Welcome to the second installment in our "lineup" of blog material out of Oakland. This time, we'll glance over the 11-man pitching staff in Oakland for Season 6. Having only 11 pitchers means that outside the 5-man rotation, and the long/swing man, there are only 5 arms available out of the pen in the late innings. Further complicating this matter is the fact that there is only one left-handed pitcher on the enitre staff, and he's in the rotation. This will require some heavy workloads and very good bullpen management by the coaching staff consisting of Bench Coach Jorge Estrada, Bullpen Coach Sterling Staley, and former Detroit Pitching Coach Louie Porter. Estrada and Staley were both previously with the Athletics orginization. Estrada was the team's Bullpen coach last season, and Staley served as the AAA Pitching coach in Oakland since the start of Season 3. Having these cats on board helped to form the plan to go with the 11-man staff. Let's take a look:
1. Fernando Rosado (15-9, 3.33 ERA over 208.0 IP)
2. Steve Kennedy (15-5, 3.74 ERA over 192.2 IP)
3. Spike Shannon (13-4, 3.67 ERA over 154.1 IP)
4. Matt Scalici (13-9, 4.08 ERA over 165.1 IP)
5. Rico Rijo (11-4, 4.04 ERA over 120.1 IP)
Long/Swing: Herbert Piper (Career 49-28, 3.50 ERA in 655.0 IP as SP in MiLB)
Setup B: Virgil Picasso (3.23 ERA, 0.99 WHIP in 61.1 IP)
Setup B: Danny Leach (3.78 ERA, 1.17 WHIP in 33.1 IP)
Setup B: Doug Bay (5.34 ERA, 1.55 WHIP in 60.2 IP)
Setup A: Fonzie Wayne (1.56 ERA, 1.15 WHIP in 17.1 IP as Sept. Callup)
Setup A: Lance Woolf (3.36 ERA, 1.39 WHIP in 142.0 IP!)
A lot has changed since the days of running a more specialized bullpen Oakland. A few seaons back, it was all about slotting guys into specific roles. There was a lot of success found using the LHS/RHS roles under the old coaching staff. However, with the acquisition of Woolf and the drafting of Wayne, Oakland was given a unique opportuniy to really shorten the bullpen down. These two workhorses can easily provide shutdown innings totaling between 250-300 innings between just the two of them. They key wil be them remaining healthy, and Wayne to show he is indeed ready for the big leagues. His "struggles" in the minors have long been attributed to his not feeling challenged at any level, as he was generally considered ready when he was drafted in Season 3.
As far as the middle innings go, Picasso has certainly proven he's capable of being a quality reliever. Posting excellent numbers and keeping a great deal of inherited runners from scoring, he has consistantly proved his worth as one of the most underrated of the Athletics. Bay and Leach are also no stranger to shutting down opposing hitters, although Bay certainly seemed to have lost his touch last season. Hopefully, taking the ball a little less often will help him regain his form. Herbert Piper has the ability to come in any inning, any time. He can start, bridge the gap to Woolf and Wayne, or fill in if/when the injury bug strikes. He definitely showed us the ability to get Major League hitters out last season in his first taste of the bigs (1.01 WHIP, 5.84 K/9, 1.46 BB/9).
Lastly, the rotation. Unfortunately, Oakland still lacks that elite-level Ace to propel them from perpetual playoff failure to World Champs. However, the rotation is still a top quality rotation, featuring very talented starters, top to bottom, all of which kept their ERA's around or below the 4.00 mark. Rosado leads this young and talented rotation as the pitcher who seems to be able to domiate the most often, although Kennedy is not far behind. These two form a solid 1-2 punch at the top, and can work a solid 200 innings each to head the rotation with certainty. Beyond that are three pitchers all still under 200 innings pitched in the bigs. Shannon, Scalici and Rijo have some of the most electric stuff you'll ever see at the bottom of a rotation. Scalici especially seems to have at least 3-4 plus pitches that he can throw in any count to get batters swinging away, or simply beating the ball into the ground for a ground-out. Rijo's control is amongst the best you will ever see, especially for a kid that inexperienced at the big-league level. Rico came up last year to fill a spot in the rotation due to injury and has never looked back. Spike Shannon (the lone Lefty) was that injured pitcher, and he was able to get back on solid ground after a shaky return from his DL stint for Elbow Inflammation. If any of these three falter, Piper will be around to step in, as will Brooks Everhart down in AAA.
It'll be intersting to see how the 11-Man-Plan holds up, and if Oakland can have another very fortunate year injury-wise. The talent is there for this team to dominate, but the consistency in the rotation is certainly the weak point that will need to be adressed at some point. Although there are some very talented arms in the system, there is no "Ace" ready to dominate in the bigs yet this season, so Oakland may have to continue to discuss trades with other teams if they wish to add that elite Ace. Great ptiching simply isn't enough. You need the best. Keeping opposing teams to 4 runs or less will certainly help this team win a lot of games, as the offense figures to score a ton. However, they need to find a way to cut that number in half if they want to ever see that WS trophy.
On Deck: The 3-Slot! A look at the Prospects in Oakland's system.