Over the weekend the Tampa Bay Rays made headlines around the league because they opted to start relief pitcher Sergio Romo versus the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim rather than use a traditional starting pitcher, twice. Romo pitched effectively each day, throwing 2.1 scoreless innings with 6 strikeouts.
There were a couple of brief takes with which I agree:
A strategy can be useful and lame at the same time. Starting a reliever for one inning is an example of this, at least for me. I like watching starting pitchers more than relievers. As a fan, I don't really care for anything that transfers innings from starters to relievers.— Dayn Perry (@daynperry) May 21, 2018
If doing weird stuff like starting a RP twice in a row annoys the other hitters enough for them to think about it, then it's basically worth it just for that https://t.co/PHnwhDAH4M— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) May 21, 2018
First, the fan in me agrees with Dayn Perry that, despite how successful it might be, opting for a reliever over a starter is not pleasing to watch. However, Mike Petriello is correct that if the maneuver does anything to throw off the opposing hitters or give any advantage to the pitching team, it is a move worth making. This is especially true when the hitting team happens to be the Angels.
“If Romo had gone out and gotten hit hard, it would have set the idea back by years. You might never see a team try it again. But he didn’t. It worked. Now the relevant question isn’t “will we see this again?” it’s “who is going to do it next?” It won’t just be Tampa Bay. Not now.”
Interestingly, the A’s have actually been doing a version for his for the past two years in the form of Andrew Triggs. It’s just that the experiment has lasted anywhere from 1 to 7 innings in each outing and Triggs doesn’t start multiple days in a row.
After sitting with the results and responses from Romo’s starts for a couple days now I’m left wondering: which Oakland A’s reliever would you use to start a game? Petriello suggests Yusmeiro Petit makes sense in this role.
Petit has spent most of his career as a swingman, transitioning between the bullpen and rotation based on his team’s needs. He had been very good in that role before moving to a full-time reliever in 2015. His career year in 2017 earned him a deal with Oakland thanks to his ability to work multiple innings out of the pen. He makes some sense for two reasons: first, his ability to pitch multiple innings could actually work to open the game. Second, his splits favor right-handed hitters: .281 wOBA vs. RHB/.316 wOBA vs. LHB.
Like Romo, Casilla has made his career as a late inning reliever, including several seasons in the San Francisco Giants bullpen with Romo. Unlike Petit, Casilla is reliant upon strikeouts for success, which is one reason he may be a better option for this strategy. Like Romo, Casilla has a more deceptive delivery aiding his ability to get swings and misses. Casilla also has splits favoring right-handed batters.
This might be the biggest stretch out of the options, but he is perhaps my favorite. Pagan was excellent in every way in 2017 for the Seattle Mariners. Pagan pitched for more than one inning in 13 of his appearances last season, so the ability to open a game versus 4 or 5 straight batters would be useful, especially if the matchups are favorable. Like the other relievers mentioned, and most RHP, Pagan has had more success versus same-handed batters so opening a game against a lineup whose first few hitters are righties would be a good fit.
Oakland’s best reliever since his acquisition has undoubtedly been Blake Treinen. The skills were there in his time with Washington last season even if the results hadn’t caught up. With Oakland Treinen has been one of baseball’s elite late-inning arms. His ability to get more than 3 outs is an understated part of his game, as he has already thrown more than one inning in a single outing nine times this season. Treinen is equally as effective versus lefties as he is righties, so his ability to open a game no matter what lineup the opponent goes with would be a big bonus.
We know the merits of using Triggs as a starter, but he is not without his drawbacks, the chief of which is health. Triggs also has a tendency to shift his effectiveness from one inning to the next without any real reason. Perhaps when he returns the A’s should consider him in a role similar to that of Romo’s this past weekend. I can jut see it: Triggs listed as the starter for an entire 3-game series. That could be much fun.
Dark Horse: Frankie Montas
Montas has been really bad in the innings he’s pitched for Oakland. Nevertheless, a fastball that reaches triple digits and a good breaking ball still hold so much potential. His tryout as a starter with triple-A Nashville this season has yielded mixed results. I’m curious what he could be if the A’s simply committed to him as a one inning pitcher and maximizing the use of his elite velocity.
It’s Up to You
Put yourself in Bob melvin’s shoes. You have been tasked with using a relief pitcher to open the game against the rival Angels. What is your gameplan and who would you use?
Which Reliever Would You Start? (Let’s hear your rationale in the comments)
This poll is closed
Other (comment with your choice)