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A closer look at the ALDS roster

Including a look at the starting pitcher sequence.

Chicago White Sox v Cleveland Indians
Corey Kluber
Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images
ALDS 2017

I had Yandy Diaz making the roster, but thanks to a late injury, Francona opted to go with Erik Gonzalez instead. Giovanny Urshela I assume will get the bulk of the playing time, with Gonzalez appearing only in case Urshela is pinch-hit for. Gonzalez could also serve as a pinch-runner.

Michael Brantley seems to be strictly a pinch-hitter, but if the Indians make it to the ALCS, he may be able to play the outfield. Greg Allen is on the roster as either pinch-runner or a late-game replacement for Jason Kipnis (though Kipnis did play the entire game yesterday). Austin Jackson I think will get just as much playing time as Chisenhall, starting today against Sabathia and as the primary pinch-hitter against left-handed relievers.

The Pitching Rotation

I do want to take this opportunity to talk more fully about the decision to save Corey Kluber for Game 2 of the ALDS. Trevor Bauer’s performance last night may have convinced many skeptics that the decision paid off, but I think it was never about winning just Game 1.

Corey Kluber was going to pitch one of the first three games of the series, and unless the weather decides otherwise, will be the starting pitcher in Game 5 on normal rest. Bauer was also going to pitch one of the first three games of the series, and probably would have pitched Game 2 if he didn’t instead start last night. While there is some general pitching staff strategy in a series (for example, how Bauer and Allen attacked Judge), I don’t think waiting a day would have changed how Bauer executed his pitches. And Carlos Carrasco was going to start one of the first three games of the series.

The reason why I think Francona opted for the order he did was based on his knowledge of the three starters. Corey Kluber is a pitcher that derives a lot of his success from his careful pre-start preparation, and Francona did not want to mess with that if at all possible. He will be starting today on one day’s extra rest (5 days), but would be starting on normal rest (4 days) if the series goes 5 games. Trevor Bauer is a pitcher that doesn’t seem to lose as much from pitching on short rest as Kluber, and so Francona wanted him available for Game 4 (Tomlin’s start), if only in relief. Carlos Carrasco has for whatever reason pitched much better on the road than at home this year, so that probably reinforced the order. This is an example of Francona’s strategy accommodating the players involved, rather than the other way around.

Looking Ahead

Andrew Miller and Cody Allen had lengthy appearances in Game 1, but both should be available today. Because the ALDS has two off-days, Francona doesn’t really have to hold any reliever back because of a future need. Preferably he wouldn’t use either today, but if the Indians have a lead and the game is in any doubt you’ll see at least one of them pitch. Francona may set his roster with a goal of winning 3 games, but his in-game postseason strategy is always fixed on winning that day’s game only.

Both Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco will have decent leashes in their starts, but if the series gets to a fourth game, you could see some interesting pitching moves. Josh Tomlin should be the starter, but don’t expect him to get beyond 3-4 innings even if he’s pitching well. Both Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar are backup plans, and could be used for multiple innings if the situation called for it.