The A's Bullpen Issues, And How To Solve Them

To be honest, these are more suggestions then actual solutions; I"m no manager. Also, sorry if I'm posting this a rather short time after my last post, but I just feel this is something I'd like to address.

I was watching the A's game last night, and like everyone else I felt immediate alarm bells go off in my head when Griffin stepped off the mound and Kottaras popped up to see what was wrong. Ironically, it was both the best and worst timing for an injury like that: best for the fact that Anderson and McCarthy are nearing their returns to the A's, and worst because of the 15-inning marathon the day before (luckily, the MRI on Griffin's shoulder cam back clean). Anyway, Jordan Norberto came out and looked like Cy Young for a few innings before handing the ball over to Pat Kneeshack (Huh? That's not how you spell it?) who also pitched well. Then Balfour pitched well. Then Cook pitched well for one batter before giving up a game-tying homerun. Eventually, the Jays won 3-1, taking the lead on an error by either Kottaras or Inge (depends on your version of events) and extending that lead with a double of Blevins. But I'm not disappointed with Blevins, Cook made a huge mistake for the second game in a row, and we weren't able to magically come back and win. Ryan Cook is having issues. To be perfectly honest, the A's bullpen is having issues and they need to be solved or they will come back to bite us in the ass posterior down the stretch.

On first glance, Cook's stats look every bit like the All-Star he was this season. Low ERA, lots of strikeouts... He's doing a great job for a rookie closer. That's all wonderful unless you look at the SV/SVO columns: 11 saves, 7 blown saves. He - to my knowledge - leads the majors in blown saves. and he only became the closer in what, June? A team can't continue like that....

And how 'bout Sean Doolittle? I'm afraid that a lot of the magic he had early on when he was barely acquainted with a major league mound is gone; a 6.52 ERA in his last 10 outings. Yeah, he strikes out guys but that won't help if you can't get the job done and lately he hasn't been getting the job done.

Unfortunately, a lot of the A's success have come from wins by the skin of our teeth. Truth be told, this is a young inexperienced team and so many things can go wrong. The bullpen, for instance has blown 14 out of 40 save opportunities. You can't survive like that, unless you want half of the fanbase (and a few of the players) suffering from heart failure come October. There was a lot of talk about getting another bat, but how about a bullpen arm? We need it, because this team doesn't score much and late inning mistakes can really hurt you. Last night: classic example.

Of course, fatigue probably has something to do with it. I mean, there's only so well you can play when you have to pitch 7+ innings as a bullpen on a day game right after a 15-inning night game. But it can't be avoided (well, actually it would've been avoided had Cook not blown the save against the Jays in the second game of the series). Anyway, here are a couple of my thoughts on what to do:

SOLUTION 1: Grant Balfour anyone? He was 7/9 in SVO, has been pitching well lately (0 runs in his last 10 innings) and has some experience in the closer's role - he's been a high-profile reliever for years now. Ryan Cook, it seems was more use in the set-up role, and i think putting him back there - even if for a short amount of time - would do him a world.

SOLUTION 2: Send down Sean Doolittle. Obviously, he still has some kinks in his windup, pitching style, etc and he needs the time in Triple-A to improve. I was actually surprised to see him up in the majors this early. Call up Evan Schribner to take his spot in the 'pen - he found success during his time on the roster.

SOLUTION 3: Closer-by-committee. It's not the best plan, but it may be a possibility. Just go with whoever's hot. The 2003 Red Sox may have failed at this, but we're not the '03 Sox. We may do better, and ultimately seeing more W's in the W column is better than seeing a handful of SV's in the SV column. However, this has the drawback of players not knowing how they'll be handled late in games.

SOLUTION 4: Play Cespedes. We're 12-21 without him, but 46-28 with him in the lineup. Easy solution (if he would stop hurting himself).

Your thoughts?

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