Just some quick notes around the ALDS rotation, complicated by the intriguing lack of days off. 5 games, if it goes that far, in 5 days, meaning extra attention has to be given to not wearing down the bullpen and presumably you might need 5 different starting pitchers unless you’re a fan of short rest.
The White Sox were noted for teeing off against LHP, a narrative that may or may not have been overstated. The Astros are different: they do not have dramatic team splits, but on a statistical basis they actually fare a little better against RHPs.
How would I set it up?
The A’s never follow my advice, and usually when I look back I think, “Yeah my idea was better,” but the truth remains: my opinions, and $4.50, will get you a decent sized latte. Still, I will offer my two cents. I would build it as follows:
Game 1: Chris Bassitt
Game 2: Sean Manaea
Game 3: Jesus Luzardo
Game 4: If up 2 games to 1, Mike Minor, and if down 2 games to 1, Frankie Montas
Game 5: Montas or Minor, whoever didn’t pitch game 4
What this means is that you can’t be eliminated without getting to throw Bassitt, Manaea, Luzardo, and in an elimination game Montas, but if you only need to win of games 4 or 5 to advance, you will have Montas for game 5 if you need him.
Fiers is available in long relief, which could actually become an important factor...
6 SPs allow you to avoid overtaxing the bullpen
The A’s need to have 5 SPs ready this week, and they have 6 choices: Bassitt-Manaea-Luzardo-Montas-Minor-Fiers. That means one will be available out of the pen and because they can pitch 4-5 IP (well, Fiers couldn’t on Thursday but let’s not quibble), the potential exists to go to them instead of a parade of shorter relievers who are going to be much worked in the series.
The Mike of your choice (Fiers, Minor), left out of the rotation, can help ensure that J.B. Wendelken, Jake Diekman, Yusmeiro Petit, Joakim Soria et al are not pushed to pitch too many days in a row or too many innings just before or just after they are also needed.
A 4-5 IP appearance from the “6th SP” is a key day off for the rest of the crew, and could come in securing a win where the SP only can go 5 IP, or in accepting a loss when it’s time to punt.
Think of it as one “tandem start” in the series, only you don’t know ahead of time which game it will be. That game might reveal itself and you go with it.
If it were to be game 1...
Unlikely, but let’s say the 4th inning ends on Monday and it’s not a close game. Maybe the A’s get to Zack Greinke, or heaven forbid it’s just not Bassitt’s day.
Going to, say, Minor to start the 5th is a “one time offer, act now!” chance to line up Bassitt for game 5. In all likelihood, the stars won’t align to make this an option worth considering but if the A’s are down 4-0 it might be a worthwhile punt.
If the A’s are up 6-0 you become the consummate gambler, tempting fate by acting like a win is in the bag. Few managers would do it and I doubt Bob Melvin is one who would. I, on the other hand, am a gambling man and would be willing to turn a 6-0 lead over to Minor and my elite bullpen in order to have Bassitt ready for game 5.
“Stuff” plays in the post-season
I was disappointed, to say the least, that it took 3 IP, and 3 runs, Thursday before the A’s put in a pitcher whose stuff was worthy of a winner-take-all game. Don’t get me wrong, Fiers and Petit were both very valuable members of the A’s pitching staff this year, and years past, but that’s over the course of a long season.
Back end starters are important, especially if they can stay healthy and deliver innings, and Petit is a highly useful reliever due to his durability and versatility — he can pitch 4 times in a week, he can get you one big out or 2 middle innings.
But while these guys help a lot over a long season they should not be front and center in a short series. I have already outlined Fiers’ suggested role, and Petit should be the guy who comes in if the A’s are behind and soaks up a couple innings while the team tries to come back.
Show me Hendriks, Diekman, Wendelken, and Soria, in that order, in highest leverage, slotting in the others so as not to overwork these four.
So there are some of my pearls of wisdom going into the ALDS. Thoughts? Commendations or refutations? Your “keys to the game” around the pitching? Should be a wild ride, with most of America rooting for the green and gold.