We did it. Another amazing season, another playoff appearance, and another ALDS opponent in the Tigers. We have been speculating all month long about possible outcomes and possible lineups. Now our match is set and it is time to lock down our team.
First thing to know is the Detroit Tigers have an entire RHP rotation. Since teams can change out their 25 man after each round (and even during the round if a player is injured), that means the A's are going to go with a very strong lefty roster.
In the playoffs, only a 4 man rotation is needed. Thus the Tigers will be going with Scherzer, Sanchez, Verlander, and Fister. Most likely in that order too, as Scherzer and Sanchez had the most dominant this season, and Verlander might fare better in Game 3, which will be at home in Detroit.
Now to the A's roster. Needing only 4 SP, we can have extra bullpen help or bench help.
(in no order)
Offense (in no order):
The above is who I believe will make the roster. There are only 5 right handed batters, and only Donaldson will be starting, while the others will be used in pinch hit situations.
Some of you may be wondering why certain players made it and others didn't and I will quickly explain. Barton deserves a spot. Not only is he a lefty batter who has a .352 OBP and a .397 SLG against RHP this year, but he is also a superb defensive 1st baseman. He is a good person to have on the team as a just in case, and he may even be starting at 1B, with Moss and Smith switching around in the OF/DH spots. This leaves Freiman the man out, but he is just too limited to make an exclusive lineup. He can only hit LHP, and he isn't good defensively or on the base paths. On top of that, he isn't even 100% back from his injury. If we need a clutch pinch hitter to face a lefty pitcher, I would rather go with Young, Cespedes, and Norris over Freiman. Maybe we'll use him in the next round.
Suzuki and 3 catchers one may be wondering? The reason behind this is 2 things. Norris is the dominant right handed batter to put in most situations, but he may be used in other positions during the ALDS. With Vogt the main catcher in the lineup, since he is a lefty. Norris will only come in to pinch hit, and maybe catch the last part of games. Some of you may have also seen him play 1B on Sunday. This shows that Melvin is going to get him in where he can. Possibly even removing Barton against a LHP and placing Norris at 1B. Thus having Suzuki be the righty catcher to go against a LHP. Suzuki also has superb catching defense, so the above scenario may even be preferred by Melvin. Suzuki will need to stay on the roster for his defensive skills, as well as his relationship with some pitchers. Not to mention he is hitting .303 with a .888 OPS in 33 at bats with the A's so far, not too shabby for a back up catcher.
Now to the pitching:
Straily is the odd man out in this 4-man rotation. Colon and Parker are locks because of their performances, and because of their post-season experience. Griffin has been fantastic, and the only A's pitcher to pitch over 200 IP. That leaves a battle between Gray and Straily for the final spot. After Sunday's performance, it is safe to say that Gray is the man they will be looking towards.
The bullpen looks strange and I'm not sure how I feel about it, but after much thought, I think it is for the best. Although Straily didn't get a rotation spot, he will be a perfect RHP long reliever if we ever need him. To counter him we needed a LHP long reliever. It was between Anderson and Milone, and I went with Milone. He has had a much better season than Anderson, and we have given plenty of chances to Brett. Especially after Milone had his spot start against the Angels on Sep 23, pitching 5.1 innings, with 8 k, and only 2 ER, leading the A's to their only win that series.
Neshek and Chavez were good this year, I'm not complaining, but they are RHP who weren't as dominant as Otero or Cook. Even with Cook's mishaps, he still posted a more dominant season than Neshek and Chavez. Having Otero and Cook in middle relief takes up those RHP relief spots.
That being said, this is still speculation. A major change I see that may even be likely, is to leave Cespedes off of the roster in the ALDS. The reason's being, his shoulder is not fully healed, and he may not even get that much playing time since he is a righty batter. If Melvin decides to do this, I can see him taking either Neshek or Chavez as the 25th man, to have an even bigger bullpen available.
Now it's time we had some payback on those kitty cats...