alberto Callaspo as Hammock can catch as well as play infield and outfield. It came down to the fact that Hammock is a right-handed hitter where Callaspo can switch. That is the one position player spot that I struggled with the most. It doesn’t get any easier in subsequent rounds of the play-offs as the number of position players will most probably decrease to make room for an additional pitcher. In the NLCS I would probably drop Carlos Quentin and Alberto Callaspo and add Robbie Hammock and pitcher Dustin Nippert. The Diamondbacks do have another weapon in their arsenal; they can always use Micah Owings as a pinch hitter. Many would argue Micah is a more potent weapon that Callaspo and Quentin combined.

Well there you have it, there’s my Arizona Diamondbacks play-off roster. I guess the next 5 games will determine how good my choices were. Hopefully I am writing another column patting myself on the back for how well I did and setting the roster for the League Championship Series.

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