On Saturday, the Marlins and Phillies combined to use 15 different pitchers. None of those 15 pitchers had a plate appearance, which is a modern era record in a game without the DH. The Phillies went on to win 5-4. Saturday’s game was also the fourth nine-inning game in which neither team’s pitcher recorded more than six outs. Three of those four games took place during September.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly thinks MLB’s September roster expansion rules should be changed, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. Mattingly said, “What we did [Saturday] and really what they ended up doing, too, is something that really only happens in September and, quite honestly, shouldn’t be able to happen. It’s too many guys. It’s not really regular baseball.”
Mattingly suggests keeping the active roster capped at 25 players, but allowing teams in September to carry a “taxi squad.” He said, “I’ve said it before. I’d be in favor of more of a taxi squad. You have your 25 guys that would be eligible for the playoffs — activate three, four, or five — and then you’re going to play more of a normal style. And you can move those guys around every day.”
A change like this would need to be collectively bargained as reducing September roster spots has an impact on players’ earning potential since fewer of them would be accumulating service time. Spencer notes that in Mattingly’s suggestion, the players on the “taxi squad” would still be paid and accumulate service time, but that still cuts out 10 players.
From a viewing perspective, September games — particularly ones without much of an impact on playoff chances — tend to be long and get dragged out in the later innings due to a greater willingness to make pitching changes, pinch-hit, and pinch-run. Mattingly is also right that the strategy changes in September. Normally, a manager would have to more seriously contemplate the pros and cons of pinch-hitting for his pitcher in the fifth inning or pinch-running for a slow-footed slugger in the seventh, but an expanded roster makes that calculus a lot simpler.
The book heading into the series was that the Dodgers’ starters needed to come up big for them due to questions in the bullpen and that the Brewers’ bullpen was going to dominate Dodgers batters, so they had best do what they can to score off of Milwaukee’s starters. So, of course, the Dodgers starters turned in performances of three and four and a third innings and eight of their nine runs the Brewers have given up have come from their relievers. I dunno, man. It’s baseball. It lends itself to anticipatory analysis worse than any other sport.
All I do know for sure is that this series has been as close as it gets so far, with each game being decided by a run and the outcome being determined late. The first two games have given me a sense that the teams are just feeling each other out and that the next three, in Los Angeles, will provide a bit more coherence to all of this. Not that there isn’t something a bit fun about incoherence when it comes to a playoff series.
Your viewing guide:
NLCS Game 3
Brewers vs. Dodgers
Ballpark: Dodger Stadium
Time: 7:39 PM Eastern
Pitchers: Jhoulys Chacin vs Walker Buehler
Jhoulys Chacin had an excellent NLDS start against the Colorado Rockies, turning in five scoreless innings. If he does something approaching that tonight the Brewers will be in pretty good shape given that Josh Hader — who pitched three shutdown innings in Game one — is available again tonight. To the extent Craig Counsell needs to dig more deeply into his reliever corps, however, things could get dicey. Corbin Burnes, Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel and Joakim Soria have combined to allow seven earned runs in four innings. Brandon Woodruff, who has been dominant thus far, throwing five scoreless innings, stands a good chance of being the opener for Game 4, so Counsell will likely try to keep him off the mound tonight. That puts a decent amount of pressure on Chacin to get the game to Hader with as few innings remaining as possible.
For Los Angeles, it’s Walker Buehler who, the grand slam he gave up to Ronald Acuña in the NLDS notwithstanding, was the Dodgers’ most dominant starter down the stretch. In keeping with the somewhat flipped script so far, however, the Los Angeles bullpen has been solid, allowing just two runs over their ten and two-thirds innings in Games 1 and 2. Not that Dave Roberts wouldn’t love to see Buehler go deep tonight too.