Notes on roster matchups: the role players

You'll be able to find and read multiple position-by-position comparisons of the Royals and the Giants over the next few days, with hot takes on whether Belt or Hosmer, Posey or Perez, Sandoval or Moustakas, and others around the diamond give their team an advantage over their counterpart.

But what about the role players that will probably not matter very much? Let's cover them in depth right here, because almost nobody else will bother.

The pinch hitters

Royals: Ned doesn't really believe in pinch hitters, at least while he's playing by American League rules. He has used a pinch-hitter only once in the postseason to gain the platoon advantage, sending Josh Willingham up to bat for Mike Moustakas against Sean Doolittle in the 9th inning of the Wild Card game, needing a run to tie. It worked! But he has used pinch hitters on only two other occasions, both times to relieve Terrance Gore of the burden of batting in the DH slot after he had been used as a pinch runner for Billy Butler, once sending Christian Colon to bat for Gore and once Josh Willingham.

Jarrod Dyson could in theory be used as a left-handed pinch-hitter, but he has been locked into a pinch-running and defensive replacement role. Ned Yost has no other left-handed hitters on the bench.

Giants: Bruce Bochy has followed the typical National League pattern of pinch-hitting frequently for pitchers, but he has also pinch-hit for his left-fielder multiple times during the postseason in order to gain the platoon advantage. Bochy is also a master of the double-switch, so watch for that, although he has used the double-switch only once this postseason so far when replacing anyone defensively other than his left-fielder. He prefers to keep his other 7 defensive starters in the game, even when games extend to 18 innings.

Mike Morse was used effectively as a pinch-hitter in the NLCS, appearing in that role in 4 of the 5 games, culminating in a game-tying solo home run in the 8th inning of Game 5. Matt Duffy has appeared 5 times as a pinch-hitter, Juan Perez 3, and Andrew Susac and Joaquin Arias twice each. When he doesn't start, Travis Ishikawa is the sole left-handed batter off the bench.

Advantage: Giants.

The pinch runners

Giants: Juan Perez, Matt Duffy, and Joaquin Arias have each appeared once as a pinch runner in the 2014 postseason. None has attempted a stolen base. Perez is fast but has been successful in only two-thirds of his attempted steals in six seasons in the minor leagues. Duffy has been successful more than 80% of the time in the minors; he showed his speed when scoring from 2nd on a wild pitch in Game 2 of the NLCS. Arias has attempted few steals in his major league career. He took the easy way home when he scored on Ishikawa's home run in Game 5 of the NLCS.

In retrospect, Bruce Bochy may have been a pinch runner away from sweeping the Cardinals in the NLCS. He chose not to pinch run for Mike Morse in the 7th inning of Game 2, after Morse reached base on a pinch-hit infield single. Later in the inning Morse failed to score from second on a single that would have scored any of his available bench players, with the possible exception of his backup catcher, Andrew Susac. Morse also failed to score on a subsequent fly ball to right. Bochy chose to save his remaining bench players for later in the game, to good effect, getting two more pinch hits in addition to Morse's and a run scored from that group.

Some Giants fans expressed reservations about Bochy's choice of carrying Tim Lincecum on the NLCS roster, once it became clear during the NLDS that he would not find an opportunity for Lincecum to pitch even in an 18-inning game, advocating instead that he carry rookie speedster Gary Brown, who had been on the Giants' roster for the Wild Card game. Brown has logged a disappointing success rate as a base stealer in his last three minor league seasons, but he would easily have scored the run that Morse did not attempt to score in Game 2, allowing the Giants, all else being equal, to enter the bottom of the 9th with a lead.

Speaking of stealing, Blanco, Pence, Belt, and Posey have each attempted steals for the Giants in the postseason. Blanco was successful in his only attempt. Pence is 2 for 3. Belt was caught stealing on what may have been a missed sign on a hit-and-run play while Crawford was at bat. Posey was thrown out trying to advance on a pitch that bounced in the dirt but not very far away from Wilson Ramos.

Royals: Jarrod Dyson and Terrance Gore. These two are now justifiably famous for what speed do, so there's no need for me to say more.

Advantage: as if I need to say more, Royals.

The utility infielders

Royals: Christian Colon has appeared at second, third, and short in the majors this year, his rookie season. He has only 4 innings of major league experience at short.

Giants: Joaquin Arias has experience all around the infield, including first base, and serves as the Giants' primary backup at 2nd, 3rd, and short. Matt Duffy is a rookie infielder who has also played 2nd, 3rd, an short in the majors this year, but he hasn't appeared on defense in the postseason so far.

Advantage: Giants.

The fourth outfielders

Royals: Jarrod Dyson, whenever he isn't inserted into the game to run for Nori Aoki, is typically used instead as a defensive replacement. After either move, he normally remains in the game as the Royals centerfielder, with Lorenzo Cain moving to right. He has appeared in every postseason game for the Royals so far, finishing each one in center.

Giants: Gregor Blanco was the Giants' 4th outfielder through much of the season, but he's the starting centerfielder now in Angel Pagan's absence. With the current active roster Bruce Bochy has used Juan Perez as a defensive replacement for novice outfielder Travis Ishikawa and also as a starter and pinch hitter against left-handed pitchers. Perez hit very poorly in the regular season.

Mike Morse logged more time in left field for the Giants than anyone else during the regular season and has now been pronounced fully recovered from the oblique injury he suffered in August; however, he's a very poor fielder, and Bochy appears to place a greater importance on the value of defense in postseason games. Morse will probably be used as a designated hitter in Kansas City and as a pinch hitter in San Francisco.

Advantage: Royals.

The emergency catchers

Royals: I can't improve on it, so go here if you want to read Andy McCullough's account of Ned Yost's thoughts on emergency catchers.

Didn't follow the link? OK. Although Josh Willingham has caught in 15 major league games, none since 2006, Ned says Mike Moustakas, who caught in high school, is probably his emergency catcher. However, for Eric Kratz to come out of a game, he first has to enter a game, something has has done only 13 times since the Royals acquired him on July 28, only 3 times in September, and not at all in the postseason. Ned Yost doesn't really believe in emergency catchers.

Giants: three players on the Giants' postseason roster have served as emergency catchers in the past, Pablo Sandoval, Joaquin Arias, and Mike Morse, although Morse was the emergency catcher when he was a Washington National, not for the Giants. Sandoval is the only one of these three who has caught in a major league game. When he last did so, in 2009, no lesser authority than Bengie Molina praised his catching abilities.

Bochy, however, was quoted earlier this year as preferring Brandon Hicks to Pablo Sandoval as his emergency catcher, even though Hicks had had no major league catching experience. Pablo's days and nights behind the plate, even in emergency situations, are probably behind him. Arias may be the player Bochy will turn to in dire need.

Advantage: it's not going to happen, so it doesn't matter. Yost isn't going to use Kratz unless Perez is taken up into the clouds, and Bochy will similarly use Susac only sparingly. However, it should be noted that Bochy would have needed to alert his emergency catcher in Game 2 of the NLCS — to make sure, at least, that he had a catcher's glove nearby that wouldn't fall of his hand — after he used Andrew Susac as a pinch hitter in the 9th inning and removed him from the game for a pinch runner. Sergio Romo made sure it didn't matter by giving up a game-winning home run to the first batter he faced in the bottom of the 9th.

Nobody wants to see Buster Posey or Salvador Perez removed from a World Series game with an injury, but the comfort of knowing that Pablo Sandoval could put the gear on for the Giants one more time, if absolutely necessary, tilts the invisible advantage here to the Giants.

The long relievers

Royals: Ned Yost hasn't gone to his bullpen before the 6th inning of any postseason game so far. He has been willing to use Herrera and Davis for up to 2 innings at a time, but only Brandon Finnegan has worked more than 2 innings in a single relief appearance. Danny Duffy, the member of the regular season starting rotation who has been moved to the bullpen for the postseason, is nominally the long reliever, but he has pitched just one inning in one postseason appearance, and the state of his health is unknown.

Giants: Bruce Bochy has already relieved a starter in the 4th inning once and the 5th inning once during the postseason. The 5th inning appearance, in Game 2 of the NLCS, was made by Jeremy Affeldt, to whom Bochy will turn at any time, in any situation. Affeldt threw two scoreless innings. Yusmeiro Petit has been used twice in long relief this postseason, first in a memorable scoreless 6-inning appearance in the 18-inning game the Giants won in the NLDS and then at the start of the 4th inning in Game 4 of the NLCS, adding three more scoreless innings.

Bochy also has Tim Lincecum in the bullpen, whom he will use during the postseason in entirely theoretical circumstances.

Advantage: except in a long extra-inning game, if you need to use a long reliever, you're probably in trouble. However, it's an advantage to be able to keep the game close without using up multiple relievers. And Bochy has not been shy in postseason games to yank his starter early if he's not pitching well, even as early as the 3rd inning; he has won at least one postseason game with an early hook in 2010, 2012, and 2014. The Royals have yet to demonstrate that they can do this.

The lefty specialists

Royals: Tim Collins isn't really a left-handed specialist and wasn't used in that role in his only postseason appearance so far. In the postseason, Yost has used his two left-handed relievers other than rookie sensation Brandon Finnegan against a total of only 7 batters, only 2 of whom batted left. As with pinch hitting and other roles, Ned Yost apparently doesn't believe in left-handed specialists.

Giants: the Giants dealt for Javier Lopez at the trade deadline in 2010 and have used him mainly as a lefty-specialist since then. In 20 postseason appearances he has averaged fewer than 2 batters faced. Look for appearances by Lopez in the 6th inning or later with runners on base and Hosmer, Gordon, or Moustakas at bat.

Bochy also has Jeremy Affeldt in the bullpen, whom he has used early, midway, and late in postseason games since 2010 for up to 2 innings at at time. Affeldt doesn't have a significant lefty/righty split, but he occasionally makes LOOGY-like appearances in high-leverage situations. This has occurred just once in his 7 appearances in the 2014 postseason so far, when Affeldt relieved Santiago Casilla with the bases loaded and 2 out in the 9th inning of the final game of the NLCS, to face pinch-hitter Oscar Taveras. For this he was credited with his first career postseason "win".

Advantage: Giants.

Position players who pitch

Neither team is carrying a position player who has pitched in the major leagues, although Brandon Belt may secretly want to. He probably doesn't want to make his debut in the World Series, however. This is a silly category.

Advantage: Royals, because MITCH!

Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Series

Both teams have carried a player on their Wild Card, Division Series, and Championship Series rosters who has not yet appeared in the postseason.

Royals: Erik Kratz. See emergency catchers above.

Giants: Tim Lincecum. Lincecum was very good out of the bullpen for the Giants in the 2012 postseason and has thrown a no-hitter in each of the last two seasons. Bruce Bochy has told the press, more than once, that appearing only very sparingly since he lost his starting job to Yusmeiro Petit in the regular season and not appearing in the postseason as yet at all does not imply that he "may not get a key role". No one believes at this point, however, that he will suddenly appear Wacha-like in a high-leverage situation, unless Game 7 goes 20 innings or more.

Advantage: Royals, who are carrying someone they will actually use in an emergency, while The Giants are carrying a 12th pitcher they'll apparently use only after Brandon Belt.


In the final analysis, I can confidently state that having read this post in full, you have killed several minutes of your spare time while you await the start of the 2014 World Series. Congratulations.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.