Over on Baseball Prospectus, Nate Silver runs a quick and dirty analysis of the playoff rotations, and concludes that the A’s rotation is the worst of all the AL playoff teams, with an expected ERA of about 4.23.
This is mostly because Barry Zito is scheduled to be the #1 starter, and Silver’s formula hates how many walks he gives up. The interesting thing is that if you reverse the A’s rotation, so that Barry Zito is #4, and Dan Haren is #1, then the A’s expected ERA drops to 3.99, second best only to the Twins.
And neither of those is the rotation that you’d really want if you ignored the numbers, and went by how each pitcher has looked lately: Rich Harden pitching in games 1 and 5.
But still, the rotations of the Yankees, Tigers, and A’s are all so close, it doesn’t really matter that much. Players don’t usually throw an average game in the playoffs: they’ll have a good day or a bad day, and the chips will fall where they fall. The only certainty out of any of those calculations is that you should try to avoid facing Johan Santana if at all possible.
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A lot of the playoff analysis I’ve seen so far keeps saying that the A’s need to win with their pitching, because their offense is terrible. Well it was terrible, before the All-Star break. But since then, it’s been quite good, as a whole. And the most interesting thing about the A’s offense is that, while no one outside of Frank Thomas has any really impressive numbers, the lineup as a whole is extremely balanced.
I’m going to list (in OPS order) the AVG/OBP/SLG since the All-Star Break for the usual suspects in the A’s lineup. Can you tell which player is which?
It’s not very easy to tell them apart, is it? You can probably pick out Thomas and Kendall from their SLGs, but otherwise, they all look an awful lot alike. The lowest OBP in that lineup is .346. The lineup doesn’t have a ton of power, but it doesn’t really have any OBP holes, either. That gives the lineup an interesting dynamic: a rally is almost as likely to burst forth at the bottom of the lineup as the top.
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So I’m not actually all that worried about the offense in the playoffs. Unless they’re facing Santana, I think they’ll get their runs. I’m also not worried about the defense, and I’m not worried about middle relief.
I do worry about these three things: (1) the starting pitchers haven’t looked very good lately, (2) neither has Huston Street, (3) unlikely disasters. I think the first two are capable of correction. The third, I dunno.