OK they don’t have to be said, but I want to say them. Same thing, right?
First off, you have to laugh at Khris Davis and his incredible commitment to batting exactly .247. This is a guy who, quite literally, batted exactly .247 in 2015, 2016, and 2017, but who found himself batting a robust .260 after the game on August 21st. Undaunted, the A’s DH has gone 2 for 34 since then to lower his batting average to .248. He’s gonna do it, folks. You can pencil the guy in for 40+ HRs each season, but you can put the .247 batting average in pen.
“FIRE MELVIN NOW!!!”
Second of all, as we dissect the controversial matter of bullpen moves and decisions around when to yank a starting pitcher, before parsing one really does have to step back and credit Bob Melvin, Scott Emerson, and the rest of the brain trust no matter how bad you feel any given move was.
This is a team whose DL is arguably a better rotation than the one taking the field — I’ll take A.J. Puk, Jharel Cotton, Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea, and Andrew Triggs over the tattered remnants of what’s left — anchored now by a journeyman and a guy who pitches great so long as he’s not on the road. The rotation combined for less than 11 innings in the entire Astros series, yet Melvin stayed with his starters too long. Welcome to his world.
It’s nothing short of a miracle that this motley crew of 25 or so different arms, most of whom were not heralded in the minors or coveted in the big leagues, has led Oakland to a solid spot in the wild card race and a legitimate shot at the division. Someone must be doing something right.
I feel like currently, Melvin and his staff are being unfairly persecuted for “misuse” of Lou Trivino. They are, essentially, paying in the court of public opinion for past mistakes.
As I see it, where the problem really did occur was when an already oft-used Trivino came in for two appearances that to this day I will argue were unnecessary and mistaken uses of a precious reliever in his first big league season. In appearances August 1st and 5th, Trivino was asked to protect a 4-run lead that grew to a 5-run lead, in a 4-out effort against the Blue Jays, then pitched again, after having thrown 1.2 IP the day before, with the A’s up 4 against a weak Tigers lineup that couldn’t score all weekend.
Following those outings, I felt Trivino’s subsequent few appearances showed signs of wear and tear, with flatter cutters and his first real bumps in the road (he gave up runs in each of his next two appearances, a total of 5 hits and 3 ER). Was there a connection? I can’t really say, I can only opine and infer that I think there probably was.
Here’s the thing: that was then and I do not believe we are seeing any residual effects now even though Trivino is currently struggling again to prevent runs. To my eyes, the stuff is back with his cutter showing late life and the velocity excellent. His problem this past week has been command and remember that Trivino was not an elite prospect coming up, partly due to the fact that he sometimes struggled with command. What we are seeing right now is just normal rookie slumping, not throwing strikes or missing location, and he has been burned by a couple opposite field HRs that are not particularly indicative of a trend.
During this time, I think Melvin’s use of Trivino has been excellent. With Treinen, Familia, and Rodney in the mix, Melvin has been able to give Trivino some slightly lower leverage chances as he tries to get his mojo back, while other times he has used Trivino in Ryan Dull’s old “janitor” role: coming in to clean up a mess and get out of a tough inning.
In other words, at one time (early August) I believe Melvin overused, and misused, Trivino a couple times and probably paid for it with some ineffectiveness, but since then he has used Trivino very well and is getting “great stuff, mixed results” only because pitchers sometimes slump or falter. Trivino is not exhausted, being overused, or being misused, right now and I feel very good about him taking the mound in important situations because the stuff is back and pitchers/hitters come out of short slumps just like they go into them.