It’s been an up-and-down season for the Giants, but they’ve managed to claw their way into a playoff spot. On Wednesday, October 1st, they’ll face off against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. The winner will advance to play the Washington Nationals in the National League Division Series.
Injuries plagued San Francisco all season and were the biggest contributing factor in the struggles the team faced. We’ve seen several different players step into roles that weren’t theirs coming out of Spring Training, and the roster has seen its fair share of changes. So, looking ahead, who does Bruce Bochy put on his 25-man postseason roster?
The starting line-up will be what we’ve come to expect: Buster Posey catching, Brandon Belt at first, Joe Panik at second, Brandon Crawford at shortstop, Pablo Sandoval at third, Hunter Pence in right, and Gregor Blanco in center. Bochy basically confirmed that Travis Ishikawa would start the Wild Card game in left field because Michael Morse is still listed as “doubtful.” Morse isn’t taking full batting practice yet, so it pretty likely that he won’t be available for the NLDS either.
The Giants bench will most likely be rounded out with Juan Perez, Joaquin Arias, Andrew Susac, and Guillermo Quiroz. Quiroz on the bench to come in at catcher gives Bochy a chance to use Susac’s bat off the bench in pinch-hitting situations.
Pitching is where it gets a little tricky for the Giants. Madison Bumgarner has already been named the starter for the game in Pittsburgh. Should San Francisco make it to the Division Series, Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson will likely start games one and two with Bumgarner taking the mound on full rest in game three. Yusmeiro Petit has proved to be an efficient starter, so he’s the likely candidate for game for, but Ryan Vogelsong is a fierce competitor when the chips are down, so don’t count him out. Tim Lincecum was so effective out of the bullpen in 2012 and he’ll look to reprise that role this season.
For those keeping track, that puts us at 18 players. Bochy will want to take both bullpen lefties – Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez – to the postseason. Jean Machi was 2-0 against the Pirates in 2014, and Santiago Casilla has stepped into the closer role nicely. Sergio Romo seems to have solved the command issues he was facing earlier in the season, and his playoff experience will be crucial, bringing the roster to 23.
My best bet for the final two spots would be George Kontos in the ‘pen and Matt Duffy on the bench. I’d take Kontos over Juan Gutierriez for a couple of reasons:
1) Gutierriez has struggled mightily lately, and he’s surrendered ten runs in his last nine appearances. Over his last 16 appearances, opponents are batting .317 off of him – not exactly compelling stuff heading into a tough playoff game.
2) On the other hand, Kontos has been pretty solid on the mound for the Giants. His 2.87 ERA is fifth on the team (among relievers with at least 20 games). Most impressively, however, is that lefties are hitting just .150 off of him. With Affeldt and Lopez struggling lately, that could be a nice option in the ‘pen. Kontos also has some postseason experience, as he pitched with the Giants in 2012.
Duffy is my extra bench guy mostly because he’s simply done something that’s incredibly difficult to do – he’s become a great pinch-hitter. Duffy is six-for-15. His pinch-hit, RBI single in the seventh inning of Sunday’s game was his eighth run batted in of the year. He’s comfortable playing either spot in the middle of the infield and gives San Francisco more versatility.
Those are my picks for the 25-man postseason roster. I’m no Bochy, though, and he knows his players better than I do, so we’ll let him have the final say.
Sidenote: I’d like to change my previous pick for the Giants bench and swap out Juan Perez for Gary Brown. It’s a small sample size, but Brown was impressive over the weekend. In his first Major League start on Saturday, he went two-for-four with two infield hits, showing off his speed. On Sunday he added a pinch-hit RBI single to left. He also came all the way around to score from first on an Arias double. Brown was second in the Pacific Coast League with 36 stolen bases. Perez has never been an offensive juggernaut, but he has struggled at the plate over the last month. He’s just two-for-his-last 25 and is batting .163 on the season with one home run and three RBIs. His speed also make him a great defender in the outfield, but Browns bat might give him enough of an edge in this race.