Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Pirates Wild Card Roster: Hurdle Buys the Whole Life Insurance Policy

On Monday I opined on the Pirates Wild Card Game roster. Having taken a look at what Clint Hurdle did in 2013 and 2014 I assumed he would again go with 16 position players and 9 pitchers. He did. But there were two differences in what I projected Clint would do and what he actually did.

The two guys I projected to be on the 25-man roster who aren't are left-handed hitting outfielder Jaff Decker and left-handed reliever Bobby LaFromboise. In their stead Hurdle chose to carry pitcher Francisco Liriano and catcher Elias Diaz. I understand the choice of Liriano, he's rostered in case Gerrit Cole strains a lat or turns an ankle in the first three innings or the game goes more than 12. Ok, I can buy that. A little bit of insurance, that almost assuredly won't be used.

I don't understand carrying Diaz. The guy has played three major league innings. In his career. While Liriano is around in case one specific player, Cole, gets injured early or the game goes deep, Diaz is around in case two guys are injured. The Pirates haven't had to use an emergency catcher all year. I don't see Clint pulling Francisco Cervelli for a pinch-runner early in this game and I don't see him using Chris Stewart as a pinch-hitter in the first nine innings with so many other options. Clint is going to save Stewart because he absolutely won't want to use Diaz. So they are basically playing with a 24-man roster with Diaz as the ultimate insurance policy.

Does it matter? Probably not. The Pirates have a deep bullpen, added bench guys and Clint did roster the guy who I think could make a big difference as a pinch-runner, Keon Broxton.

But, in dropping Decker, the Pirates will only have one left-handed bat on the bench, Travis Snider, (although Pedro Florimon is a switch-hitter.) And in not rostering LaFromboise, they will only have two lefties against a Cubs lineup that features some great lefty bats. Broxton is a pinch-runner and Florimon basically is as well, (while also providing insurance for Mercer at short.) Those two guys could make a difference as I've pointed out, as the last 19 or 20 base stealers have been successful against Jake Arrieta. But Clint did go conservative with the roster. As is the goal with most insurance policies, Pirates fans should hope this one is never discussed again.

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