For the Reds to play a best-of series in the 2013 playoffs, they’ll have to win the 2nd Annual National League Coin Toss game, otherwise known as the Wild Card game. There’s the obvious disadvantage to the non-division winners in this format. However, there is one wrinkle to this playoff game that makes its roster decisions unlike those made in other playoff series.


The playoff rules allow teams to set their 25-man roster for each round of the playoffs from their playoff roster pool. The Wild Card game is considered its own round. In the other rounds, teams will typically carry 4 starting pitchers. In the Wild Card game, you would not need to carry a full starting rotation. You may not carry as many relievers as you would in other rounds. This change would seem to make it an almost certainty that Billy Hamilton makes the Wild Card postseason roster. writer Joe Sheehan pointed out last year that it means that teams, which would normally have a few dead roster spots in a postseason series that go to starting pitchers just used or ones scheduled to be used, or perhaps slots for emergency backups in case of injury, could instead craft a bench on which every player has a specific role in winning one do-or-die game.

As I wrote last year, an organization’s postseason player pool is comprised of players who were on the 25-man roster or on the disabled, bereaved, suspended or miltary lists on August 31. For any player in this group who cannot play the post-season because of injury, the club can replace him with any player who was in the organization on August 31. Even players not on the 40-man roster can be added through this process, so long as they are added to the 40-man for the playoffs.


Those rules provide us with the following 31 players in the Reds playoff player pool:

— Starting Pitchers (7): Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake, Greg Reynolds, Johnny Cueto (DL), Tony Cingrani (DL)
— Relief Pitchers (10): Aroldis Chapman, Sam LeCure, J.J. Hoover, Manny Parra, Alfredo Simon, Logan Ondrusek, Zach Duke, Sean Marshall (DL), Jonathan Broxton (DL), and Nick Masset (DL)
— Starting Position Players (9): Ryan Hanigan, Devin Mesoraco, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier, Ryan Ludwick, Sin-Shoo Choo, and Jay Bruce
— Bench Position Players (5): Cesar Izturis, Jack Hannahan, Chris Heisey, Xavier Paul, and Corky Miller (DL)

Of those 31 players, we know that Jonathan Broxton and Nick Masset are still on the disabled list and are not available to play in the playoffs. The Reds could substitute any player, including Billy Hamilton. The substituted player does not have to be a pitcher.


I’m looking ahead too far here, but I find it easier to design the single game roster by starting with a roster crafted for the later rounds. I think that for the best-of series, that are 22 obvious choices for the playoff roster.

(1) You carry four starting pitchers: Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey and Bronson Arroyo. Though an argument can be made for taking Mike Leake over Arroyo, let’s assume that only one of them is in the postseason starting rotatio.

(2) The nine starting position players (counting both catchers) are all on the playoff roster.

(3) The bullpen will clearly have these five relievers Chapman, LeCure, Hoover, Marshall and Parra.

(4) All four bench players from the August 31st 25-man roster are not going to get cut now: Izturis, Hannahan, Heisey, and Paul.

That leaves three open positions, which I would expect the Reds to add two more pitchers and one more position player, giving them a roster 11 pitchers and 14 hitters.

In my mind, Tony Cingrani is an automatic inclusion if he proves this weekend that he is healthy. For the final bullpen spot, you have to choose between Simon, Duke, and Leake. With so many left-handed pitchers already in the bullpen, it will boil down to whether they want to pitch Leake out of the bullpen or go with Simon, who has pitched out of the bullpen all season.

The final position player spot is probably between Billy Hamilton and Derrick Robinson, but really it has to be Hamilton, right? You could make an argument for both of these players making the roster at the expense of a reliever or Jack Hannahan.


All that background brings us to the Wild Card game. Because you don’t need more than one starting pitcher, you can add a lot of additional role players to your roster. Last year, the Atlanta Braves went to battle with 3 starting pitchers, 6 relievers, 3 catchers and 13 other position players.

If the Reds followed a similar path, they could start the game with Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, and Tony Cingrani as their “starting pitchers”. Any of them could be available for multiple innings, and Cingrani becomes a left-handed option. I know that Cueto is currently scheduled as the probable starter for the Reds Sunday game against Pittsburgh, but I would start Mike Leake on Sunday and save Cueto for Tuesday…maybe even as the Wild Card game starting pitcher over Mat Latos.

After you add Chapman, LeCure, Hoover, Marshall, Parra, and Simon out of the bullpen, you have 16 spots left for position players. That allows you to carry all 13 position players mentioned as “obvious choices” above plus Hamilton AND Robinson. The Reds would still be left with one more spot that they could use to carry an additional pitcher or Corky Miller as the third catcher.

54 Responses

  1. Robert

    If the Reds win or lose the first 2 games of the series, Sunday’s game will be meaningless. If that is the case, Mike Leake should get the start.

    If Sunday’s game is not meaningless, Johnny Cueto should get the start.

  2. MrRedlegs3900

    Richard… what happened to the votto article that was up no more than 5 minutes ago?

    • Richard Fitch

      @MrRedlegs3900: I took it down. I had forgotten that Greg had something slotted for today. It will appear tomorrow morning, barring any more important news that needs to go up. Sorry for the confusion.

      • George M

        @Richard Fitch:
        Richard, to bad it has to wait. I thought it was great. P D is trying to build site traffic. He may be a good writer but It is obvious he is pandering to a specific audience.

      • Jason1972

        @George M: Was it about Daugherty’s stupid passive-aggressive shot at Joey Votto in his Ludwick blog post? The guy is a clown.

  3. Johnu1

    Yes, 2 wins in the first 2 games renders Sunday a wash — but it also gets back to a lot of what these boards have magnified — how important is momentum? (Or is there such a thing?)

    I think that resting a few of the regulars might happen.

  4. Johnu1

    I am still wary about shorting a pitching staff for a couple of reasons.

    1. If the game goes 18 innings, you can’t have Chris Heisey on the mound.
    2. The bench that the Reds offer, aside from Hamilton, is probably better served letting Zach Duke pinch-hit.

    • reaganspad

      @Johnu1: I am a big fan of trading Mike Leake because of his recent start and his inability to miss bats, he will have those starts and we have better starters.

      all that said to preface that Mike Leake should be on the playoff roster because he can be a long man and he can pinch hit. For a team needing bench help, I am a fan of Mike Leake on my bench.

      If he wasn’t so danged above average as a pitcher, I would love to see him play everyday. I think he would be a better hitter than pitcher

      • Johnu1

        @reaganspad: Don’t be deceived. Leake is a good hitter — for a pitcher. He has great base-running instincts — for a pitcher. If I needed a runner in a sluggish game with no choices, I’d put the guy in to score from 2nd base on a ground ball up the middle.

        I think the idea of trading Leake is interesting since he’s been in the league 3 years — so everyone knows his skill level. He’s never going to be more than a 4th starter.

        All the same, the Reds aren’t in the pennant race without him. The question going forward is whether he’s a better reliever choice than Sam or Simon.

        Leake is like anybody who’s been in the league 3-5 years, have their futures ahead of them … they are on the cusp of the big payday if they can deliver.

        Comparable to Drew Stubbs — who didn’t get it done.

  5. Davis Stuns Goliath

    There doesn’t seem to be much doubt over who should get the nod Tuesday:

    P – Latos, Cingrani, Simon, Hoover, LeCure, Parra, Chapman, Marshall, either Cueto or Leake (depending on who ends up pitching on Sunday)
    C – Mesoraco, Hanigan, Miller
    IF – Votto, Phillips, Cozart, Frazier, Hannahan, Izturis
    OF – Bruce, Choo, Ludwick, Hamilton, Heisey, Paul, Robinson

    Maybe you take Ondrusek over Miller, but other than that, it seems pretty clear-cut…right?

  6. steveschoen

    Not only who’s on the roster, but I want to see how Baker uses them in the game. It can be a one and done deal Tuesday. He doesn’t need to be saving anything for the NLDS. If he does, there may not be any NLDS.

  7. Steve Mancuso

    Interesting post. The roster decisions should be dictated by the way that the game is going to be managed. With both Monday and Wednesday off days, there’s no reason not to use the bullpen fully. Like any starting pitcher, Mat Latos’ numbers worsen considerably as his pitch count goes up. Working backwards:

    Chapman – 8th and 9th inning
    Hoover – 7th inning
    Marshall – 6th inning
    LeCure – 5th inning
    Cingrani – 4th inning
    Parra and Duke for lefty matchups
    Simon for righty matchups

    Latos – 1st to 3rd innings
    Cueto/Leake for extra innings or if Latos is injured

    You don’t wait for Latos to get in trouble. He’s cruising through three innings, you still replace him with the bullpen. You let Latos know to go all out for the first three innings.

    You pinch hit for Latos in his second AB, if not the first. Don’t take on the liability of the pitcher hitting. Hit for the pitcher in every AB or every AB but one.

    You use 9 or 10 pitchers then the rest position players, who you use to pinch hit for the pitcher every AB.

    That’s the way to manage the game aggressively. Not sure the Wild Card game meets Dusty Baker’s definition of “urgency” but it should. He should manage it differently because he can and it’s better this way.

    • jbemis44

      @Steve Mancuso: I like this. We’d all second guess it thought if any of the bullpen guys struggle badly. Latos has been a horse, and despite what happened in game five last year and game one of the last series with the Bucs, I also like just putting it on his shoulders. I haven’t looked at the numbers but he seems to struggle in the first inning and then pitch great in the next few. If he can get through the first unscathed, I think he should be able to go as long as he can.

      • jbemis44

        @jbemis44: *though. And “as long as he can” means “until he runs into trouble in the 5th of 6th or whatever, if that’s how it goes

      • redskaph

        @jbemis44: Right. Remember Game 5 vs. Giants – and Buster P. Relief came too late.

    • steveschoen

      @Steve Mancuso: Good idea, Steve. But, if the game goes extra innings, they we are shot. I do agree that Baker should be much more open with the pen and the bench players, though. Like, little need to let Devin sit on the bench now as the second catcher.

      • Steve Mancuso

        @Johnu1: Not enough quality pitchers to do that. I wouldn’t add Ondrusek to the roster, for example, just to do that. If you stretch the staff to one inning per pitcher, you can’t do any matchups. I’d never let Pedro Alvarez face a RHP at any time in the game if possible, other than Latos, one time.

      • Johnu1

        @Steve Mancuso: I was seriously jesting. There’s no way a pitching staff could work with that sort of stress. If you had 9 Chapmans, yeah … you could do the entire 162 and rack up about 2,100 strikeouts, 9 hits, 2 home runs and 86 EMT calls for broken ribcages.

  8. TD

    I thought you could replace a player during a series in the event of injury with a player that plays the same position. If so, why would you carry Izturis and Hannahan who provide nothing offensively off the bench when Frazier and Cozart are going to start and play every inning barring an injury. I wouldn’t carry either of them over Hamilton and Robinson who at least provide speed on the base paths as a pinch runner late in a game. And Hamilton played shortstop until this year, so you have someone that could play short (and probably third) if you had to deal with an injury during a game.

    • Steve Mancuso

      @TD: You may need four or five pinch hitters during the game (for the pitcher slot) in which case Izturis and Hannahan (particularly the latter) could help. That said, I don’t think you’d need to choose them over Robinson or Hamilton in the Wild Card game. Only carry 10 pitchers, or 11.

      • Johnu1

        @Steve Mancuso: Reducing the need for pinch hitters if you can effectively work the double switches.

      • Steve Mancuso

        @Johnu1: You don’t want to double switch and take any of the starters out and replace them with the back ups. You only need to double switch if you are trying to conserve relief pitchers (or improve defense) and neither of those situations are true in the Wild Card game.

      • Johnu1

        @Steve Mancuso: You are managing a wild card game differently from a regular game. That part, I get. All the same, I am looking at that strategy from what a manager’s options are. I am not trying to evaluate it from any other perspective. Here’s the roster, and here are your options. Right or wrong on the strategy … you can say you wouldn’t do that … I am saying, yeah … but you could do that.

        In that vein, I am trying to establish what exactly we are discussing. No team has 5 pinch hitters, really.

      • Johnu1

        @Johnu1: Well, yeah, numerically they do. I mean … they sort of do.

      • TD

        @Steve Mancuso: My comment was directed toward the original post which said: The final position player spot is probably between Billy Hamilton and Derrick Robinson.

        I agree with your roster construction for the single wild card game, where you don’t need to carry the extra starting pitchers, so you can carry plenty of extra position players.

  9. RedAlert

    Steve – nice post. The only thing that concerns me is the part about “there’s no reason not to” – we are talking Dusty Baker here, right?

    • Steve Mancuso

      @RedAlert: I have no illusion that Dusty Baker will manage the Wild Card game any differently. Just like he didn’t manage Game Five any differently. With the entire bullpen lined up (and remember, that meant Chapman, Marshall and Broxton all pitching well, plus the others), he let Latos keep pitching. Latos, on short rest, got through four innings, then Baker watched and watched and watched and watched while Latos gave up not one, not two, but SIX runs. Latos had led off the bottom of the third in a 0-0 game. That’s when I’d have pulled him so a pinch hitter could be used instead of just giving up that out.

      • RedAlert

        @Steve Mancuso: Right – it’s like he manages backwards at times – has too many weapons at his disposal and can never figure out the right combination to use at the most crucial points in a game. You figure he would improve at this after a while (and he does at times) – however , he seems to always revert back to the Dusty of old

      • prjeter

        @Steve Mancuso: I liken it to the common football analogy of coaches trying to lessen the margine of defeat and thus pass the blame on to their players. Such as, punting on 4th-and-3 in opposition territory while trailing in the 2nd half. The correct call is to go for it. But coaches punt so their players are blamed rather than them.

        I think Baker might have a little of that in him. The more decisions he makes, the more likely he is to be the scapegoat. But if he puts players in and lets them play as long as they “can,” the blame is deflected from the coach to the player.

        I could be off-base here, but I think it might play in the decisions of some coaches across all sports.

  10. Johnu1

    This appears to be heading down the “here’s the roster, now how’s Dusty gonna mess it up” trail again.

    The issue — partly — is whether the Parrots are any better equipped to handle this game than the Reds are — so far, I’ve seen plenty of evidence that says they will be no less challenged.

    Pitching aside, if this team can’t get base runners and clutch hits, we could throw Koufax, Drysdale, Gibson and Cueto, with Rivera and Eckersley fresh in the pen.

  11. Johnu1

    As an aside, the Indians are closing in on that wild card slot.

  12. Greg Dafler

    Steve – an interesting idea, but I wouldn’t switch out the designated starter that quickly. If Latos is on his game, I let him go at least 6 innings. I would have a quick hook, but if he’s pitching well why take him out after 3 innings.

    • redskaph

      @Greg Dafler: I concur. But gotta use the short leash in an elimination game. As I noted above, Dusty gave Latos too much rope last year in Game 5.

    • Steve Mancuso

      @Greg Dafler: Latos, like most pitchers, becomes much less effective the second time through an order. Over his career (and in 2013) his stats for the fourth and sixth innings are awful.

      And there’s no reason not to replace him. The only reason teams have starting pitchers try to go 6, 7 or more innings is to take the burden off the pitching staff. That’s not needed in this situation.

      For example, Latos’ OPS allowed jumps from .592 to .662 the second time through the lineup. The OPS allowed for the bullpen in their first inning is LeCure (.625), Hoover (.586), Marshall (.596), Chapman (.507).

      Planning on waiting six innings is way too conventional. You’d be leaving at least two innings of the above relievers in the bullpen.

      You also want to avoid having the starting pitcher bat. Once is more than enough.

      As a strictly side benefit, if Latos only throws 50-60 pitches, that makes him all the fresher he would be for his next start.

      • Johnu1

        @Steve Mancuso: Part of this falls into line with any discussions about whether Latos is a true “ace” on a staff and whether he is truly one of the guys you want to anchor a team’s future around. This is pretty well-known about Latos and even the Reds TV announcers, who live and die by ERA and RISP, are wont to point out that Latos is weaker after the 6th.

        So when we begin lauding this team for its pitching depth, it’s far more important to make sure that the word *depth* is key to the conversation.

        Worse, Leake and Arroyo have also shown similar tendencies this year.

        The point: Fooling around with a bullpen in the playoffs is risky. You need all the qualified help you can get. I’d rather have Zach Duke than Cesar Izturis.

      • Steve Mancuso

        @Johnu1: It doesn’t have anything to do with whether Latos is an ace. All pitchers are worse the second and third time through the lineup.

      • CincyGuy

        @Steve Mancuso: When thinking about how long to leave Latos in the game, most of us consider only the pitching side – what’s his effectiveness vs. the bullpen. I hadn’t considered the offensive side and the value of PH over leaving a pitcher to bat. The National League kind of dulls us into presuming the pitcher will hit until the later innings, but in a do-or-die game that becomes less of a given.

        This is a perfect example of the things I learn reading this blog. Paradoxically, the more I learn and become enamored with (e.g. the value of preserving and maximizing outs) the more frustrating watching Dusty manage the Reds has become. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate his other qualities, but it would be cool to see our Redlegs puts all these statistical tools in play on the field, especially in such a high stakes game as the wildcard playoff.

      • Eric the Red

        @Steve Mancuso: What’s really frustrating is that, regardless of strategy, Dusty is almost certain to let Mat pitch through 5 innings to try and get the “Win”. Seriously: does anyone–anyone–reading this site believe that Dusty would lift Mat for the 5th inning if, say, the Reds are leading 4-2? (Even less chance if we lead 2-0.)

        Even in an elimination game, with a crazy roster set up to allow the Manager tremendous flexibility, there’s no way Dusty doesn’t let his pitcher chase a meaningless statistic if the opportunity presents itself. Which is kind of sad.

        Fascinating article over at fangraphs on managing the WC game, from the perspective of the Pirates:

      • Steve Mancuso

        @Eric the Red: Last year’s Game Five was a perfect example. Latos was pitching on short rest due to the Cueto injury. He made it through the first four innings and the score was 0-0 at that point. At worst, you have your bullpen up and throwing at the start of the inning – and the good part of the bullpen, not the “losing the game” part. But you just knew that Baker was going to wait until Latos got into trouble before he pulled him. Of course, in that example Latos gave up six runs and the Reds lost 6-4 I believe. I’m not sure it was the pursuit of the win for Latos more than just managing Game Five like he would any other game. Maybe the win played a role in it, which would even make it worse.

      • Greg Dafler

        @Steve Mancuso: A couple of thoughts.

        What is the value gained from the Reds bench (pinch hitting) over Latos batting compared to the value lost by going from Latos to the bullpen? I understand your hypothesis, but I’m not sure that the perceived value is actually material.

        Those numbers by innings that you cite for Latos are averages. Averages based on this – at some point, Latos is going to “lose it”. When he loses it, take him out in a hurry. If he’s still sharp and getting folks out in the 3rd and 4th innings, you have a known commodity on the mound. You don’t know if that reliever coming in is going to have a good day or a bad day.

      • Steve Mancuso

        @Greg Dafler: The pinch hitting part of it is pretty big. The OPS for Reds pinch hitters this year is .695. Latos has an OPS of .294. That .400 points difference in OPS is the difference between Joey Votto and Cesar Izturis.

        The only problem with waiting to see if Latos is sharp is that he’ll be sharp until he isn’t. Kind of like Game Five last year, although probably not as extreme. Sure, any pitcher can have a good day or bad day but if you go by the numbers, those relievers in their first innings pitching (and certainly the LHP like Duke and Parra when they are being LOOGYs) are pretty significantly better than Latos the second time through the order.

  13. redskaph

    And, I say Billy and Robby over Hanahan or Izzy (pick one) for the NLDS.

  14. Eric the Red

    I agree that when all is said and done you leave Leake off. But I’d hate to have to actually sit down and tell him that to his face.

    I still say Bronson should be considered as a RHOOGY for McCutchen, who is 1 for 26 against him.

  15. WVRedlegs

    Greg, thanks for trying to clear up the post season roster decisions. Last weekend I heard one version of the rules on the Reds telecast, heard it differently on the Pirates telecast, and then heard another version on ESPN. It was a little confusing.
    With as many LH batters the Pirates have, it might be wise to include every LH pitcher the Reds have. Great point Steve earlier about not letting Alvarez face a RH pitcher except maybe in his first AB. I’d still like to get Latos thru 5 innings though. And Eric’s point that BA should be there to face McCutcheon in a tight situation needs some consideration too. Tuesday’s roster, however constructed, should be an all hands on deck roster where it might, and probably will, take all 25 guys to win the game.

  16. Sultan of Swaff

    Arroyo on this year’s team:

    “If we fall short in the playoffs or not make it to the true postseason, then I think we’re labeled as a good group of baseball players that can’t achieve greatness. That’s what’s going to land on our heads this year.”


  17. redsfan11

    I don’t know if this has been asked before but I would think that in an injury situation Izturis could fill third base. So I would think that if needed Hannahan could be left off the playoff roster if his spot would be better filled by Hamilton or another pitcher. Then if Brandon Zach or Todd needed replaced Ceasar could fill in and if Joey needed replaced Tood could fill in with Ceasar taking third. Any thoughts? I personally think that either Robinson or Hamilton would likely provide more at the plate than Hannahan.

  18. Lost and Found

    Like the out of the box thinking Steve, but how will latos get credit for the win that way? That is the important thing, right?!

    • Matt WI

      @Lost and Found: I know you’re being facetious, but that actually does raise an interesting point of whether or not Latos has any playoff escalators in his contract or anything like that.