The Wild Card Game (UPDATED)

The Braves will be playing in the NL Wild Card play-in game on Friday. The opponent is not official yet will be the St. Louis Cardinals, who currently trail the Braves by six games, will come to Turner Field for the right to move onto the division series.

The roster for the play-in game is independent of the NLDS roster. Teams can place any player they wish, who is on the 40-man, on the roster for this one game, then change it back up for the divisional series. Here is how I would compose the 25 man roster,

Starters Bench Bullpen
P Medlen C Ross R Kimbrel
C McCann* C Boscan R Martinez
1B Freeman INF Pastornicky R Durbin
2B Uggla INF Francisco R Gearrin
3B Jones INF Overbay L Avilan
SS Simmons OF Constanza L Minor
LF Prado OF Johnson L O’Flarhety
CF Bourn OF Hinske L Venters
RF Heyward

* I am assuming the Braves will play the Cardinals and will face RHP Kyle Lohse. If that is somehow not the case and the Braves face a LHP, I would start David Ross.

Starters:

The starters are a given besides McCann/Ross mentioned above. I would also keep the standard lineup the Braves have had for the past few weeks, Bourn (L), Prado (R), Heyward (L), Jones (S), Freeman (L), Uggla (R), McCann (L), Simmons (R), Medlen (S). It  is nice how the lineup can be constructed alternating L/R down through the order. That can become very valuable in late inning match up situations, especially in a do or die game. Not much else to say about the starters here.

Bench:

The Braves have a pretty solid bench heading into to the  postseason. I elected to put Boscan on the roster in an emergency catcher role and to free up David Ross as a pinch hitter. Ross is rarely used off the bench unless Boscan is on the roster, which is a shame because he is the teams best bench bat. This is not a move I would do for a postseason series when four starters must be carried. Constanza should be kept for a pinch running role, that is basically it, maybe a late inning defensive replacement. Pastornicky should be used as a defensive utility player or pinch runner if needed. I personally think Pastornicky’s speed is a tad underrated. Of course, he could be used as a pinch hitter if needed, but the Braves have plenty of options I would use ahead of him.

The rest of the bench players should be used in pinch hitting roles accordingly. They actually have fairly good platoon splits against opposite handed pitchers.

wRC+ v RHP wRC+ v. LHP
R Ross 92 120
L Francisco 108 23
L Overbay 96 44
R Johnson 76 113
L Hinske 62 10

Ross would be a good PH candidate at any point in the game, he has hit LHP and RHP fairly evenly throughout his career. Francisco and Overbay are good v. RHP while Johnson hits LHP well. Hinske shouldn’t hit unless needed. Fredi has a good bench that can provide value in different parts of the game depending on the situation. Lets just hope he uses them to the team advantage.

Bullpen:

It is a pretty standard bullpen set up as well for the most part. I have elected to put an extra position player on the bench rather than have an extra starter in Tim Hudson in the bullpen. Hudson has struggled on numerous occasions during the year in the first inning of games which is the main reason I would not feel comfortable bringing him in mid-game. I just do not think it is necessary and I wouldn’t want Hudson pitching if he is scheduled to pitch Game 1 of the NLDS. The team already has another starter in Minor and a long guy in Martinez. For those who were still wondering, I would much rather have Gearrin over Moylan as a ROOGY. Again, pretty standard bullpen setup from during the season. It is more of how Fredi choses to use the pieces that he is given. In a do or die game, matchups become huge. Assuming the game is close, I would hope he goes to his better relievers rather than “save” them for later in the game. This mean’s using O’Flarhety or even Kimbrel if needed in the 6th or 7th.

At the end of the day, the Braves will play one game to decide who moves on to the divisional round. You can set up your roster however you want, but if your pitcher get’s knocked around or the offense doesn’t show up, there’s not much you can do. I expect this game to go the way of the Braves offense. If they show up, they will move on, if not they will go home. It the way the offense has been all year, streaky.

It will be interesting to see how Fredi manages during a game like this. Lately, he seems to be making smarter tactical in-game decisions. While it could be a random small sample size of good moves, it is at least a positive feeling heading into the postseason. Let me know your thoughts of the roster for this do or die game in the comment section.

Be sure to follow on Twitter: @decisions_brave

UPDATE ( 3:30 PM): It has been announced that Kyle Lohse will start for the St. Louis Cardinals Friday. Loshe was strong for the Cardinals all season compiling 211 IP with a 2.86 ERA and 3.51 FIP. Ben Duronio over at Capitol Avenue Club gave a great scouting report on what to expect from Lohse.

UPDATE (10/4 2:00 PM): Fredi Gonzalez revealed his lineup for the game tomorrow at the Braves wild card media day. He has elected to start David Ross over Brian McCann.

“He’s been banged up here for a while.  God Bless him. In the one-game series, you go with Rossy. In the longer series, (McCann) is going to play.  He’s not that banged up that he’s not going to play.”

(source: Bowman’s Blog)

It does make sense to go with Ross. While I hinted they should go with Ross against a lefty, it still is smart to use him in this one game scenario even against a righty. I honestly didn’t think Fredi would make that call though, props to him. Ross and Medlen should pretty much eliminate any running game that the Cardinals play to use (not that they had a great one to begin with). It’s tough to sit McCann who has been one of the best and most consistent for a handful of years now, but the wear and tear along with the drop in production makes this a good call. The Braves can afford to do this because they do have the best backup catcher in baseball who could probably start on around half of MLB teams. These are the kind of moves that you will get accustomed to seeing this new do-or-die wild card game.

UPDATE (10/5 2:00 PM): The rosters were announced today and there were a couple of suprises. Hudson was put on the roster in replace of Christain Martinez. Jeff Baker was also included in opposed to Juan Francisco. The reason for Hudson was incase Medlen is injured before the game. You can argue either way, likely it will make little to no difference. Baker was added for defensive flexibility. I would still rather have Francisco’s bat against a righty over Bakers defense. Again, were talking about the tast player on the bench, *hopefully* it won’t play a role in the game.

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2 Comments on “The Wild Card Game (UPDATED)”

  1. Keith says:

    Cardinals definitely have the offensive and experience advantages.

    Braves have:
    Better starter (barely)
    Best bullpen in MLB
    Best defense in NL
    Chipper’s last year magic

    Braves win 2-1. Go BRAVES! :)

  2. Erin says:

    I like the idea you have there. Hopefully Fredi will read your post and take some of your choices into consideration. However, I think Baker will get the bench spot over Pasternicky. Although I am a Pastor fan I think Baker’s experiences would be much more valued. Also Moylan over Gerrin I think Gerrin hurt himself by not being able to finish off the 9th on this past Sunday. Either way I agree the Braves win if the offence shows up. Top to bottom we got to have a full production from Bourn all the way to Simmons. I expect a big hit from either Uggla or McCann to win the ballgame.


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