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Cook, Doolittle: A's Need To Observe The Clear Signs

Down, Josh!
Down, Josh!

The way the A's have reconstituted their bullpen as of yesterday, it's actually arguable that every one of Oakland's relievers is "above average" -- either a little or more than a little. You'll have your personal favorites and guys who don't inspire your confidence, but the group of Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, Grant Balfour, Jerry Blevins, Pat Neshek, Jordan Norberto, and Travis Blackley offers you 7 choices that are reasonable for "high leverage situations." The downside is the A's don't have any "truly lights out" relievers, but where they lack "Mariano Rivera dominance" on the front end, they now have remarkable depth front to back.

This is important, because the A's need to take better stock of what they have -- and don't have -- right now in Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle...

It's true that you want/need your closer to be able to pitch effectively in back to back games, but just because you need something doesn't mean you get it. Cook has been terrible when pitching on back to back days, and his most costly outings have come when working for the 5th time in 7 days (Giants disaster), 3 days in a row (HRs on days two and three), and last night. For whatever reason, at this point in his career, Cook appears to thrive on at least one day's rest but to be vulnerable when pitched on consecutive days.

I would have liked to see Jerry Blevins work the 9th yesterday, with Kelly Johnson (L), Yunel Escobar (R), and David Cooper (L) due up and the A's nursing a 4-1 lead. Only the idiots who concocted the rather random "save rules" think that protecting a three run lead for an inning is comparable to stranding the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position in a one-run game. It's not. Your 3rd or 4th best reliever, with favorable platoons, can be trusted to close out a 4-1 game and I would rather have Cook fresh for today's game, Blevins entrusted with saving last night's.

Doolittle's 95 MPH "swing-and-miss" fastball has devolved into a 91 MPH "swing-and-hit" fastball that is hitting, not missing, bats even when it reaches 93 MPH. This is not surprising, given that a year ago Doolittle was still a 1Bman who hadn't pitched since college. The decrease in velocity has coincided with his decrease in effectiveness, and also began right as he started pitching back-to-back days, going more than 1 IP, and specifically when he worked three times in four days and has never looked back.

I would have liked to see Travis Blackley come in to start the 12th, not the 13th, with Doolittle unavailable after pitching the day before (and throwing only 91 MPH and not missing bats). Doolittle simply needs a little more time off right now to nurse a "dead arm" and with Blackley stretched out to pitch 6-7 innings it was a perfect opportunity not to squeeze another appearance out of Doolittle.

Would I like to close out the final innings of game 7 of the World Series with Jordan Norberto and Pat Neshek? Maybe not my first choice -- but it's also not the worst choice in the world when you compare it to the guys who inhabit the middle, let alone the rear, of most bullpens. If you don't believe me, ask the Angels. The A's have depth and they need to use it, even in save situations and tie games. You can't draw blood from a stone (or from a wiggly, fidgety cat, believe me), and the A's need to take note of what Cook and Doolittle can and cannot do right now, and they need to work with it, rather than fighting it.

And boy would a blowout win be welcome today.