The Oakland Athletics’ dominant 8-9 duo has struggled all season, and it is beginning to weigh on the rest of the team. With the fate of the postseason riding on a dominant bullpen, an important question remains: What does Melvin do with Lou?
One of the chief tenants of Moneyball is to buy low and sell high on late-inning relievers, a strategy that much of the rest of the league is beginning to follow the Oakland Athletics’ lead on.
The Boston Red Sox, after winning the world series last season, decided to let Craig Kimbrel – who is already 14th all-time with 333 saves in less than 10 seasons and whose 1.91 ERA would be the fourth-best in MLB history – walk, electing not to pay him big.
Since 2000, five different Oakland Athletics relievers – Jason Isringhausen, Huston Street, Andrew Bailey, Grant Balfour and Blake Treinen – have logged at least 50 saves. Two of them – Street and Bailey – won Rookie of the Year and four of them made at least one all-star appearance, but none of them lasted more than four seasons on the team.
Ryan Cook. Sean Doolittle. Brad Ziegler. Ryan Madson. Jeurys Familia. Short-term rentals traded away (or let go) when their value was at its peak.
The strategy is right nine times out of 10, as we have seen with Bailey, Cook and Balfour especially.
Both Trivino and Treinen have regressed significantly from their stellar 2018 seasons, with Trivino already giving up nearly as many runs (20) as he did all of last year (24).
Treinen has still logged 16 saves this season, good for fifth in the AL, despite his ERA ballooning to 3.31 and WHIP to 1.42 (compared to 0.78 and 0.83 in 2018).
The 8-9 setup is the most important duo in baseball, even more so than two top starters or the 2-3 or 3-4 hitters. The 2015 Royals, 2016 Cubs and Indians, 2017-18 Dodgers and 2018 Red Sox – sporting Wade Davis, Greg Holland, Aroldis Chapman, Mike Montgomery, Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Kenley Jansen, Ross Stripling, Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly – have shown that the team with the best final two will prevail.
But what do the A’s do now that their reliable 1-2 punch has taken a step back?
A’s fans still believe in the back-end duo– in a Twitter poll posted by White Cleat Beat, out of 63 votes, 49% of fans said that they want to keep both Treinen and Trivino (8% want to replace both, 3% want to keep only Trivino, and 40% want to keep only Treinen), as of 9:00 am on Tuesday.
But Bob Melvin and co. have discussed moving Trivino out of his current spot after his fifth loss in less than a month on Sunday afternoon, giving up four runs in one-third of an inning to the Mariners. Trivino is 2-5 this season with a 4.93 ERA.
Trivino and Melvin both said that his stuff is still good, but his location is brutal.
At this point, it may be mental for the 27-year-old in his second season, and a move around the bullpen may be good, just as moving a young hitter from the second spot to the bottom of the order can lessen the pressure and get them feeling comfortable again.
Considering their recent dominance, Wei-Chung Wang or Yusmeiro Petit may be in line to take over the setup role, while Trivino will still be needed after the departures of Fernando Rodney and Ryan Dull and the similar backpedaling of 35-year-old Joakim Soria.
Either way, the Oakland Athletics will need both Trivino and Treinen to be dominant, and if not – as we saw in the disastrous 2014 and 2018 Wild Card losses – it will mean another early exit from the postseason no playoff appearance at all.