In what might be the most crucial decision any manager of a playoff team has to make, the Oakland Athletics find themselves without a clear cut solution. The starting rotation in the month of October will likely make or break a team’s chances of winning a World Series. Choosing not only the right pitchers to start, but also choosing the best strategic way to line them up is at the forefront of the minds of the A’s executives.
Sep 16, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jarrod Parker (11) returns to the dugout with catcher Derek Norris (36) against the Los Angeles Angels during the third inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
They have three clear starting pitching candidates: Bartolo Colon, Jarrod Parker, and Sonny Gray. It appears to be a foregone conclusion that those three will start for the A’s in the ALDS no matter what. A.J. Griffin, Tommy Milone, and Dan Straily round out the group of fourth starter candidates. Then there’s Brett Anderson, who based on talent alone should be at the front with the rest.
It’s difficult to attempt to determine which of the latter three would best handle the pressure of the playoffs. Milone and Griffin have the advantage of having played in the 2012 ALDS, so they know what to expect on days like that. Straily adds a little bit of his raw stuff and his ability to strike batters out, but hasn’t been able to consistently get the job done. Brett Anderson, as we all know missed a good portion of the season and hasn’t started stretching his arm out to start, so his role will likely be exactly what it has been lately.
If I were Melvin, I would start Parker in game 1 if the A’s have home field advantage, Sonny Gray would start game 2, and Bartolo Colon would start game 3 on the road. Colon is the best candidate to start on the road because he is completely oblivious to the world around him when he is pitching, and a hostile opposing stadium would have no effect on him. I would likely start A.J. Griffin in game 4 if the A’s weren’t fighting to stave off elimination, otherwise I would bring Parker back on short rest and have Gray ready for a possible game 5 at home.
I think Melvin will likely go with Parker to start, then go Colon, Gray, and Griffin in the following games. And I can’t really argue with that if he chooses to go that route. His aim would be to head on the road with the A’s leading the series 2-0, just needing one of Gray and Griffin to step up to send them to the ALCS.
The matchups will be tough no matter who they play, so what seems like a simple proposition of putting the team in its best position to win will dicate how far into October the A’s are able to go. It is just the first of many tough decisions Bob Melvin will have to make in the next week.