2013 MLB Playoffs: Every Team’s Biggest Liability On The Mound
Every MLB Playoff Team’s Biggest Liability on the Mound
The 2013 MLB playoffs are here! Stadiums are spray painting the playoff logos into the grass and fans are making plans for playoff parties.
If you ask any fan from the teams that are in the race, they can talk your ear off all day about the playoffs. Fans would tell you who they would start in what position and who they would pinch hit in big situations. The fans would also tell you why their teams are going to win their particular series or why the other teams are going to blow their series.
Each one of these teams have hitters and pitchers they can rely on to get the jobs done. All Pittsburgh Pirates fans would tell you they want Andrew McCutchen up against any left-handed pitcher in any game. Los Angeles Dodgers fans would tell you that they want Clayton Kershaw to pitch as many games as he can because no one can touch his stuff.
With the “guarantees” that these teams’ fans are making, there are also many question marks going into these playoffs for every team. The biggest question mark and liability for every team is their pitching.
For many teams, pitching is the main reason why their teams got to where they are now. However, on every team, there is at least one pitcher or one liability that they are secretly worried about going into their upcoming playoff series or Wild Card games.
Here are the biggest liabilities that every team has on the mound going into the playoffs. We will start with the NL Wild Card teams and then move on to the American League.
Cincinnati Reds’ Liability: Mat Latos
Injuries can be the difference between a winning season and a losing season. Mat Latos has been one of the best pitchers for the Cincinnati Reds all season long. In a game against the Texas Rangers on June 30, Latos says he suffered an abdominal strain. He says that he has been battling through this injury since that point. This injury obviously has not healed and if it does not get better, Reds fans are going to question every bad pitch Latos makes for the rest of the Reds’ season.
Pittsburgh Pirates’ Liability: Mark Melancon
The strength of the Pittsburgh Pirates for most of this historic 2013 season has been their bullpen. “The Shark Tank”, as they have named themselves, has eaten up the final innings like hungry sharks in the ocean. The pleasant surprise for this team, besides closer Jason Grilli, has been setup man and part-time closer Mark Melancon. Melancon has one of the best ERAs for any relief pitcher in MLB, but he has been shaky in the last month of the season. Melancon has blown saves and leads in very critical games down the stretch for the Pirates. One of those teams he struggled against just happened to be the Reds. If Melancon takes the mound for the Pirates in this postseason, their fans will be holding their breath on every pitch he makes.
Atlanta Braves’ Liability: Jordan Walden
When a pitcher is good for a team for most of the season, that team and their fans expect them to do well all of the time. As I said about the Pirates’ Melancon, Jordan Walden has been that for the Atlanta Braves. For most of the season, Walden has been Mr. Reliable. However, since returning from his recent stint on the disabled list, Walden has been anything but consistent. In his last three appearances, he has given up a total of six earned runs. This is the worst time that this could happen to Walden and the Braves, especially when they're going against a consistent staff like the one the Los Angeles Dodgers have right now.
Los Angeles Dodgers’ Liability: Pitchers Have been too Consistent
When a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers has such a good pitching staff, it is very difficult to find a liability in such a strength. But sometimes, the answer is right under your nose. The pitching staff for the Dodgers has been so good and so steady all season that there is one major thing that could go wrong for them: That they have been too consistent. Look, I am a firm believer that pitching wins championships instead of hitting. However, for a team like the Dodgers who have gone on such a tear in the second half of the season, there is only one place for their staff to go, and that is down. No staff can be that consistent for that long and not have a hiccup happen at some point. If you need evidence of that, just think of this: How many World Series appearances did the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s make? Five. How many did they win? Just one.
St. Louis Cardinals’ Liability: Rookie Pitchers
Besides playing for the St. Louis Cardinals, what does Shelby Miller, Kevin Siegrist, Seth Maness and Michael Wacha have in common? They are all rookie pitchers that will be leaned on for the first time ever in their professional careers to deliver in October. Trevor Rosenthal is technically a rookie, but has some postseason experience from last year. With a team that has so many rookies, how can this not be a liability for a ball club? The answer is that it most certainly will be a liability. Leaning on young pitchers can work sometimes in the postseason: for example, the 2003 Florida Marlins. They are the exception. If the Cardinals want to make any postseason noise, they will need to lean on rookies to do it. This is very scary for Cardinals fans all over.
Tampa Bay Rays’ Liability: Pitching too Many One-and Done Games
In 2013, two teams had to play an extra game just to get into the playoff picture. The Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Texas Rangers to get a chance to play in the AL Wild Card game against the Cleveland Indians. The good news for the Rays’ staff is that David Price pitched a complete game to help the Rays advance. The bad news is that this staff will have to pitch another one-game playoff just to get into the ALDS. This is the biggest pitching liability for this team: a lack of rest going into a series. Other teams will be able to get what matchup they want in the ALDS, but this Rays team will not be able to do that if they advance. This will be a major disadvantage for the Rays.
Cleveland Indians’ Liability: Chris Perez
The Cleveland Indians' fans love wild and crazy pitchers. I mean, the most popular Indians pitcher (that didn’t even really pitch) is Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn. The Indians have a real life Vaughn with this year’s team, and that is Chris Perez. Like Vaughn, Perez had a chance to play in the penal league after being arrested for drugs. Perez has much talent, but has been very unreliable this season for The Tribe. Since August, Perez’s numbers have been awful: 1-2 with a 7.52 ERA and 10 for 13 in save opportunities. Also, he has allowed 17 earned runs off of 30 hits, and seven of those were home runs. In an interview, Perez said that he “could care less” how he has played this season. Do Indians fans really want to see Perez take the mound in an important game? Unless a pair of black glasses can help him out like they did with Vaughn, I doubt it.
Oakland A’s Liability: A.J. Griffin
One thing that you do not want from a pitcher in the playoffs is for them to pitch like they are Jekyll and Hyde. That is what the Oakland A’s are getting from pitcher A.J. Griffin. He not only leads the team in strikeouts, but leads the team in home runs given up at 36. The long ball is not what you want to see your pitchers giving up in the playoffs. It also does not help that their first hurdle in the ALDS is the hard-hitting Detroit Tigers. If Griffin pitches like this, he will not see as much time in the playoffs, and neither will the Oakland A’s.
Boston Red Sox' Liability: Franklin Morales
Can a player who has only pitched in a handful of games be leaned on to pitch quality innings in the playoffs? Unless your name is Greg Maddux or Bob Gibson, I think you all know what the answer is, and that is no. Boston Red Sox pitcher Franklin Morales has been struck with a series of injuries throughout the season. In the final few games for the Red Sox, Morales has not shown much proof to Red Sox nation that he is ready for the playoffs. The Red Sox would probably send him down to pitch in minor league games to get ready, but the season is over. If the Sox lean on Morales to get outs in late playoff innings, then Red Sox fans everywhere could be screaming Morales’s name for all the wrong reasons.
Detroit Tigers’ Liability: Max Scherzer
If I asked any baseball fan to name me one starting pitcher from the Detroit Tigers, chances are they would say Justin Verlander. Many baseball fans outside of the AL have no idea who Max Scherzer is, and he will be starting Game 1 of Detroit’s ALDS series against the Oakland A’s. Scherzer had a great season, leading the major leagues in wins with 21. Quick question: does anyone know how many of these wins came against the A’s? The answer is zero in three series chances. This has to make Tigers fans worry a great deal, especially since they are setting the rotation up to have him pitch in either Game 4 or a deciding Game 5. Also, Oakland is one of the best base-stealing teams in the major leagues. If Scherzer gets a little wild, it may not be good news for the Tigers.