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Projecting the playoff roster is an inexact science. This one probably isn't 100 percent, either, but it should be pretty close.
Projecting the Tigers' 25-man playoff roster is an inexact science, naturally. You can only take what the team tells you (there will be 14 position players and 11 pitchers), make a few assumptions based on opponents and how manager Jim Leyland employed the roster he has in September, and take your best shot.
Normally you might have to worry about who was on the roster at the end of August, but Detroit can take advantage of playoff roster rules using their disabled list members to pretty much do whatever they want. Playoff roster rules almost seem irrelevant now.
I'm sure I won't nail all 25. Maybe you will in our comments section. I certainly invite you to take your best shot. First I'll list mine, then I'll list why I went the direction I did on the less-obvious choices.
1. Justin Verlander, RH
2. Doug Fister, RH
3. Anibal Sanchez, RH
4. Max Scherzer, RH
5. Jose Valverde, RH, closer
6. Joaquin Benoit, RH, setup
7. Octavio Dotel, RH, 7th inning
8. Al Alburquerque, RH, 7th inning
9. Phil Coke, LH, wherever
10. Darin Downs, LH, LOOGY
11. Rick Porcello, RH, long
Position players (14)
Starters (not necessarily the batting order every game, as Oakland's starters vary by hand)
1. Austin Jackson, RH, CF
2. Omar Infante, RH, 2B
3. Miguel Cabrera, RH, 3B
4. Prince Fielder, LH, 1B
5. Delmon Young, RH, DH
6. Andy Dirks, LH, RF
7. Jhonny Peralta, RH, SS
8. Alex Avila, LH, C
9. Quintin Berry, LH, LF
10. Gerald Laird, RH, C
11. Avisail Garcia, RH, OF
12. Ramon Santiago, S, UT
13. Brennan Boesch, LH, OF
14. Don Kelly, LH, UT
Thoughts on pitching:
Some wondered if Rick Porcello would miss the postseason roster; I don't think so. He pitched all year, he's not going to be left off. (See Brad Penny, 2011).
The Tigers do need two left-handers in the pen. Phil Coke will be one of them. The second one was an interesting decision between Drew Smyly and Darin Downs. I went with Downs. He's been completely shut-down on lefties, and that's necessary when you consider that many of Oakland's top batters are lefties.
The other decision in the bullpen was Brayan Villarreal against Al Alburquerque. I don't see how you can deny Al-Al a spot. Villarreal hasn't exactly had a great final five weeks either.
So, I guess that's my "controversial" pick of the entire roster for you. Downs on, Villarreal off.
Thoughts on position players
The Tigers didn't call Avi Garcia up on the last day of August without reason. They wanted him on the playoff roster, and got him into plenty of games. He shows his youth at times, but he's in.
Some question whether Ramon Santiago has a spot. His defense in the infield is suspect and he doesn't really bring a bat. I don't think the Tigers necessarily want to see him get any action, but I can't see them leaving him off the roster. I gave him the nod over Danny Worth, who played ever-so-slightly more than Santiago in the final month-plus of the season. If I'm wrong on one player, it will be Worth finding a way onto the roster.
Brennan Boesch is not necessarily all that good, nor will he necessarily see that much playing time, just as he has lost his regular playing time in the past five weeks or so. But he's got some thump and Leyland likes to have a guy like that on his bench. So he's in.
So then there's Don Kelly. C'mon, you know he's on the roster. The Tigers found a way to bring him back in September, and Leyland's going to remember a rather key home run during the ALDS in 2011 and use him at some point, causing much consternation among the fan base.