A quick side note; the complexities of the MLB playoff roster are extreme; extreme to the point that no casual observer understands them, and even the most dedicated of followers understand. The Tigers have appeared to have made the necessary moves to have the flexibility to do what they want however.
Lineup (8): C Alex Avila, 1B Prince Fielder, 2B Omar Infante, 3B Miguel Cabrera, SS Jhonny Peralta, CF Austin Jackson, OF Andy Dirks, DH Delmon Young
Eight of the nine lineup spots are locked in going into the playoffs. Like Delmon or not, he’s the team’s everyday DH. Most of the others are no brainers, though Dirks has obviously played in both left field and right field and which one he is in could depend on who else is in the game.
Bench (3): C Gerald Laird, IF Ramon Santiago, OF Quintin Berry
Laird and Santiago again are no-brainers because you need a backup middle infielder and a backup catcher. Berry might start many games, he might not. But he’ll be on the roster in some fashion given the Tigers limited options.
Rotation (4): RHP Justin Verlander, RHP Max Scherzer, RHP Doug Fister, RHP Anibal Sanchez
The rotation order still might vary after Verlander starts game one, however, it seems pretty set in stone that these four will be the guys that get on the ball on the hill to start each game. The only wild card in there is Scherzer, who is still not at 100%, and in all likelihood could use more rest than what he’s gotten so far. He’ll likely get the start either way, but he may not be the Scherzer of old.
Bullpen (6): RHP Jose Valverde, RHP Joaquin Benoit, RHP Octavio Dotel, LHP Phil Coke, RHP Brayan Villarreal, RHP Al Alburquerque
The bullpen has been maddening at times, but this group of late and middle inning relievers are going to be what the Tigers have to rely on to close things out in the later innings. There might be a bit of an abundance of middle relief right-handers with Benoit, Dotel, Villarreal and Alburquerque, but all of them have had bouts of inconsistency, and depth there with guys that can get swings-and-misses will be beneficial.
THE DECISIONS (4)
Outfield Bench (1): Avisail Garcia, Brennan Boesch, Don Kelly, Ryan Raburn
The Tigers need at least one extra outfielder and maybe two. One would think that this would be a no-brainer for Boesch, however, the last couple weeks indicate a different story. Boesch has received just two AB’s, while Garcia has received 25, and Don Kelly has been used more extensively as a late inning defensive replacement. Garcia may be just 21 years old, but the Tigers have shown a tremendous amount of faith in him down the stretch, and he’s also a right-handed bat to complement Berry.
The Pick: Garcia
Long Relief (1): Rick Porcello, Drew Smyly, Luke Putkonen, Darin Downs
The Tigers are in an interesting spot, in that two of the team’s solid starting pitchers are vying for what could be a single spot out of the bullpen. Putkonen has mostly been used in mop up duty, and while Downs has been surprisingly reliable, he’s not the pitcher that either Smyly or Porcello are. Porcello’s previous starting experience gives him the nod here, but it’s very, very close.
The Pick: Porcello
Utility (1): Kelly, Boesch, Raburn, Danny Worth, Bryan Holaday
The final bench spot could go a few directions depending on the Tigers mood. Keeping Kelly gives them great defensive versatility, Boesch would be a bat with some pop, while Worth provides a defensive upgrade and Holaday would give them flexibility to pinch hit and run at the catcher position in the later innings. You could make a case for it to go a number of ways, but if I know Leyland….
The Pick: Kelly
Wild Card (1): Boesch, Raburn, Worth, Holaday, Smyly, Putkonen, Downs
A usual pitching staff will only carry seven relievers in addition to the four starters. But the Tigers have a questionable starting pitcher who they could have to quickly abandon, and if that’s the case, their bullpen is left with no clear long reliever. On the other hand, there could also be no good pinch-hit option coming off the bench, which makes a clear case to keep someone like Boesch. It’s not an easy call, and depending how things go, it could change if the Tigers advance, but for now …
The Pick: Worth