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How The First Round Pitching Should Be Lined Up

San Francisco Giants v Oakland Athletics
Winner take all (prisoners)
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

I’ve now seen enough to recommend both a first round rotation, and overall strategy, even though the A’s opponent is not yet known. Partly, it’s getting late enough that Oakland has to line things up now.

In the “blueprint” I am suggesting Plans A, B, and C. Plan A is how it goes assuming the starting pitcher is effective enough to complete his innings, and also assuming that the A’s are in position to win when it’s time to go to the bullpen. Plan B accounts for an ineffective start, and Plan C accounts for the A’s trailing in the game’s latter 1/3.

Game 1: Sean Manaea (5 IP)

Manaea is lined up to go Tuesday on regular long rest (5 days rest), which keeps him in his routine and should give him the extra tick on his fastball like we saw early last night. However, we also saw how his velocity drops halfway through the game and so Manaea goes just 5 IP, airing it out and leaving nothing for later.

Soria for the 6th, Diekman and Hendriks for 4-5 outs each in the 7th-9th. This series is short enough to go “all in” for a game you can snatch, such as stretching Diekman and Hendriks in this way.

Plan B: If Manaea is shaky early, you punt and roll the dice with Frankie Montas hoping his great stuff plays over his 2020 results.

Plan C: If the A’s trail after 5 IP, you’re going instead to Petit, Wendelken, McFarland hoping to come back.

Game 2: Chris Bassitt (6 IP)

Pitching Wednesday puts Bassitt on regular rest. You are looking for 6 IP from Bassitt, followed by single innings from Soria, Diekman, and Hendriks.

Plan B: If Bassitt struggles, you can go to Montas or, if not available, Mike Fiers to get you through the middle innings.

Plan C: If the A’s are trailing, if you won Tuesday you can give Diekman and Hendriks a day off in the middle game and roll with the available arms from Petit, Wendelken, McFarland et al. (Note that if you lost game 1 you might just roll with Soria, Diekman and Hendriks since there is no tomorrow if you lose.)

Game 3: Jesus Luzardo (7 IP)

Pitching Thursday puts Luzardo on regular rest and he has shown that when he is on his game he can give you 7 IP (or close to it) on less than 100 pitches. It also puts a ton of pressure on the shoulders of a 22 year old, but if any 22 year old is up for the task it’s the Holy Lizard.

If Luzardo goes 7 IP you are able to “get it to the house” with just 3 pitchers and that’s optimal. Diekman and Hendriks get an inning each, with Soria ready to get outs in the 6th/7th as needed should Luzardo run out of gas.

Plan B: This is a “winner take all game,” so you may as well put your best foot forward no matter the score. If Luzardo struggles go “bullpen game” with Petit and Wendelken throwing 2 IP a piece followed by Soria, Diekman, Hendriks. You might as well.

Plan C: There is no Plan C.

That’s about how I think the A’s should draw it up, and I expect this is pretty close to the actual blueprint they have in mind. But we’ll see.........Thoughts?