Before the rosters were announced for the NLDS last Friday, Michael Morse was the only possible wrinkle. He was desperately trying to sneak onto the roster as a pinch-hitter, but the Giants weren't convinced he was ready. The extra week of healing made the difference, apparently, and Morse sounds like he's expecting to be on the roster. From Alex Pavlovic:
Michael Morse had a huge smile on his face as he bounded down the dugout steps, bat in hand. Morse had just taken an impressive batting practice session and done conditioning work in the outfield, and he said his left oblique strain is now a thing of the past.
"I’m 100 percent," he said. "Man, it feels so good to actually say that."
It seems like an odd question to ask, but there are two possibilities.
Option #1: Throw him in the lineup right away
In this scenario, Morse is the starting left fielder. This is because a) the Giants are mad with dingerlust and b) Morse is the starting left fielder, so he should start in left field. It's the tautology that keeps on giving. Here's the pool of potential starters from which the Cardinals can pull:
- Adam Wainwright
- Lance Lynn
- John Lackey
- Shelby Miller
- Michael Wacha
Right-handers, all. You will not see the famous Susac/Arias/Perez lineup in this NLCS. You might see a lot of Morse, though, and that's probably because his splits weren't that drastic this year (he hit for a lot more power against lefties, but his average was higher against righties) and he's never had drastic splits over his career. He's not a platoon player. If dingers be what the Giants seek, then Morse might be their best chance to get them.
Option #2: Secret weapon off the bench
The debate used to be between Gregor Blanco and Morse, with the idea that Blanco's fielding and speed were worth more than Morse's one tool. That was before Blanco got in a rundown with himself while time was called and we realized speed isn't synonymous with great baserunning, but hang with us. It's not between Blanco and Morse now that Pagan's out. It's between Morse and Travis Ishikawa.
You know. Travis Ishikawa, the first baseman. The #7 prospect in the Giants system 10 years ago, just behind Kevin Correia? The one who was let go by the Pirates because he couldn't hit so well? That guy.
It seems obvious that Morse should start over Ishikawa, except there are two things to consider: First, while Ishikawa still isn't great in the outfield, he's a clear defensive upgrade on Morse. It's hard to quantify just how bad he is in the field, but he's a definite liability.
Second, Morse has had two at-bats since the end of August. He's rusty as all heck.He was hitting well before his injury -- and, really, he had just one bad month according to the microsplits -- but it would be unfair to plop him in the middle of a playoff series against a team with a gaggle of hard throwers. Possibly unfair to him, possibly unfair to us.
In this scenario, it would be better to pick the high-leverage spots for Morse and keep the Giants' defense pure. Two runners on in the eighth with Pat Neshek coming in? That might be the best possible way to deploy Morse.
If Pagan were healthy, the second scenario would be the direction I would lean. Blanco in left is a boost to the defense, and the Cardinals don't have any left-handed starters to mess with him.
With Pagan out, though, I'll welcome Morse, starting left fielder, with open arms. We're talking about Travis Ishikawa, again. Literally Travis Ishikawa. In left field. If that's the choice and if Morse is healthy, the extra three or four at-bats are more important than hoping for the perfect pinch-hitting opportunity.
I can't imagine Bochy taking Morse on the roster if he's not 100 percent, or close to it. As such, I'll guess that Morse is the starter. Welcome back, you lineup-lengthening nut. Hit some dingers.