October 7, 2010
Giants and Braves Rosters
Comment: So, no Barry Zito and no Jose Guillen, with Guillen's pain in his neck making for a good enough reason beyond poor performance to set him aside and open up outfield playing time for Ross, Schierholtz, or perhaps even Huff, with Ishikawa getting use at first base. Happily enough, Zito's put a brave face on his lot, deferring to his manager. These aren't really losses, since Guillen's without much value on either side of the ball, but forgoing Zito's potential employment was as a long reliever could have repercussions if Bruce Bochy uses his relievers as aggressively as ever, and runs out of late-game options in an extra-inning situation or because of an early exit from any of the starters, especially later in the series.
The mix-and-match opportunities on the left side of the infield with Renteria, Uribe, and Sandoval seem obvious enough, but the absence of a lefty starter among the Braves' trio and Renteria's nondescript performance record against them argues against starting him at short. The absence of a real pinch-running threat seems like an odd oversight; choosing Emmanuel Burriss over Fontenot might have surprised some, but with Ishikawa and Schierholtz on the roster, how many extra lefty pinch-hitters do they need?
As for the staff, there's another instance where you might wonder about at least one selection, Mota. Why have Mota hanging around as the last reliever in the pen for reasons that defy easy explanation, beyond "utility right-hander"? Where, when... ? Consider, there are high-risk situations where you might need an extended bit of inning-munching if a starter gets hurt--which Zito would be good for--or a pinch-runner down a run late in a game. So, what possible high-risk scenario does Mota uniquely fulfill? He pitched badly in a low-leverage role, and he's not even dominant enough against right-handed batters for early-game applications.
Comment: You've already heard that Bobby Cox is carrying seven rookies, but that's Jason Heyward, five relievers, and a 30-year-old Conrad. Conrad's a ten-year pro with more than 1200 games, not some fresh-faced kid, and the stack of rookies in the pen are to cover for the fact that Jair Jurrjens, Takashi Saito, Kris Medlen, and Eric O'Flaherty are all hurt. When the remaining veteran alternatives included Kenshin Kawakami and Scott Proctor, you can understand that the enthusiasm for the kids was both an endorsement of their talent and an admission of dire need. Kimbrel, Dunn, and Venters should hopefully keep the other two--and the always flammable Farnsworth--in the background, getting no more playing time than, say, Diory Hernandez.
Where things get interesting is sorting out the outfield, because like the Giants the Braves have their own questions about how survivable Hinske's glove or the bats of Ankiel or Cabrera might be. Bobby Cox may well use that outfield overflow aggressively when it comes to pinch-hitting and double-switches and kicking the pitcher's slot away from any at-bats. Diaz figures to play a signficant role against the lefties in the pen as well as the starts he'll take in left against Sanchez and Bumgarner.