Much was made of the potential awkward dynamic if A’s pitcher Mike Fiers, who was the whistleblower that made the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scheme public in November of 2019, was asked to take the mound against his former team.
In 10 games between the two clubs amid the abbreviated 60-game 2020 MLB season, Fiers never got the chance to start against the Astros, which made many Astros fans and local sports writers alike question whether that was just a coincidence.
A’s manager Bob Melvin was asked by reporters Saturday about whether he purposefully avoided having Fiers start against Houston, and he explained that Oakland’s rotation just happened to work out that way.
“It looked funny, but if you go back and look when we started the season, we didn’t doctor our rotation along the way,” Melvin said. “He just missed them every time.
“I’m very confident saying that, because I know we never did anything in our rotation to make him miss the Astros. And, yes, he is a potential (starter) for us this series.”
It just so happened that before each of Oakland’s three series facing the Astros, the A’s started Fiers the game before in all three instances.
Given that the ALDS is a best-of-five series, the A’s potentially will need to utilize the entire rotation, meaning Fiers very well could get the ball. But the simple fact is, Fiers hasn’t been one of the A’s more effective starters this season.
Oakland likely will avoid Fiers starting in any of the first three games of this series, especially after he lasted just an inning and two-thirds in Game 3 of the AL Wild Card Series against the Chicago White Sox. Chris Bassitt, Jesus Luzardo and Sean Manaea all have been more effective, and should be tapped to start ahead of Fiers.
Frankie Montas also was an AL Pitcher of the Week early in the season and was presumed to be Oakland’s No. 1 starter before the season, but had an up-and-down campaign in 2020. He came out of the bullpen in the Wild-Card series, but also could be in line for a start against Houston.
Fiers ranked well below league average in most of the important analytical categories this season, including an alarming fifth percentile for strikeout rate and second percentile for whiff percentage. The A’s want pitchers who can strike batters out against the potent Astros lineup, and Fiers simply can’t be relied on to do that.