It’s a numbers game now for every team now casting an eye on the playoffs.
Tough decisions await all teams, but perhaps none will be as difficult as those facing the Dodgers.
Only 25 players will open the playoffs, games unlike those in the regular season because only four starting pitchers are needed and there are two scheduled days off in the opening best-of-five series.
It seems clear that one or more players who have been with the Dodgers from training camp to now will not be on their postseason roster.
As The Times’ Dylan Hernandez wrote, the Dodgers are expected to carry 11 pitchers, presumably with four starters – Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ricky Nolasco.
Assumed bullpen locks are Kenley Jansen, Brian Wilson, Ronald Belisario, Paco Rodriquez and J.P. Howell.
That leaves six pitchers competing for two final spots – Brandon League, Chris Withrow, Carlos Marmol, Edinson Volquez, Chris Capuano and Stephen Fife.
I’d want Withrow on my roster, rookie or not. He’s capable of going multiple innings, has a huge power arm, strikes people out (40 in 31 2/3 innings) and has put up some impressive numbers (3-0, 2.84 ERA, 0.98 WHIP) in his first season.
That leaves one spot. If the Dodgers want a long reliever, Volquez gets the nod over Capuano (groin injury) and Fife (lately erratic). But with two off days sandwiched between the potential five games, the Dodgers may not feel the need for a long man.
Which would make the final pitching spot a choice between League and Marmol.
Marmol has a 2.79 ERA since joining the Dodgers but a 1.60 WHIP because he walks too many (17 walks, 14 hits in 19 1/3 innings). League has a 4.66 ERA over the same span since Marmol joined the Dodgers on July 23 with a 1.55 WHP because he gives up too many hits (five walks, 25 hits in the exact same amount of innings).
There is no easy call here. If they think it’s a coin flip, then League might get the nod because he’s been here all season, is signed for two more and accepted his demotion from closer without complaint. But hits are more likely to drive in runs, and Marmol strikes more people out (24 to 10) to get out of jams, so the guess here is it’s Marmol.
On the position side, you have the nine regulars (that’s counting the extra outfielder), and backup catcher Tim Federowicz, and Hernandez is confident versatile Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker are in.
That leaves four for the last two spots: Michael Young, Jerry Hairston Jr., Scott Van Slyke and Dee Gordon. I think Young is a lock. He can play first and third, can hit in the middle off the lineup and has playoff experience.
I’d love having the power threat of Van Slyke on the bench, but having four starting-caliber outfielders means there will always be an extra, negating the Van Slyke edge.
Which would leave a final choice between Gordon and Hairston. If it’s a 25-man roster in August, Hairston is the easy call.
But these are the playoffs and the strategy is different. Hairston is hitting .150 since the All-Star break, and unfortunately for him, there are others with his versatility who are currently performing better.
Gordon’s speed and ability to steal makes him an attractive option to use as a pinch-runner. He could have effect on every game and I’d want him on the roster.
Hairston has been with the Dodgers for two seasons, is a terrific clubhouse guy, and at age 37 may not get this playoff opportunity again. Leaving him off the roster would the hardest cut, but it’s about winning more than ever now. And the numbers may not be promising for Hairston.