Friday, September 21, 2012

What If You Make The Playoffs... Without Any Starting Pitchers?

Who are those guys?
With 13 games left in the American League regular season, here are your up to date wild-card standings.

Oakland 85-64
Baltimore 85-64
LA Angels 81-68 - 4 GB
Tampa 80-70 - 5.5 GB
Detroit 79-70 - 6 GB

Oakland's remaining games are seven games in New York and Texas, then six games in Seattle and Texas, so there are all chances of collapse, especially with starting pitchers dropping like flies... but it's highly likely that the Rangers aren't going to have anything to play for. Also, four games is a lot with 13 to play, and expecting the Angels to get very hot against the White Sox, Rangers and a home and home against the Mariners isn't too big of a bet. I think they get in.

So realistically, we're looking at something like an 80 to 85% chance of two teams that had a better chance of losing 100 games at the start of the year winning 90, and going to the play-in game. The winner of that is likely to get an all-expense paid beatdown at the hands of the rested and ready Rangers.

The only problem is that I have no idea which A's pitcher would actually get the assignment.

Now, I'm not supposed to look gift playoffs in the mouth, and random chance and the nature of baseball means that just getting a seat at the table is everything. But with Brett Anderson, Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon all done for the year, Tommy Milone an Oakland-only soft tossing option, Jarrod Parker at more innings than he's ever been... well, it's really looking like one and done with speed. There's only so much you can ask from utterly untested guys like A.J. Griffin, Travis Blackley and Dan Straily.( And yes, it's just pure snark to note that if the Nationals were managing this team, they'd shut down all of these guys.)

Baltimore, at least, while ace-less, has a huge number of tolerable options. You can go with Jason Hammel (dominant until hurt), Wei-Yin Chen (probably the staff's most valuable pitcher), Chris Tillman (pedigree and recent results), Miguel Gonzalez (pretty good in the second half surge)... or maybe even Dylan Bundy (do you try a 19-year-old on the national stage?). They'll be fun. They've got options.

My laundry? We'll dream of 4-5 tolerable innings from Stranger Du Jour, then turn it over to the bullpen as soon as sanity allows, and hope that Pat Neshek, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, Jerry Blevins, Grant Balfour and more can keep things manageable.

And if it works -- for an organization that went into playoffs with aces many, many times for absolutely no impact -- well, we'll all get a good long giggle. Especially if it happens against guys making tens of millions of dollars...

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