In my previous post, I talked about my choices for how I would arrange our position players to start 2012. This post will cover the pitchers. Two things have already been publicly decided:
The rest is up to our imaginations! Choices after the jump.
In this exercise, I will skip past the first week or two of the season, to the point where our 5-man rotation is set. McCarthy and Colon will each make two starts before anyone else even gets one, since they get the two games in Japan. Other April off-days will delay the start of the 5-man rotation. However, we will eventually have 5 starters, and I hope that they are (in no particular order):
1. Brandon McCarthy
2. Bartolo Colon
3. Tom Milone - How can you not be excited about this guy? Solid strikeout numbers, but just doesn't walk anybody. Perhaps he will prove to be too hittable and won't miss enough bats, or perhaps he will induce lots of weak contact and limit the homers. Either way, it's time to see what Milone can do in the Majors. Of our young options, this is the only guy who I believe to be a lock to make the team right away.
4. Jarrod Parker - Should Parker skip AAA after recovering from Tommy John surgery and pitching well in AA last year? Perhaps not, but he did get a start in Arizona last year, so someone else thought he was ready for a look. I'm interested in giving him a try in April, with a fast hook back to AAA if he gets overwhelmed early.
5. Tyson Ross - May as well take advantage of his annual 3 healthy weeks in Oakland, rather than in Sacramento.
Inj. Dallas Braden - Supposed to return in early May, which should put him in line to take Ross's spot in the rotation when Ross pulls a <insert muscle here>. Otherwise, he probably knocks Parker back to AAA.
Inj. Brett Anderson - Supposed to return in July or August. No reason to rush him back, but I do hope that he gets to make a handful of starts in the Majors this year.
I am going to split the bullpen into three distinct groups: middle relief, set-up, and closer. We'll start with the closer, since this should probably be the best reliever on your team. Although I see Fautino de los Santos taking the spot eventually, I see no reason to throw him into that fire yet. Besides, there are other, more veteran relievers whose values could be pumped up for a midseason trade, and that should be the sole focus of our closer in the first half of the season: increasing trade value.
For awhile, I thought that Grant Balfour would be that veteran. However, after reading baseballgirl's advocacy for Joey Devine as the closer, I am convinced. Balfour is prone to meltdowns now and then, like walkoff homers and/or walking the bases loaded (before maybe striking out the side). Devine is, of course, a huge question mark with his health issues (and corresponding small sample sizes). However, would anyone really be unhappy if Devine stayed healthy enough to pick up 20 or so saves, then got traded to a desperate contender for a solid return? That's more value than I've really been expecting out of him these last couple years. Like Bailey before him, I want to maximize his value right now before he gets hurt again, then sell as high as possible.
Closer: Joey Devine
This one is simple and uncreative. We signed Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes to be a lefty/righty 8th inning set-up tandem. I would like to see them perform in those roles this year.
Now, I am probably not alone in my opinion that Fuentes is my least favorite player on the team. He was just awful last year in some key spots, although his overall numbers were solid. I do give him a lot of credit for starting the snowball which got Geren out of town, but that windup....I just can't look at that windup, with his hand just dangling there and whipping in a seemingly random direction. Therefore, I would like to see Fuentes used strictly as a late-inning LOOGY. He has noticeable, thought not extreme, platoon splits over his career, and he's certainly not getting any younger. It's time to just let him play to his strengths and turn him into Everyday Brian. Interestingly, the difference in Fuentes's splits are not in how well opponents hit off of him, but rather his K:BB ratio. It seems that his command just isn't there against right-handers (2.19 K:BB), whereas he mows down lefties (3.57 K:BB).
Set-Up: Grant Balfour, with Brain Fuentes available for tough lefties
***Bullpen, Middle Innings***
With three pitchers in place, we have room for 4 more middle relievers. You would expect one of them to be a long-man behind the young starting staff, and one to be a second lefty. My picks:
Long Man: OK, I know that I said that Graham Godfrey is the worst. That's not really true. John Lackey is the worst, and I'll fight anyone who says otherwise. Godfrey puts up solid enough K:BB numbers, and he has shown an ability to keep the homers down. If you're looking for someone to soak up innings in a blowout, you could do a lot worse than Godfrey. It's also nice to have a viable spot starter on hand in case of emergency. I don't want to see Godfrey make 20 starts in Oakland, but I could live with 3 to 5.
2nd Lefty: Jerry Blevins. I'm not a big fan of Blevins, because he is too streaky and he walks too many guys. He also has these weird reverse-platoon splits, making him difficult to fit into the bullpen. However, I am even less of a fan of Jordan Norberto, who just brings nothing to the table except lots and lots of walks. Since we have Fuentes for the matchup plays anyway, I don't mind Blevins being the second lefty. Just don't try to use him as a LOOGY; he's best when given a full inning (or two).
Reliever #6: Fautino de los Santos. He might actually be our best reliever right now, but he's going to go through rough patches and I am reluctant to lean too heavily on him in the early going. He may be our closer by the end of the year, but I'd like to just keep giving him low-leverage innings until he shows that he can consistently close out tough situations.
Reliever #7: Andrew Carignan. This guy has done two things in the minors: Dominate, and get hurt. If not for DLS, I would say that he is our most likely closer-of-the-future. He held his own in a cup of coffee last fall, and I'm ready to see him wear green and gold this season.
Left out: Neil Wagner, who I would pick as the next guy up in the event of an injury; Ryan Cook, who I think could use more time in AAA; Jordan Norberto; Pedro Figueroa, who hasn't sniffed AAA yet; Sean Doolittle, who has been a pitcher for about 20 minutes; all of the Non-Roster Invitees, none of whom were impressive in any way (though I would hold onto Evan Scribner in the minors).
De los Santos
I expect that opinions will differ more widely with the pitching staff than the position players. Please share your thoughts in the comments. Which young starters do you think should get first crack? Whose in your bullpen, and who is closing to start the year? Are you interested in any of the NRIs? Or in a third lefty, since Blevins hardly counts as one?