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Lessons From The Bottom Of The 11th

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

First and foremost, I want to emphasize that in this article there is no criticism, just analysis. After all, when the ghost of Bob Melvin, inhabiting the body of Ryan Christenson, summoned Blake Treinen to try to save a dramatic and important win, one has to presume that Treinen told the coaches he was good to go for an inning and who can blame a skipper for turning to his All-Star closer in a one-run game you have a chance to steal?

Also, it should be noted that despite looking a bit shaky Treinen was far from bad. He walked Reddick on a check swing that came within millimeters of being a strikeout, then got a sharp ground ball that if closer to Jed Lowrie is a 4-6-3 DP. Then a ball slapped to SS, a fly ball to shallow RF, and a nubber out in front of the plate. You could do worse on an off-night than that.

In fact, the way everything went sideways in the bottom of the 11th you might just conclude that the baseball gods had turned on Oakland and that no matter what the A’s did they were going to somehow lose.

All this being said, I think in straying from the “Nicodamus Principle” outlined before the series, the A’s made the wrong call. The move to Treinen violated a couple important principles, one being that a bird in the hand — a reliever who is already in the game and clearly has his “A game” going — is often a better bet than what’s behind door #2, and the other being that a great pitcher who is tired is not in fact a better pitcher than a good pitcher who is rested.

That last point is really the biggest take-home message for this post. Following their 2 IP stints each on Saturday, I called for “TnT” (Trivino and Treinen) to be leveraged for 3 IP stints twice in the series, but not in back to back games. Both could have been determined to be strictly not available Tuesday night as a nod to how much (and well) they have been utilized during this 17-4 stretch which preceded Tuesday night’s game.

How could, and should, the A’s have played it? I would have sent Petit (already having thrown 2 IP) out to start the bottom of the 11th with the RH batting Max Stassi due up. Either that keeps Reddick out of the game or forces A.J. Hinch to pinch hit Reddick with Ryan Buchter available to come in and face him.

If Stassi bats, let Petit face him and then go to Buchter for the two LHs Kyle Tucker and Tony Kemp. If Reddick pinch hits for Stassi, you go to Buchter straightaway. Note that in this scenario, you can still hold Treinen available as a Plan B should Buchter falter and the lineup turn over to George Springer, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, Yuni Gurriel, all RH batters.

Petit against a RH Buchter against two LHs, or Buchter against three LHs. Why did the A’s not go that route? Undoubtedly because Treinen is so good that if available you want to use him. And there’s the flaw in the thinking: believing that a great pitcher is always better because he’s a great pitcher, when in fact fatigue profoundly changes the playing field.

How sweet would it have been had Petit and Buchter handled the 11th, and the A’s were up 2-0 in the series with Trivino and Treinen fresh for tonight and/or Thursday? We will never know how that would have played out, but perhaps the A’s brass learned an important truth to file away for the rest of the season: keeping Trivino and Treinen sufficiently rested is more important than winning even a game you really, really want to grab — partly because overusing them may not get you that win anyway, let alone games down the road you may also really, really want to grab.

Just stuff to keep an eye on going forward. Luckily, it looks like it will matter and for that the 2018 A’s, and their coaches, are to be heartily praised!


Ultimately, how do you see the way the A’s played it in the 11th?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    They made the right call with Treinen, it just didn’t work out
    (252 votes)
  • 32%
    Going to Petit/Buchter would have been the right call
    (182 votes)
  • 22%
    It didn’t matter: the baseball gods were going to make the A’s lose it that inning no matter what
    (125 votes)
559 votes total Vote Now