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Samardzija and Hammel's effect on the playoffs

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Let's be honest. The A's probably didn't need Jeff Samardzija or Jason Hammel to make the playoffs. They needed them to make the playoffs as a division winner and thus avoid seeing a Felix Hernandez (5.4WAR) in a one game playoff. Or a Garrett Richards (3.5WAR), or a Corey Kluber (3.8 WAR). *The Indians are currently the #3 Wildcard.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Losing the division was and still is a clear and present danger. Winning the division betters your odds of making the World Series by avoiding the one and done playoff game. (Or worse if there is a tie for the wildcard/s). If every round is 50/50 odds, then the A's can double their WS chances by just winning the division.

.5*.5*.5*.5 is 6.25%

.5*.5*.5 is 12.5%

Winning the division also probably means they end up with the number one seed. With a number one seed, the A's could then easily miss seeing any other wild-card teams #1 starter twice in the first round. I like that. The A's probably like that as well.

Also, being a number one seed means you are more likely to miss the Tigers in the first round. Make no mistake, the Tigers always have been and still are the main team standing in the way of the A's getting to a World Series.

How deep are the A's? The A's now have three starters in the top 25 in MLB (by WAR) and five starters in the top 50! A seven game series with the A's throwing three number oneish starters twice each would be particularly tough for any team to beat. This year, let that be the Tigers in the ALCS.

Some would say the A's really didn't need Hammel at all with Tommy Milone and Drew Pomeranz both capable of being a good #5 starter on this team. Or any team.  But Beane looked at all his horses. None of the A's best starting pitchers are proven innings eaters and like the rest of the baseball world, he prudently expected someone's arm to possibly fall off at some point.

NAME Max innings pitched in MLB since 2011 This year's innings
Sonny Gray 64 in 2013 132
Scott Kazmir 158 in 2013 (but only 2 innings in 2011-2012) 117
Jesse Chavez 67 as a relief pitcher 115
Drew Pomeranz 97 in 2012
Tommy Milone 190 in 2012

Jeff Samardzija (213ip in 2013) and Jason Hammel (170ip in 2011) were needed for insurance now and a deep playoff run later. They may also be the most likely to make it to 180-200 innings.(Hammel's last start notwithstanding).

Saving the arms on the team was apparent when the A's reset the rotation to have Hammel be the second starter out of the break. At some point in mid-September, expect the A's to reset the rotation again by who they want to be the exact #1-4 starters in a five game playoffs.

What would be the playoff rotation today?

A case can be made for any of Kazmir, Gray or Samardzija to be the #1 starter right now.  Are you a "what has he done lately" or a "what has he done over the long haul kind" of guy? Personally, I go with the hot hand. I ride streaks. And match-ups.

For instance, vs left-handed starting pitching, Detroit (.666) and Seattle (.618) have played very very well this year. But both are more like .500 teams against RHSP.  Verses them in a five game series all else being equal, Gray/Samardzija are my number 1-2 with the A's then choosing one of them for a game 5.

But verses everyone else, Kazmir gets my nod right now as the A's number one starter with whoever the A's choose as the number 2 then vying with Kazmir to be the 5th game starter if needed, (like the A's did with Colon/Gray in 2013).

*The Tigers and Mariners are the only two teams this year the A's have a losing record against. Oakland is tied with Detroit (.666) as the best team vs LHSP in MLB this year. Seattle is third.

What about the fourth man?

But who's the fourth guy? Chavez and Hammel have the inside track (again both in the top 50) but both Milone and Pomeranz could easily be in that mix by the end of the year. (Assuming they are not traded).

In his 8 starts this year,  Pomeranz gave up zero earned runs four times and two earned runs or less 6 times. Milone was sent down after a stretch in which he went 6-0 with a 2.62 ERA in 11 starts. They both deserve to be on the team now but at least one of them also needs to stay a starter in AAA to be brought up already stretched out in case of injuries.

This is traditionally the time of year the A's start to really shine as their depth takes hold while other teams have to live with their many holes. This starting pitching depth is something L.A. absolutely can not match. Few teams could. Remember, one of the reasons L.A. is doing well is they have been very, very healthy overall but mostly with their starting pitching.

Lets see the old and new rotation side by side:

Five game series (ERA + FIP) /2 Five game series (ERA + FIP) /2

Kazmir 2.79 Kazmir 2.79
Gray 2.96 Gray 2.96
Chavez 3.30 Samardzija 3.11
Milone 3.99 Chavez/Hammel 3.38
Kazmir/Gray 2.79 Kazmir/? 2.79

Next seven game series Next seven game series
Gray 2.96 Gray 2.96
Chavez 3.30 Samardzija 3.11
Kazmir 2.79 Kazmir 2.79
Milone 3.99 Chavez/Hammel 3.38
Gray 2.96 Gray 2.96
Chavez 3.30 Samardzija 3.11
Kazmir 2.79 Kazmir 2.79

Is run prevention the best way to win in the playoffs? The A's are going to try and find out. If healthy, they should have better starters in at least two games out of a five game series (games 3 and 4). And three games out of a seven game series (games 2, 4 and 6). That's some serious leverage by adding Samardzija to their mix. And Hammel should also help them with the healthy part even if he isn't on the playoff rotation.

The old four man rotation had a 3.20 average with Pomaranz (3.60), Mills and Leon? in reserve. That did not seem exactly prudent. The new four man rotation has a 2.99 average with Hammel (3.46), Milone and Pomaranz in reserve. Much better. The A's are playing the depth and percentages to get little advantages anywhere they can find them for now and especially for the playoffs.

What do you think Athletics Nation? Who's your pick for the number 4 starter in the playoffs? ( leave in comments).  Who is your pick for the A's number one starter in the playoffs? Poll