Predicting the Full 2012 Postseason Roster for the Oakland A's
Bob Melvin may preach one game at a time to a young team yet to officially clinch a playoff spot, but someone within the system should be preemptively planning the 25-man roster just in case.
At 88-68, the A's are in a good position to fight for the wild card (they're currently in second).
But first, they'll need to get through the Texas Rangers (four games up in the AL West standings) and the pesky Seattle Mariners, who look to play spoiler. Oh, and they'll also need to hold off the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who are just two games back in the wild card.
If Oakland keeps winning, they'll keep destiny in their own hands.
The magic number is five (as of this writing), so it's time to start considering who plays October baseball and who sits this year out. Do the A's carry 12 pitchers? Which of the young, once-upon-a-time future stars doesn't make the cut?
The superstitious won't like it, but let's say to hell with jinxes and predict Oakland's 2012 postseason roster.
Starter A.J. Griffin
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Jarrod Parker (12-8, 175.1 IP, 3.44 ERA)
Tommy Milone (13-10, 185.1 IP, 3.74 ERA)
A.J. Griffin (6-1, 74 IP, 2.80 ERA)
Dan Straily (2-1, 35 IP, 3.60 ERA)
Travis Blackley (4-4, 73.1, 4.66 ERA career as a starter)
If the losses of Bartolo Colon (suspended) and Brett Anderson (injury) were for the rest of the season, Oakland's options would be clear—Blackley is the man.
But according to Susan Slusser of SFGate.com, there's a chance Anderson and Colon might be available in October.
Now the question is, will the A's utilize Colon after he was banned from baseball for 50 games, and will the A's press their luck with Anderson after he suffered yet another injury?
It hasn't been very smooth for Blackley as a starter. In his Sept. 22 start, he was yanked in the second inning during a 9-10 loss against the New York Yankees. On Sept. 27, he surrendered five runs to the Texas Rangers, lasting just one inning.
The A's can grind it out with overachieving efforts from Parker, Milone, Griffin and maybe Straily. Asking all five starters to pitch lights out is too much.
They'll have to add veteran presence if it's available.
Unfortunately, both Colon and Anderson wouldn't be able to return until deep into the playoffs. At that point, it might not even be worth the risk (Anderson) and the scrutiny (Colon).
Regardless, it's Blackley's job by default for the Wild Card Round and possibly into the Division Series.
Prediction: If there is any inkling whatsoever that Anderson can return, they'll put him on the roster. This bumps Blackley to the pen and forces the A's to consider who else to leave off the playoff roster.
If Anderson is not ready until too late or at all, Blackley wins by default.
First, it's a side oblique strain, so it shouldn't be a six-week injury. It's the kind of injury that is easier to return to action from. And, Anderson has yet to visit the postseason. If the A's are this close, you have to imagine he and the team will do everything they can to get him on the field.
The final say—Anderson returns and is on the roster, even if it is late.
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Grant Balfour (2-2, 2.71 ERA, 21 SV, 69.2 IP)
Jerry Blevins (5-1, 2.59 ERA, 1 SV, 62.2 IP)
Ryan Cook (6-2, 2.23 ERA, 14 SV, 68.2 IP)
Evan Scribner (1-0, 2.90 ERA, 1 SV, 31 IP)
Sean Doolittle (1-1, 3.21 ERA, 1 SV, 42 IP)
Pat Neshek (2-1, 1.53 ERA, 0 SV, 17.2 IP)
On the Bubble
Tyson Ross (0-2, 7.20 ERA, 0 SV, 68.1 IP career as reliever)
Pedro Figueroa (0-0, 3.79 ERA, 0 SV, 19 IP)
The starting pitching situation creates a mess for the bullpen.
If there aren't enough true starters, Travis Blackley switches roles and starts. But if the A's use Brett Anderson or Bartolo Colon (or both), someone will have to be bumped from the 25-man roster.
If neither are used, the A's then need to decide between 11 pitchers (five starters, six relievers) or 12. The locks above will be hard to unseat, so guys like Ross and Figueroa would have to be extremely dazzling in these last two series.
It's not likely given recent history.
Prediction: Neither Ross or Figueroa make it.
There's the top of the lineup.
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CF Coco Crisp (.251 BA, 36 SB)
SS Stephen Drew (.270 BA)
DH Jonny Gomes (.255 BA, 17 HR, 45 RBI)
LF Yoenis Cespedes (.288, 21 HR, 77 RBI)
1B Brandon Moss (.281 BA, 19 HR, 44 RBI)
RF Josh Reddick (.243 BA, 29 HR, 79 RBI)
C George Kottaras (.231 BA, .513 SLG)
3B Josh Donaldson (.243 BA, 16 2B)
2B Cliff Pennington (.217 BA)
Come playoffs, the hope is that Coco Crisp's severe case of pinkeye is healed. So far, it's kept him out of the lineup for over a week.
Stephen Drew has filled in at leadoff admirably. In fact, he's done well enough, he should stay in the 2-hole.
Jonny Gomes has played so well this season off the bench, he likely has earned himself a shot as an everyday player next season. He should absolutely be in the lineup and hitting around the 3-hole.
Yoenis Cespedes is the consistent power on the team who is suited for hitting fourth.
After Moss hitting fifth, it's wise to keep a slumping Reddick toward the middle-bottom. If he's entering the postseason with a lack of confidence, playoff baseball is only going to add pressure.
Kottaras, Donaldson and Pennington round out the bottom of the lineup for obvious reasons.
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DH/OF Seth Smith
1B Chris Carter
IF Adam Rosales
C Derek Norris
On the Bubble
2B Jemile Weeks
OF Collin Cowgill
1B Daric Barton
IF Brandon Hicks
Seth Smith began the year as the DH. In fact, he's still used mostly as the everyday DH. He's listed on the bench here, though, because of Jonny Gomes' production.
Nearly an identical argument is to be made for Chris Carter. He platoons 1B with Brandon Moss, but Moss has proven a smidge more effective, so he gains the nod as the "starter."
Derek Norris spells George Kottaras often, so this one is a no-brainer.
Adam Rosales has tons of value because he can play all three infield positions whereas other bench players have specific positions. Versatility is key in October.
Jemile Weeks has speed, not to mention he began the season as the starting second baseman. Pennington plays there now, and Stephen Drew mans shortstop. The question is will the A's use a spot for a baserunner.
Cowgill's situation is comparable to Weeks'. Cowgill is a backup player with tons of speed who can spell all three outfield spots with decent efficiency.
Barton and Hicks are infield options, but don't hit particularly well and play best in one position.
Prediction: Hicks and Barton don't make it. Cowgill or Weeks makes up the final spot.
Brandon Moss and Chris Carter are vying for time in the lineup
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Note: Most of these are platoons, so realistically, the "battle" will see both guys playing.
DH: Jonny Gomes vs. Seth Smith
Fittingly, Smith hits well against right-handers and struggles against lefties; Gomes does the opposite. The solution seems pretty clear: Start Smith against right-handed pitchers and Gomes against lefties.
1B: Chris Carter vs. Brandon Moss
Against right-handed pitchers, Carter hits in the .230-.240 range and Moss hits about .280. Moss wins that battle. Against left-handed pitchers, Carter hits .250, while Moss' average is around .290. Carter is certainly a great fallback option, but it seems clear Moss is the better overall hitter. Furthermore, Carter has dipped in the last week or two while Moss continues to get hotter.
C: George Kottaras vs. Derek Norris
Looking at the last few weeks, Norris' batting average is growing, but is just at .200. Kottaras meanwhile, is hitting consistently around .280 in the same span. This situation should be less of a platoon and more of the "Kottaras is the starter and Norris is the clear backup" kind.
Predictions: Smith and Gomes platoon based on pitching. Moss takes 75 percent of games over Carter. Kottaras starts, Norris backs up.
The Final Roster Spot
Jemile Weeks is always preparing to play whether he starts or plays off the bench
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Most of the decisions the Oakland Athletics need to make regarding the postseason roster are clear. There's just the matter of one final spot.
If there's no Brett Anderson or Bartolo Colon, even that spot becomes obvious.
However, if they take it, and it's safe and logical to assume one (Anderson) does, the final spot becomes a headache.
So it's either 12 pitchers and less guys off the bench, or fill up all six bench spots and roll with 11 pitchers.
The 12th pitcher in this case would be Travis Blackley, who would pitch from the rotation until Anderson returns. He then would switch back to the bullpen. But carrying this many pitchers creates space issues, and someone from the bench wouldn't have a roster spot.
Two guys fighting for a spot are Jemile Weeks and Collin Cowgill.
Both men are very fast, with the edge going to Weeks. Weeks' downfall is he only plays second. Adam Rosales can do that. Cowgill meanwhile, can play all three outfield spots. Then again, Jonny Gomes, Seth Smith and Brandon Moss can fill in if necessary.
Weeks provides a third IF option (Weeks, Rosales, Chris Carter) for four spots while Cowgill provides a fourth OF option (Cowgill, Smith, Gomes, Moss) for three spots.
The A's will only utilize Cowgill or Weeks for their speed anyway, so it might as well be for a more pressing need in the infield.
If it comes down to these two, Weeks wins.
But if there's 12 pitchers, there isn't room for him or Cowgill.
Furthermore, Oakland has to make that decision regarding 12 pitchers versus six bench players. In the postseason, both are equally important.
So which is more important—Weeks or Blackley?
Weeks provides the late-inning baserunning, which is important (see Roberts, Dave) and can play effective defense. Blackley is a lefty (always important) and starts in Anderson's absence.
No Blackley, and the A's have 10 pitchers until Anderson is healthy. That's dangerous.
No Weeks, and the A's have just one speedy late-inning option off the bench (Rosales). That's not very beneficial either.
This one is tough.
Prediction: The A's take a huge chance and put Anderson on the 25-man roster. Blackley—based on poor performances recently—is left off. Weeks takes the final spot.
Projected Playoff Roster
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Brett Anderson (as soon as he is available)
Dan Straily (*will pitch out of pen if there is a four-man rotation)
Note: If news breaks that Anderson is not close or has no timetable, he won't be added. If this is the case, Travis Blackley is once again on the 25-man roster and no other changes are made.