Mortal Locks [Pitching]
Starting Rotation. You simply don't tamper with this. Tempting perhaps to drop Zito for Bumgarner, as a flight of fancy or intellectual exercise, but this isn't some effete European school of architecture, so no. Just no. And take off that beret; you look stupid in it.
SP - Lincecum
SP - Zito (L)
SP - Cain
SP - Sanchez, J. (L)
The Bullpen. These five are in without question. Their brilliance causes migrating birds to lose their way and astronomical observatories within 2000 miles to go blind.
RP - Lopez (L)
RP - Affeldt (L)
RP - Romo
RP - Ramirez
CL - Wilson
Now you pick, picky you.
LR - Bumgarner (L)
RP - Runzler (L)
RP - Ray
RP - Casilla
RP - Mota
One of these things is not like the others, yes, one of these things just doesn't belong. Mota gets a full playoff share but there won't be a uni in his locker on game day. If the Giants go with a 13-man pitching corps then all the rest are in.
With a 12-man staff things get interesting. For the 5-game NLDS there would seem to be no real role for Bumgarner. In a situation where a long man is needed, there's enough flexibility to give the rest of a game to the bullpen, or have somebody throw an inning while another starter gets loose.
Runzler is essentially a Lite version of a Lopez-Affeldt mash-up at this point. Underused since coming back from injury and no playoff experience. It's probably the roster of the NLDS opponent that decides his fate: will the bad guys have a starting line-up and bench that begs to have another LOOGY on tap.
Ray vs. Casilla for the Heavyweight Championship of OMG If Either Pitches Twice We're Probably Losing the NLDS Anyway...
Casilla has been money (Lao Kip or maybe Bolivian Pesos, anyway) since the first of August and pitched just two games where's he's been charged with earned runs: a single run in an inning of work as the Giants got drubbed 9-0 in a get-away day game at St. Louis then Affeldt couldn't pick him up versus the Snakes a week later.
Ray's been virtually forgotten since a 4-run 8th inning boo-boo at Philthy in mid-August. Despite a 3 game clean sheet in 2 innings of work in the past week or so, Bochy seems to have forgotten his successes earlier in the season when he was shiny-shiny and isn't finding too many spots to use him.
There may be some injury issue that hasn't made the papers but either way he's less a full-inning set-up man now and more a ROOGY; think of him as the filling in a Lopez-Affeldt finger sandwich appetizer before a main course of Wilson. Or... no, I'm hungry dammit. The food metaphor stands.
Survey says: If Bumgarner's in, then Casilla and one of Ray or Runzler (again based on the match-ups) to round out a 12-man staff. The odd man out gets a pep-talk and some side work to stay sharp for a 7-game NLCS. Otherwise Bumgarner and Mota play some long toss and trade restaurant tips with Steve Decker and Steve Holm down at the spring training facility.
Mortal Locks [Position Players]
The backstops. GDP3 is like unto a deity and his merest glance causes barren fields to become fertile again, great fish leap from the depths of the sea just to gaze once upon his face then die contented on the shore, and there's a persistent rumor that his touch cures leprosy. Eli Whiteside is the other catcher and likely sees the field only if we have to play at Krypton or we somehow run out of first basemen.
C - Posey
C - Whiteside
Around the horn, round up the usual suspect gloves. The only real question marks here are Renteria's fragile body and Freddy Sanchez's tender knee. It seems almost certain that the Giants would go into the playoffs with the worst left side of any post-season team. Statues with inconsistent bats are not a wellspring of hope; a recent rash of poor fielding decisions and throwing errors don't help.
Scary thoughts are scary: what if Sanchez's knee flares up once the playoff roster is set and the NLDS is underway? Sandoval, Renteria, Uribe and Huff around the horn would confuse ballpark patrons into thinking they'd stumbled into the Museo Nacionale.
1B/OF - Huff (L)
2B - Sanchez, F.
SS/3B/2B - Uribe
3B/1B - Sandoval (S)
SS - Renteria
1B - Ishikawa (L)
In the outfield there are also no surprises. Guillen was a known quantity when San Francisco got him: all hit, no field. But the Giants power potential would decline too much to drop him in favor of Cody Ross or Aaron Rowand.
All indications are that Andres Torres will be all the way back from his appendectomy; you should never mention an appendectomy in a sentence without a semi-colon. He's a gutsy player with fire in his belly who can stomach a pressure situation and let's move on, shall we?
RF - Guillen
LF - Burrell
OF - Torres (S)
RF - Schierholtz (L)
Yes, but the mortal locks go up to eleven... which is actually twelve. And that leaves us with zero or one players left to select depending on how many pitchers the Giants carry.
All things being equal Aaron Rowand doesn't even belong in this conversation. He's been in a season-long hitting funk that seems to have no end in sight. All things are not equal; can you really bench your highest paid position player with two years left on his contract? You can and you just have to hope that he takes it with the same level of professionalism as he has his very infrequent playing time in the second half of the season.
That leaves only one player to choose as a semi-lock and one who's on the bubble pending a decision on the pitching.
I pick Fontenot. He's the only lefty hitting option who can man the middle infield for starters. He's a second basemen by trade and vastly superior on defense at the position compared to Uribe.
The potential complications which could see Ross getting some support have mostly to do with center field. If Torres is out for any reason and you've dropped Rowand, you don't have a center fielder. Nate Schierholtz would give an effort out there and he played the position at the Olympics, but c'mon... (Although I read somewhere he could play third base.)
A lineup without Torres, Ross or Rowand would see an outfield of Burrell, Nate and Guillen or Huff, Nate and Guillen. Stop laughing. Imagine a game when you've lost Torres and already burned Ishikawa as a pinch hitter. Stop laughing so hard you cry. Imagine playing the last 3 innings or more, needing to keep it close and down a few runs, with an outfield of Huff, Nate and Guillen, and Posey at first and Eli Whiteside catching. Stop crying. A two run deficit turns into a rout, the Giants without Torres go down meekly the next day to lose the series 3-1. Stop sobbing and take your head out of the oven.
2B/SS - Fontenot (L)
OF - Ross
CF - Rowand
Just because... Velez, no. Ford, no. Burris, no. There are no hits in there at this time.
Fontenot and Ross both in, plus Casilla, with Ray or Runzler (again based on matchups). Yep, 11 pitchers and 14 position players. You didn't see that coming, admit it.
The Giants defense is just so sub-standard and potentially fragile that it could result in a uberfael with just one badly-time injury. The offense can be so weak some nights that having one extra bat on the bench to take advantage of match-ups might make the difference, especially against a club with a middling bullpen.
At the same time the pitching has been so eye-poppingly awesome that having two starters and two or more relievers all go in the tank at the same time seems unlikely. Pre-season punditry said the Giants were going to have to win it with pitching and that's still the reality.
The time to get it done is the last week of the season, clinch a playoff birth as fast as possible and limit the innings of the starters while keeping the bullpen tuned up. Remove fatigue as an issue and eleven pitchers will be plenty.
If you must:
Drop Ishikawa and assume Sandoval and Posey are Huff's backups at first base, subtracting one inconsistent left-handed bat. Add the loser of Ray/Runzler or Bumgarner.
Ain't Havin' It:
Aaron Rowand. He's useless and it's evident to everyone. Nothing more than an extra pair of legs and a moderately useful glove. Which means more if you can rememeber one Shinjo? flailing away as time ran out on another Giants season. Which means Sabean and Bochy will come up with some arcane rationale to put him on the roster.