Feldman: What will Michael Wachas role be in the postseason? - KMOV.com

Feldman: What will Michael Wachas role be in the postseason?

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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 18: Michael Wacha #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches in the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on April 18, 2014 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) By Greg Fiume WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 18: Michael Wacha #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches in the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on April 18, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) By Greg Fiume
By John Bailey By John Bailey

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (BaseballStL) -- For the last several days all we heard from the Cardinals was “there’s plenty of time left” to evaluate/determine what the playoff rotation will be come postseason play.  Well, guess what?  We’re less than a week from the conclusion of the regular season.

Time is running out.
 
Decisions are going to have to be made of the next few days and each starting pitcher really only gets one more crack at showing that he’s deserving of a big role when October hits.  Five more games.  Five starting pitchers.  Seems easy enough.
 

Who should not be part of the Cards' 4-man playoff rotation? Share your thoughts.


 
 The easy ones are Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn.  Wainwright actually may be skipped on the final day of the season – next Sunday – if there’s nothing to play for and his Game 1 assignment of the NLDS is guaranteed to happen at a given location.  Lance Lynn goes Game 2.  
 
Then things get weird.
 
Shelby Miller, John Lackey and Michael Wacha are battling for 2 spots.  It’s been written here before – as in the last day – that barring a miraculous gem from Wacha on Friday in Arizona he’s likely headed to the bullpen.  Miller’s been too good of late (0.69 ERA in 4 September starts).  Lackey has the veteran track record and is coming off a tremendous outing in Cincinnati.
 
Wacha – though sensational last October – has no real feel for his pitches, especially his out-pitch changeup.  So, again, unless he makes dramatic strides and shows midseason form stuff in his last opportunity of the regular season it’d be very difficult to bump Miller or Lackey from the October rotation.
 
It’s simply about riding the hot hand.  That’s what Mike Matheny did with Wacha last year when he supplanted Miller, who had a 3.06 ERA on the season in 31 starts but faded late.  That’s what he’d be doing this year as well.  
 
But just because Wacha wouldn’t make a start in the postseason doesn’t mean he can’t have an impact.  On the contrary, he can have a big impact if utilized in the right way.  There are a few options here.  Let’s examine them:
 
1) Make Wacha a late inning reliever
 
Trevor Rosenthal hasn’t exactly been the perfect model of consistency of late and it’s been clear he doesn’t have the full trust of the manager given the fact others are warming up in the bullpen when the inning begins.  Wacha could be an option there.  If Matheny feels the need to go with Seth Maness or Carlos Martinez in the middle innings and Pat Neshek in the 8th that would free up Wacha to be Rosenthal’s de facto “backup”.  Trying to save others for fear of needing them in the 9th could cause problems.  Wacha could be one possible solution.
 
2) Make Wacha a middle reliever
 
If the Cardinals don’t think Wacha’s changeup is sharp enough to get the likes of Adrian Gonzalez and Bryce Harper out with the game on the line in the 9th inning then maybe it’s best to use him in a less critical role where there’s more margin for error.  Maybe instead of going with someone like Maness in the 6th or 7th you could use Wacha and then save Maness for later on.  
 
The time Wacha would – hypothetically – be used in the bullpen could directly be correlated to how sharp that changeup is.  If it’s dominant, he could actually supplant Rosenthal in the 9th.  If it’s not, he wouldn’t be used in big (i.e. late) situations…if at all.
 
3) Use Wacha as a piggyback starter
 
There’s nothing that drives people to succeed more than competition.  And what better way to get the most out of Shelby Miller and John Lackey than having the reigning NLCS MVP ready to go at the drop of a hat.  If one of those guys gets into trouble in the 3rd inning and Matheny feels like the game is getting away from him why not bring in Wacha and let him go as long as he can?  That way instead of making a crucial decision about who starts and living/dying by it by sticking with that person through good and bad, you could theoretically have another starter ready to roll the second rough waters hit.  
 
All of these ideas are probably being thrown around by the Cardinals right now.  Again, there’s still another start to be had for Miller, Wacha and Lackey to state their final cases for October.  Then we’ll start getting some answers.

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