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OC Register: A’s have done what Angels have not: overcome a rotation ravaged by injuries


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ANAHEIM — The injuries to the Angels’ starting rotation have been well-chronicled, and a major reason why the team has failed to live up to expectations.

Then, there are the Oakland A’s.

As the Angels opened a three-game series against the A’s on Tuesday night, the Angels were looking ahead to 2019 and the A’s are counting the days until they can clinch a wild-card berth.

At 90-60 heading into Tuesday’s game, the A’s have demonstrated that overcoming injuries to the rotation is simple: have a great bullpen and a deep lineup.

“There’s a next-man-up mentality,” A’s outfielder Stephen Piscotty said. “Everyone knows there’s something special going on, and wants to be a part of it. If someone is called up, there is extra motivation to do well, not only for themselves but for the team.”

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The results have surprised even those within the organization.

“There have been individual games where it didn’t look like we had great matchups,” General Manager David Forst said, “and the guys pitched great. The consistency has been there.”

Consistency of performance, but not names.

A rundown of what’s happened to the A’s starting rotation will sound familiar to Angels fans.

The A’s began spring training hoping to have a rotation of Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton, Kendall Graveman, Daniel Gossett and Paul Blackburn.

All are gone now.

Manaea made it through most of the season before suffering a shoulder injury that will knock him out until 2020. Cotton and Blackburn didn’t even make it out of spring training before getting hurt, including Tommy John surgery for Cotton. A.J. Puk, the A’s top pitching prospect, also succumbed to Tommy John surgery in the spring.

The A’s have covered for all of that by recycling pitchers from the past. Trevor Cahill (3.77 ERA, 19 starts) and Brett Anderson (4.35, 14 starts) returned to their original team in spring training. Journeyman Edwin Jackson (3.17, 17 starts) is on his 13th team. Mike Fiers (3.09, eight starts) slipped through waivers to the A’s in August.

Overall, though, the Angels’ starters have not been far behind the A’s. Thanks to strong performances by guys such as Jaime Barría and Felix Peña, neither of whom projected to be in the rotation, and the work they did get from Tyler Skaggs and Shohei Ohtani around their injuries, the Angels’ rotation has performed about as well as the A’s.

Coming into Tuesday’s game, the Angels had a 4.23 rotation ERA, and the A’s had a 4.17 mark.

In the bullpen, though, the A’s have a 3.25 ERA and a WHIP of 1.191, compared with 3.63 and 1.308 for the Angels. The A’s are 65-0 when leading after seven innings, the only team in baseball not to have a loss in that situation. The Angels are 65-10.

A’s closer Blake Treinen (0.85 ERA, 37 saves) was an All-Star. Lou Trivino (2.14) came from anonymity in the A’s farm system. They also added two closers, Jeurys Familia (3.58) and Fernando Rodney (3.31), in trades in July.

The bullpen has also been supported by a lineup that includes five players who have hit more than 20 homers, led by Khris Davis (43 homers, 115 RBIs) and MVP candidate Matt Chapman (23 homers, .885 OPS), both Cal State Fullerton products.

The A’s have averaged 4.84 runs per game, which is fifth in the league. The Angels are seventh, at 4.48. The A’s, however, lead the league in OPS after the seventh inning, which is why so many close games have gone their way at the end,

“There is no point in the lineup the pitcher can really take a breath,” second baseman Jed Lowrie said. “One through nine can hurt you, even guys coming off the bench. We have guys who have a lot of ability and a lot of talent and those guys grind out at-bats and make it hard on pitchers and force a lot of mistakes.”

The result is a team that has been able to overcome what the Angels have not.

“From the outside looking in, their bullpen is about as lock-down as you want a bullpen to be,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “They are doing a great job, and it’s had a major impact. On the offensive side, all the guys are having good years, and they’ve been able to overcome some things that have derailed some teams.”

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Lockdown bullpen AND a deeper lineup.  It can definitely be done though.  We already have a few foundational pieces in place.  Buttrey, Anderson and Middleton (when healthy) in the bullpen and Trout, Upton, Ohtani, Simmons in the lineup.  

Now they simply need to build the team up around them. 

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Also, I'm really hoping these pieces will be the sort that can be either homegrown, or inexpensive and controllable.  One year fixes are great and all, but it isn't the sustainable type of team building unless you're the Dodgers, Yankees or Red Sox, teams with unlimited income.  A couple million extra doesn't seem like a big deal at first, but this is all compound.  Over the course of a few years, it adds financial stress because you take money from other places to fit that need.  Money saved up could be spent on proven options that would be a solution. 

We do have some guys that may end up proving to be part of that depth.  Suarez and Canning are good bets for the rotation.  Adell, Marsh, Jones, Maitan, Knowles, Deveaux, Adams and Jackson could definitely be that inexpensive, controllable piece.  Alex Meyer and JC Ramirez can be that in the bullpen if they're healthy and performing up to their ability. 

 

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It will be interesting to see how the A's recover from their epidemic of TJS, compared to us. I make no predictions. I'm just curious if they will fare better than we have, so far.

Actually, I guess our epidemic is still on-going. A few that have pitched since getting it, a few still recovering and possibly one pending.

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1 hour ago, Scotty@AW said:

Lockdown bullpen AND a deeper lineup.  It can definitely be done though.  We already have a few foundational pieces in place.  Buttrey, Anderson and Middleton (when healthy) in the bullpen and Trout, Upton, Ohtani, Simmons in the lineup.  

Now they simply need to build the team up around them. 

I think Meyers and possibly Shoemaker in the Pen could make it a lockdown. 

As for depth:  I think we have the depth in the lineup with Fletcher, JMF, Rengfro, 

Question is if Fletcher, JMF or Ward are good enough to be starters.

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23 minutes ago, Barrett said:

I am saying over the course of the year it hasn't been as bad as people think. Definitely could be better. But I think our offense and starting pitchers need boosts first imo. Our teams OPS is 16th and teams starting pitching era is 18th. 

ERA is a poor indication for relievers.  Saves to save opportunities is what I want to know.

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23 minutes ago, Barrett said:

I am saying over the course of the year it hasn't been as bad as people think. Definitely could be better. But I think our offense and starting pitchers need boosts first imo. Our teams OPS is 16th and teams starting pitching era is 18th. 

It's been a tale of two halves -- first half BP was pretty awful but the SP was hanging tough.   Then right about the time the wheels (arms) fell off the rotation, the bullpen started to get better.   The problem is too much damage was done early on.

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5 minutes ago, stormngt said:

ERA is a poor indication for relievers.  Saves to save opportunities is what I want to know.

Forgive me. But if the bullpen has 50 save opportunities and 50 Saves they are doing their job.

Other statistics may be better predicting future performance.  However the bullpens job is to keep the lead.  If they keep the lead than they did their job!  Nothing else matters

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3 minutes ago, stormngt said:

Forgive me. But if the bullpen has 50 save opportunities and 50 Saves they are doing their job.

Other statistics may be better predicting future performance.  However the bullpens job is to keep the lead.  If they keep the lead than they did their job!  Nothing else matters

That will never be the case because you can have blown saves in the 6th inning. 

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1 hour ago, stormngt said:

I think Meyers and possibly Shoemaker in the Pen could make it a lockdown. 

As for depth:  I think we have the depth in the lineup with Fletcher, JMF, Rengfro, 

Question is if Fletcher, JMF or Ward are good enough to be starters.

I suppose I should have clarified.......quality depth.  Fletcher is a young utility infielder or borderline regular that has been thrust into s starting spot, being featured at the top of the lineup.  Fletch is valuable, but that's not where his ability level is at right now. 

Jose Miguel Fernandez, I guess that really just depends.  I mean yes, he can hit enough to be in a starting role, but he plays a position that's very easy to find offense at.  Sure he can play second base and third base, but for whatever reason, in the majors, they'll only play him at first base.  So it really wouldn't be difficult to find someone that could outhit Fernandez for relatively cheap.  Still, he'd hit for average and some pop and get on base.  

Rengifo, as I said in the other thread is very much a Maicer Izturis type.  Better than a simple utility player, but probably not quite good enough to be featured as a starter.  He's an in-betweener, a super-utility player.  Someone that starts three out of five games, but pinch hits or pinch runs the other two. 

Ward, just keep in mind this is his first year as a third baseman and his first time hitting major league pitching.  Big adjustments are needed.  I can't say for sure if he's going to make those or not, but on the outset, he's not the sort of prospect I mention in the same breath as Adell, Canning or Marsh. 

 

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Some stats:     LAA     OAK
Starters ERA    4.21    4.16     OMG What a huge difference.... 
Bullpen:            3.70     3.34     ok little different but not a ton....
Saves:              32 (27th)   43 (9th)     Hmmm....
Save %              57% (26th)   75% (2nd) ... any questions :)  

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46 minutes ago, floplag said:

Some stats:     LAA     OAK
Starters ERA    4.21    4.16     OMG What a huge difference.... 
Bullpen:            3.70     3.34     ok little different but not a ton....
Saves:              32 (27th)   43 (9th)     Hmmm....
Save %              57% (26th)   75% (2nd) ... any questions :)  

Are we reall blowing 43% of our save opportunities? 

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A relief pitcher is awarded a save when he meets all three of the following conditions:

  • He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his club; and
  • He is not the winning pitcher; and
  • He qualifies under one of the following conditions:
    • He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning; or
    • He enters the game, regardless of the score, with the potential tying run either on base, at bat, or on deck; or
    • He pitches for at least three innings. (The word "effectively" has been removed from the MLB rules.)

Under the last condition, the official scorer has some discretion as to whether or not to award a save. This is rule 10.20 of the Major League Rules.

No more than one save may be credited in each game. A pitcher who comes into the game in the circumstances described above is said to have a save opportunity.

 

A blown save (abbreviated BS) is charged to a pitcher who enters a game in a save situation but allows the tying run to score. Blown saves were introduced in 1988, but are not an officially recognized statistic although many sources keep track of them. Once a pitcher blows a save, he is no longer eligible to earn a save in that game (since the lead that he was trying to "save" has disappeared) although he can earn a win if his team regains the lead. He could, theoretically, earn the save if he moves to another position and resumes pitching at a later point if a save situation is once again in effect. For this reason, most closers' records include few wins. Closers make the majority of their appearances with their team already ahead, so when a closer earns a win, he has often blown a save first. Middle relievers often compile many more blown saves than saves, since they get the former every time they fail, but rarely get the chance anymore to finish the game and earn the save when they do their job well. As a result, ignorant commentators will often say that a middle reliever is not cut out to be a closer since he has such a poor save percentage, even though those numbers are not at all comparable to those of closers. To circumvent that problem, the hold statistic has been created, and is in effect a save credited to a middle reliever.

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2 hours ago, floplag said:

Some stats:     LAA     OAK
Starters ERA    4.21    4.16     OMG What a huge difference.... 
Bullpen:            3.70     3.34     ok little different but not a ton....
Saves:              32 (27th)   43 (9th)     Hmmm....
Save %              57% (26th)   75% (2nd) ... any questions :)  

A lot of our starters were not pitching past the 6th inning (a lot of 5.1 and 5.2 IP) and our offense was pretty meh so, if the Angels led by 1 or 2 runs, the bullpen would have to hold that lead for almost 4 innings or get a blown save.  Subsequently, a lot the Angels blown saves occurred in the 6th and 7th innings.  Get a better offense and some starters that can pitch past the 6th inning and, voila, the bullpen is better.

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7 hours ago, Barrett said:

I am saying over the course of the year it hasn't been as bad as people think. Definitely could be better. But I think our offense and starting pitchers need boosts first imo. Our teams OPS is 16th and teams starting pitching era is 18th. 

The other thing to remember is that improving your starting pitching and lineup also improves your bullpen. 

If you need 6 outs a night from the bullpen instead of 9-10, you can match up better and use who you want and not just who is fresh. 

Also, if you have a 5-run lead more often, you can rest all of your high leverage guys.  Good everyday players can also contribute to run prevention if they happen to be good defensively too. 

Your resources should go to, in this order...

1. Everyday players

2. Starting pitchers

3. Relievers

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