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What Is The "___" That Doesn't Work In The Playoffs?

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The one on the right is Derek Norris, M.I.A.
The one on the right is Derek Norris, M.I.A.
Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE

First off, I should address an unrelated issue: I have been deluged by emails (and by "deluged" I mean I have nearly received one) asking why I have not yet published, as previously promised, a post featuring Cindi's "Famous Beefatooie Recipe!!!". I want to support Cindi's recent passion for the Culinary Arts, but after looking at her first draft I have trouble publishing anything that ends with, "...then just heat in the microwave for 5 minutes, and voilé!" In any event...

This is not an article to rehash the "Is it a crapshoot?" question that has run across several posts this week. It is also not intended to be scientific, nor does it refer back to the A's teams of the early 2000s. This post present more of an argument along the lines of, "I feel like Jonesbergsenstein is going to have a breakout season next year" -- it can't immediately be proven or disproven to be a shrewd piece of analysis, nor does it claim to be backed by cold, hard facts, but it might be a springboard to interesting response or discussion.

What is it that works so well in the regular season for Bob Melvin's A's and then not so well in the post-season? I can't put an objective finger on arguing why I think it's the case, but I feel like the "strict platoons" sometimes backfire in October the same way they are so brilliant from April-September.

Now objectively this should not be the case. Why would Stephen Vogt be the better choice against RHPs over the long haul and then suddenly Derek Norris is a better bet? On the spreadsheet level, where you carefully calculate the odds and then "stay the course" by playing them, if the platoons are right then, they are right now.

But I'm not sure they are. The issue came front and center in 2012-13 because the A's were matched up against an extreme RHP staff. I'm not convinced that it was wise for Jonny Gomes and Chris Carter to be reduced to one meaningless plate appearance between them. I didn't want Stephen Vogt to get 5 starts out of 5, and Derek Norris 0 starts and 1 plate appearance, with his defensive strengths, and those of Kurt Suzuki's, rendered moot.

So what am I saying? Get Gomes some ABs against RHPs that he wasn't "the best choice for" over 6 months? Give Norris, whose platoon splits were extreme this season, a couple of the starts against tough RHPs anyway? And basically my answer is "yes". The post-season certainly makes unlikely heroes out of scrubs, as Buddy Biancalana can tell you, yet at the same time it is a unique stage which can almost insta-morph Justin Verlander and Yoenis Cespedes, in a disappointing season, into being their "star selves". There is room for both young and old, star and scrub, to come up big in the playoffs. At the same time, there are some guys I want to see in there at "crunch time," platoons be damned.

Norris was really clicking at the end of the season, just as Gomes and Carter were huge parts of the A's surge down the stretch. Melvin's discipline around platoons, during the regular season, is both admirable and I think correct. I'm just not so sure it plays as well in the post-season, where sometimes it's as much about identifying the correct person as it is the correct handedness.

Again, this is not intended to be scientific or an especially "tight argument". I just flat out would like to have seen more of Gomes last October, more of Norris and a bit less of Vogt last week, Suzuki calling or blocking the most important pitches of the season, and so on. There were some really important cogs who were relegated to "non-factor" each of the last 2 post-seasons, and it was somewhat of a self-imposed relegation. Sometimes, I think the right analysis is, "I need to get Jonny Gomes some at bats in this series" or "Derek Norris needs to be a factor in this series." It's a different format, it's a different stage, and that means "who needs to play" might be just a bit different.

What do you think?