Athletics

Examining A's starting rotation possibilities for playoffs

Athletics

The A’s secured a playoff spot and are polishing their AL West crown after taking it away from the Houston Astros.

So, now what? 

With the playoff bubble in sight, one important question remains: What will the A's playoff rotation look like?

For the first time in a long time, A’s manager Bob Melvin has plenty of options, led by Chris Bassitt.

Yep, Chris Bassitt. 

The guy has come such a long way and has become the A's No. 1 starter without even realizing it. 

He’s able to fool hitters with an exceptional curveball he executes quickly after throwing an explosive fastball. Those two electric pitches coupled with his unique delivery have led to an impressive 2020 season.

With a 2.57 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 56 innings (10 starts), Bassitt admitted he’s OK with whatever role he’s given. He proved last season he could come out of the bullpen if needed when former closer Blake Treinen's season ended early due to a back injury.

Beyond him, there’s Jesús Luzardo who, scheduling, and matchup permitting, could be the second starter of the American League Wild Card Series. 

Luzardo got a late start to the season after he tested positive for coronavirus heading into Summer Camp, but ended up pitching well after transitioning from the bullpen. He’s currently boasting a 3.86 ERA and 1.132 WHIP.

After Bassitt and Luzardo things get a little interesting.

 

Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea are essential … if they can be the pitchers they've shown they can be in the past.

Montas was a highly-touted starter heading into spring training and was in the preseason discussion for the AL Cy Young Award. But Montas has struggled this season, going 3-5 while posting a 6.32 ERA in 10 starts.

As for Manaea, he's had a so-so season, going 4-3 with a 4.50 ERA. However, having a lefty in the rotation could be important if they plan on facing the Los Angeles Dodgers' scary lineup further down the road.

It would also create a beautiful storyline for Manaea who is desperate to come back from a heartbreaking loss in last year’s AL Wild Card Game to the Tampa Bay Rays. He wants to prove he can do it. 

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Mike Fiers’ veteran status is a bonus and he certainly has seen his fair share of postseason action. He doesn’t have sexy velocity, but his secondary pitches have kept him employed for a decade, and if you really look at it, opposing batters aren’t hitting the ball that hard off of him.

We’re still unsure how the A’s could utilize Mike Minor who was acquired around the trade deadline. He too said he’s open to any role both as a starter and out of the pen.

Melvin didn’t appear to make any decisions about his postseason pitching possibilities following Wednesday’s 6-2 win over the Dodgers. He was asked specifically about Manaea who had started on the mound in the win.

“We’ll probably talk about it next week when we get home and talk about who our starters are, but [Manaea’s] pitched extremely well after a slow start, which you almost expect out of him,” Melvin said. “He’s put himself in a position to do whatever we need him to do.”

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Melvin does have options, and even if some of those options can’t go deep into the game, the bullpen is fantastic. The unit had a 2.42 ERA heading into Wednesday night’s game. 

With an expanded playoffs and no AL Wild Card Game -- which the A's have struggled in -- Oakland has a chance to make something special happen in October.