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Around this time last season, the Angels made a group of unremarkable players interesting by bringing them to the majors for the stretch run. Then-GM Jerry Dipoto had spent the year collecting parts that, when assembled with sufficient care and glue, gifted Mike Scioscia a 38- or 39-man roster perfect for excelling at situational baseball. The expected payoff of Dipoto’s creation was small, but that was okay: his greatest sacrifice in putting together the Fringe-Voltron was limiting personal space in the dugout.

Though Dipoto is no longer making the moves in Anaheim, the Angels have nonetheless paid homage to their old boss by inviting a glut of players to assist them en route to the finish line. However, a different club—one without Dipoto ties—has since elbowed past the Angels to earn distinction as the team most willing to push roster expansion to its limit. That team is the Yankees, which, in addition to leading the majors in active-roster players (39) and percentage of the 40-man roster that is on the active roster, also lead the majors in roster-related creativity (numbers through September 22nd and courtesy of Roster Resource):

Team

Active/40-man

Team

Active/40-man

Yankees

97.5%

Indians

77.5%

Mets

95.0%

Phillies

80.0%

Diamondbacks

92.5%

Marlins

80.0%

Dodgers

92.5%

Mariners

82.5%

Angels

92.5%

Astros

82.5%

The kicker is that, unlike the 2014 Angels—who opted to let Jose Alvarez take an early winter—these Yankees might have had a full set were it not for Mark Teixeira‘s season-ending fractured shin. Theoretically, the Yankees could transfer Teixeira to the 60-day disabled list, thereby achieving a completely active 40-man roster and/or freeing up a spot for another player. But why? Brian Cashman has filled six spots vacated by players on the 60-day disabled list already, and has presumably exhausted all his realistic recall options.

Another big philosophical difference between those Angels and these Yankees is how they used the extra room. Dipoto seemed intent on broadening Scioscia’s bench; conversely, Cashman has done his best to provide Joe Girardi with more pitching options. If the Yankees are aping anyone’s ideology, it’s their own; after all, this team spent the summer harvesting random middle relievers from the farm. Still, the resulting roster breakdown is absurd, even in this era of bloated, highly specialized bullpens: The Yankees are carrying 20 pitchers, with 13 or 14 of those available to pitch on any night.

You’d be right to wonder whether pitching excess to this degree serves any purpose. The Angels’ extra positional players could enter the game as pinch-runners or defensive subs; the Yankees’ arms are, barring some unforeseen and unwanted circumstance, bound to the mound. Be that as it may, there is an important and distinctive benefit to loading up on pitchers: The ability to use them in spots where you’d normally have to lean on your better arms, a nontrivial aspect, because Girardi’s reluctance to use relievers three days in a row means any unnecessary outing threatens the pitcher’s future availability.

If any manager could make the most of this supposed luxury, it might be Girardi, who has earned a reputation as a deft bullpen-handler. The 2015 Annual cited Girardi’s creative usage of Dellin Betances and Adam Warren (who finished first and second in the majors in appearances of four-plus outs) while the 2013 Annual summarized his strengths by saying, “He gets the most out of his teams.” So just how is Girardi getting the most out of these arms? To find out, let’s examine the usage of the seven pitchers the Yankees have recalled since September 1st:

  • Southpaw James Pazos has been employed as a specialist. He’s tied for second on the Yankees in appearances, with nine, yet ranks 18th (out of 20) in batters faced, with 15. Girardi has tried matching Pazos against left-handed hitters, but with September benches being what they are, other managers have countered on a few occasions by inserting a right-handed hitter.

  • Northpaw Caleb Cotham has also been used as a specialist. In seven games he’s faced 19 batters, and has often replaced a left-handed pitcher in order to square off against a righty.

  • Nick Rumbelow has worked out of a generic middle-relief role in his five appearances.

  • Andrew Bailey and Chris Martin have enjoyed undefined roles, mixing one-out and multi-inning appearances without regret.

  • Chris Capuano and Nick Goody have had their holding glass shattered only in blowout situations. Combined, they’ve appeared in four games, and the average score-differential at their time of entry exceeds six runs.

The main benefits of the Yankees’ large adult bullpen appear to be: 1) all the pitching changes make for longer games, meaning more concessions sales (joking … sort of) and 2) as previously asserted, someone had to pitch those innings, and it was either these fellers or the premium arms the Yankees depend on in more important situations.

What about negatives? There’s the financial component, which requires the Yankees to pay players more based on their addition to the 40-man roster and subsequent gain of major-league service time. There’s also the strategical doomsday scenario—Girardi becoming overwhelmed by his swollen lineup card and forgetting who his best relievers are—but that seems farfetched and removed from reality at this point, given Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Justin Wilson, and Chasen Shreve entered Thursday ranked one through four among Yankees relievers in batters faced in September.

Otherwise? As with many (most) roster-related tricks, the gains are marginal. All you can do is nod or shrug and hope teams continue to show a dedication to innovation once next September rolls around.

Thank you for reading

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LucasDad
9/25
This was the first year that I really first looked at the use of the 40-man roster in September. I guess I naively just assumed that ALL rosters were increased to 40 on 9-1. I don't know why I never learned that wasn't the case.

I think the reason I learned this now, is that I am a Twins fan, and this is the first time that we have been in a playoff race, in which I cared about the greater details of baseball operations. This has caused me and others to guess who would and wouldn't be called up in September, and later critique the selections and their usage.

Personally, I âme disappointed in the Twins non selections of guys that could help in the pen, even if it simply to call up guys to take up mop up innings, in order to save your good arms for meaningful games and innings. That to me just seems like a good enough reason to call up as many arms as possible, whether they are good or not. I would assume that a guy like Meyer should be up with the Twins for multiple reasons, despite his poor season (he finished strong.)

*From a fantasy standpoint, I have been hanging on to C. Seager for months before he was called up, and I very nearly dropped him.

Anyway, this leads me to asking the question; Which "Playoff" teams have bettered themselves the most with the Septemmber call ups (with what they have available) and which teams have least maximized their team in September (with what they had available.) For instance, Dogers have gained greatly by the play of Seager, while I am disappointed in the Twins not calling up more arms to use, and not calling up and using guys like Arcia for pinch hitting situations in key spots.

Thoughts?
Agent007
9/25
A question : Players called up have to be on the 40-man roster... does that not mean they have to be DFA'd to be removed from the 40-man during the off-season, when the 60-day DL'd players are returned to the roster? Would that not mean they would risk losing some of these players?
Muboshgu
9/25
Yup. I don't think these teams would lose much sleep on DFAing some of the weakest call-ups.
Behemoth
9/28
They're also going to have some guys who will be free agents at the end of the season, so they may well not have to DAF anyone that matters.
sbnirish77
9/29
All these guys have been garbage - blowing game after game - while Miller and Betances wait for a game that never happens.


What Cashman should have given Girardi was one legitimate starter or some veterens on the cheap like Latroy Hawkins or Mark Lowe.

The starter would have kept Warren in the bullpen and Lowe or Hawkins would be better than any of these guys.

The fact that Toronto beat Cashman on bottom feeders like Hawkins and Lowe is pathetic.