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The Baseball Prospectus staff discussed this week’s playoffs.

Mariners/Indians

Joe Sheehan: Indians in five.

Derek Zumsteg: Okay, I’ll bite–you’re mad. The Mariners have a
slightly better offense, a bullpen an order of magnitude better (with
Cleveland’s stats including their pre-John Rocker goodness), and a
better rotation. The Indians are talking about using a three-man rotation,
which means in Games 4 and 5 we’ll see Bartolo Colon and C.C.
Sabathia
on short rest.

The Mariners will whup the Indians just as surely as the winner of the
Mariners/Athletics series will beat the NL champ.

Chris Kahrl: I think I understand the rationale–the Indians will
score runs off of the Mariners’ starters. Kazuhiro Sasaki is
beatable, and the Indians have the kind of right-handed sock to be willing
to take their chances against Arthur Rhodes.

I guess I see Jeff Nelson and Joel Pineiro [Ed. note.
Pineiro was inexplicably left off the Division Series roster.
] and even
Norm Charlton as the key pitchers in the series. Piniella has the
relief depth to secure matchups from the fifth inning on, while the Indians
have to overcome however many runs they spot the Mariners in the first few
innings.

For those of you counting bad guys in the Mariners’ lineup, keep in mind
that the Tribe is starting left-handers in three out of five games. Dan
Wilson
becomes useful, and you get Stan Javier instead of Al
Martin
, but you’re still suffering some major defanging as far as
Ichiro Suzuki and John Olerud are concerned.

I’d probably take the Mariners in five.

Jeff Bower: As a team, the Mariners haven’t hit appreciably worse
against lefties than against righties this year (.285/.360/.437 and
.289/.360/.449). With Jay Buhner on the roster, he’ll get many of the
at-bats otherwise slated for Javier.

The off-days on Wednesday and Friday negate one of the Mariners greatest
strengths–their depth of starting pitching–and doesn’t expose the fact
that beyond the top three, the Tribe’s best starter has an ERA of 6.21.

I see the Mariners winning in five, as well.

DZ: But Freddy Garcia and Jamie Moyer have had better
years than Colon and Sabathia. With righties Juan Gonzalez, Ellis
Burks
, and Marty Cordova, this is a lineup I figure is going to
lose two games to Garcia and Aaron Sele, and the Jamie Moyer
matchup will be interesting.

You’re right, Sasaki is beatable if he’s not locating his pitches. Rarely
will you see such a Jekyll/Hyde bullpen as this team has with Sasaki and
Nelson. Kazu is still #28 on the Top 30 list, and better than anyone in the
Indians’ pen outside of Ricardo Rincon, who is worse than both Nelson
and Rhodes. I think in the playoff series we’ll see Rhodes/Nelson used in
the higher-leverage jam situations.

And as for Norm-Norm, uh, I remember reading in a long-ago Baseball
Prospectus
that Norm Charlton was one of the best lefty relievers in the
league. Yup.

Gary Huckabay: I’m going with Seattle in three. I think it’s going to
be the summary execution so many others have predicted. Colon looked
miserable and tired in his last outing, which probably doesn’t deserve much
weight, but even so, I’m just not convinced that Colon, Sabathia, or
Chuck Finley can get these guys out at this point. Patient hitters
will slaughter these guys.

JS: All good points. I definitely have to reconsider my initial
position.

Indians in four.

Astros/Braves

CK: I’m coming around to what seems like the depressing conclusion
that the Braves might take the Astros in five. Dave Mlicki, plus a
wounded Roy Oswalt?

GH: I won’t even go that far. I’m not convinced Oswalt is going to be
able to throw more than an inning. He certainly didn’t look like he was
going to be healthy for the LCS, much less the Division Series. This makes
the dilapidated Astros rotation look a lot like the rotation from another
Texas team.

What’s the over/under on the Merv Rettenmund "coached" Braves
offense? Three runs for the series? Five?

Jeff Hildebrand: I’d say 10 runs over four games, thanks in large
part to the patchiness of the Astros’ rotation. (Although hopefully they
won’t approach the seven-walks-in-an-inning nightmare we saw on Friday.)

The general Braves pattern has been to get a small burst here and there, so
they might get four or five runs in a game in which Greg Maddux or
Tom Glavine holds the Astros down enough for the Braves to sneak out
a win. However unless Eric Gregg suddenly gets reinstated as a playoff
umpire and Maddux and Glavine live off the outside "strike," one
of them is going to get hit for enough runs that the Braves anemic offense
won’t be able to counter it. Then John Burkett and Kevin
Millwood
will likely get torched because their control seems to have
been slipping recently and the Astros are a bad team to face with that
problem.

Keith Law: Maddux is off his game and Glavine has been lousy for
several big chunks of the season, with 12 starts in which he had at least as
many walks as strikeouts. Burkett has been coming back to earth slowly, with
a 3.79 ERA since the All-Star break and a 5.79 ERA in September.

CK: Is Maddux off his game? You might have had a point in mid-
to-late August, but it looks to me like he’s had a couple of good starts
against the Phillies and one against the Cubs in the last month, and one
sub-Maddux effort against the Marlins.

KL: The Astros’ bullpen is way ahead of the Braves’ pen.

CK: Not really, although Dotel’s performance has been incredible. On
the season, the ARPs of the six guys the Braves will probably carry
(Steve Reed, Mike Remlinger, Steve Karsay, John
Smoltz
, Rudy Seanez, and Kerry Ligtenberg) is about ten
points higher than the Astros’ corps (Mike Williams, Billy
Wagner
, Nelson Cruz, Mike Jackson, Ron Villone, and
Octavio Dotel).

That’s another way of saying that Matt Whiteside and Marc
Valdes
can do no more harm.

KL: The Braves can’t hit.

CK: A compelling point, but the Astros’ pitching is looking DOA.
Which corpse hits putrescence first?

KL: I see Astros in four.

Michael Wolverton: The "What have you done for me lately?"
perspective doesn’t flatter the Astros, either.

I could see John Smoltz having a big impact in this series. He’s been
near-unhittable this year, and bullpens tend to take on greater importance
during the postseason. That goes double if both Cox and Smoltz are willing
to have him pitch in three-inning–or longer–outings in tight games,
especially extra-inning games. Smoltz pitched three scoreless innings in an
important late-season game against the Mets, showing no ill effects
afterward.

I can just imagine the Astros getting into extra innings against the Braves,
with ex-starter Smoltz throwing zeroes frame after frame, while the Astros
slowly work their way down to the bottom of their pen.

CK: Looking at the rosters for the Astros/Braves series–the one I’m
writing up–guys who are probably screwed include Jose Cabrera and
Jason Marquis for Atlanta, and Tim Redding for Houston. Both
teams are talking about going with ten pitchers, which I’d normally applaud,
but when four of the ten are Mlicki, Villone, Jackson, and Cruz…

Even then, three of these four players make it for the Astros: Scott
Servais
, Glen Barker, Chris Truby, and Adam
Everett
. It’s an issue of third catcher vs. pinch-runner vs. third
shortstop vs. your best right-handed sock off of the bench–which is less
important than you’d think considering the Braves have only one lefty
reliever.

JS: Barker has to be there, which makes three for two slots. I’d
expect a third catcher as well, so that Dierker can both hit for Ausmus and
run for Eusebio in the same game.

CK: Which ought to mean that Everett is out, which makes sense, even
if it leaves the Bill Spiers 60-day DL slot unexploited.

The Braves are apparently going to bump Wes Helms (fine) to keep two
of these three: Steve Torrealba, Eddie Perez, and Jesse
Garcia
(boiling down to three catchers or two plus a pinch-runner you
might use in the late innings for Paul Bako).

JS: You’re kidding, right? Has Cox ever taken just two
catchers to October? Perez is in as the #2 guy, and Torrealba in the Ayrault
Memorial Slot.

CK: Clouding that neat symmetry is the problem that the Astros have
no lefty starters, which means all Bako, all the time, leaving only Billy
Wagner as someone you care about. Plus, there’s no conviction that Perez is
really physically able to play. The Braves have already broadcast their
indecision, sending everybody to Houston and saying they’ll wait until
Tuesday to sort it all out.

Cox has said he could use Marquis as a pinch-runner, as he has for the last
couple of months, but that means dumping another pitcher (either Steve Reed
or Kerry Ligtenberg or Traction Action Seanez). When you have the
Surhoff/Caminiti platoon and Bako to pinch-run for, and the Keith Lockhart
Memorial Slot is still held by Keith Lockhart, I guess you get wound up on
these kinds of details.

JS: Except when you pinch-run for him, or when Ron Villone starts for
Oswalt when Oswalt can’t pitch. Especially given how bad the #2 catcher will
be, I have to believe Cox will carry three.

CK: As opposed to a pinch-runner? Sure, I think so too, but the
variable is variable until Tuesday morning. The ossification of the Braves
is impressive: Bernard Gilkey as a pinch-runner? Davey
Martinez
? Otis Nixon must be pretty far gone by now, but I wonder
what brother Donell is up to. Can we fire up an Alex Cole
comeback?

JB: Sure, but you’re going to have to bust him out of the slammer. I
think he was indicted on charges of distributing cocaine not too long ago.

JS:If Steve Reed is left off the roster for a series with one of the
most right-handed teams since…OK, since the 1996 Astros…it’s about the
worst decision ever.

CK: It isn’t really being discussed anywhere I’ve seen, so I doubt it
will happen. Seanez has to make the team to prove that Schuerholz did
something. Ligtenberg had a great second half, making the issue complicated.
I suspect Marquis will get cut because of relative inexperience; he’s
supposedly a lock for the NLCS roster, when the Braves would go to 11
pitchers for seven games.

JS: Honest question: do you think, in general, managers spend this
much time on roster construction? I know Earl Weaver did, and I know that
when I’m putting together a playoff roster in Strat, I do a lot of
what-iffing. Do we think Cox or Dierker or Piniella is sitting there working
through possibilities and roles and constructing scenarios?

Genuinely curious.

CK: In this situation, yes, I think they are spending this much time.
If Javy Lopez was healthy, there’d be a lot less thought to it for
the Braves (heck, I’m impressed that they’re not even talking about
Cabrera), but the Gerry Hunsicker/Larry Dierker/Tim Purpura group is smart
and put in an impossible situation by their pitching problems.

Athletics/Yankees

DZ: I’m taking the A’s in five, but I’m starting to worry. I think
the pitching matchups are going to be great, but losing Jeff Tam
leaves the A’s with only one good reliever. The Yankees have a brutal
Mike Stanton/Mariano Rivera combination even if Ramiro Mendoza
continues to be ineffective with that shoulder soreness recovery.

The Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina starts are going to be
huge. If the big lefty bats can beat the big righty arms, I think this
series is all A’s; if they can’t, the A’s are serious trouble.

And somebody, please tell me T.J. Mathews was left off the playoff
roster.

CK: Postseason rosters aren’t due until 10 a.m. Tuesday, so unless
there’s a press release that came out in the last hour and a half, we don’t
really know much.

GH: This series is going to be highly umpire dependent. A big strike
zone means the Yankees win, a small strike zone means the Yankees are
butchered in three grisly games. If Eric Chavez, Miguel
Tejada
, Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon, and Terrence
Long
are all convinced they need to swing at borderline pitches, the A’s
offense will pull a shriveling act not often seen outside of Barrow.

Maybe the A’s can have Dave Stewart come by and goad Clemens into getting
tossed.

Diamondbacks/Cardinals

JS: I’m wondering which relievers LaRussa leaves home.

CK: I suspect the decision will involve tofu-flavored lubricants, Dave
Duncan, and a game of Twister behind closed doors.

DZ: Expect to be billed for my therapy bills over the next six to 12
months, Chris. I don’t even want to think about where you got the
inspiration for this diseased thought.

KL: I can’t imagine it’ll happen, but Dustin Hermanson really
has no place on this roster. He’s the fifth starter, but he doesn’t fill the
one spot role LaRussa might want in the pen for which there’s not already a
guy available.

I’m guessing Steve Kline, Dave Veres, Mike Timlin,
Gene Stechschulte, Mike Matthews, and Hermanson. The first
four have closer mystique. Matthews has been pretty good. Hermanson is a
Proven Veteran (TM).

JH: Personally, I’m wondering what Curt Schilling is going to
do. He’s going to be wound up so tightly for his start that he’s either
going to blow away the Cardinals or get hit badly. I’d put about even odds
on the two outcomes.