Thanks to the injuries to Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, along with the lack of productivity from Jerry Hairston, Scott Van Slyke managed to find his way onto the playoff roster. That alone is a pretty big success for a guy who went back and forth between Albuquerque and Los Angeles about 70 times this year (or so it seemed) and — I just cannot stress this enough — went unclaimed by every team in the big leagues when he was removed from the 40-man roster last winter.
When Van Slyke was DFA’d last December, it was to make room for Skip Schumaker, who had just been added in a trade with St. Louis. Now Schumaker is the starting center fielder by default until Ethier can run again, but we’re left with this question: should Van Slyke get the start tonight in Game 2 of the NLDS?
It’s only even a question because Atlanta is tossing out lefty Mike Minor, who was about 100 points of OPS tougher on lefties in 2013 (and about 40 for his career), and Schumaker absolutely cannot hit lefty pitching (.211/.280/.255 .534 in his career), nor does he offer enough on defense to make up for it. Van Slyke brings more power of course, though he hasn’t really had a ton of success against lefties himself in a very small sample size; over his minor league career, he’s had almost no platoon split whatsoever.
Note here that I’m not at all suggesting that Van Slyke play center, as seems to be the emergency plan, but instead to push Yasiel Puig there. Sure, Puig in center is probably something of an adventure, though we should remember how smartly he played last night, and again, it’s not like Schumaker is Carlos Gomez out there.
Carl Crawford, it should be noted, can’t really hit lefties either, so slotting Van Slyke into left field is also an option, and that means there’s two chances to get a platoon-heavy lefty out of the lineup. All that being said, I imagine none of this is particularly likely and that Van Slyke starts on the bench again. Why? The time-tested managerial trope of “it worked last night, so why change it?” We’ll see.