A few days ago, Tyler went through the options the O's have in the rotation come playoff time. While the playoff rotation clearly has five candidates fighting for four spots, there are many more names to consider for the 8 spots in the bullpen. Let's run through each of the likely candidates by where they stand in the race.
Locks: Demoted Starter, Zach Britton, Andrew Miller, Darren O'Day
There is no question that the demoted starter would serve as the long man out of the bullpen. Whoever that may be, he could be able to provide more innings at higher quality than T.J. McFarland, who served in this role during the regular season. The trio of Britton, Miller and O'Day will unquestionably be included on the playoff roster unless injured. They represent the strength of the back end of the O's bullpen and there should be no argument about their inclusion.
Near-Locks: Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz
Both Hunter and Matusz have been shaky at time this season. However, their overall numbers do not deviate wildly from their numbers last season. Hunter has an ERA of 3.27 after posting an ERA of 2.81 last season. Meanwhile, Matusz's ERA has risen slightly from 3.53 to 3.61. Their peripherals have also remained relatively stable. Moreover, both of them have a huge career platoon split, so their strength can be emphasized by putting them in the right situations, which should be a point of focus in the playoffs where every matchup is critical.
On the Bubble: Brad Brach, T.J. McFarland, Ryan Webb
Most likely, the two remaining bullpen spots will come down to Brach, McFarland and Webb. Brach and McFarland are the safe bets given they were the choices made by Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter following the acquisition of Miller. I am including Webb here primarily out of the hope that he will replace either Brach or McFarland. Both serve as multiple inning relievers, and there will be another one in the bullpen in the playoffs in the form of the demoted starter. Moreover, McFarland does not exhibit a strong platoon split, and he has allowed a higher wOBA against both right-handed and left handed batters this season than Webb and Brach.
Longshot: Ubaldo Jimenez, Evan Meek
They are here for the sake of completeness. Jimenez has not appeared in a close game since his demotion from the rotation. On the other hand, Meek has spent the majority of the season in the minors, though he has made appearances in some of the most critical situations for the O's when he is in the majors. Meek is the last guy I want to see included on the playoffs roster, especially given Buck's propensity to use him.
The ideal bullpen in my mind would consist of the demoted starter, Britton, O'Day, Miller, Hunter, Matusz, Brach and Webb. I do not believe that this is the choice the O's front office and coaching staff will make, but I would feel comfortable with their choice as long as Meek is not part of it.