The Oakland Athletics are set to go with their four best starting pitchers in the postseason, yet arguably their second-most valuable starter likely won’t make the rotation at all.
That is, if Jane Lee of MLB.com is correct in her estimation anyway. According to the A’s beat writer, the team is likely going to go with Bartolo Colon, Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin and Sonny Gray in the playoffs, leaving Dan Straily as the odd man out.
However, are those actually the four starters that would best give the A’s a chance to go deep in their quest for a World Series appearance?
If you were going with a full-season sample size, it’d be hard to say so. At 1.6 fWAR, Straily is tied for being the team’s second-most valuable starter this season with Parker, while Griffin is below at 1.4 fWAR. The main difference here is that Straily has accumulated his vale over 145.2 innings compared to Griffin’s 195, making the feat that much more impressive.
Neither starter’s ERA is particularly eye-popping, though it’s worth noting that Straily does own a lower FIP at 4.12 to Griffin’s 4.56, mostly due to the most significant split between the two in one significant vice: home runs.
Sure, Griffin might have the loser ERA (3.78 vs. 4.08) and WHIP (1.12 vs. 1.24), but he has also given up home runs at an alarming 1.62 HR/9 rate in 2013 compared to Straily’s 0.99. That number becomes much more significant when you examine their second-half performances, as Straily has the advantage in ERA (3.84 vs. 3.96), fWAR (0.4 vs. 0.0), while Griffin’s homer-prone ways have spiraled out of control at 2.11 HR/9.
He might ultimately have better stuff than Straily (10.38 K/9 through 26 IP in September) and is the hot hand in the final month of the season (0.7 fWAR, 3-0, 2.77/0.77 ERA/WHIP); however, Straily is no slouch either (0.6 fWAR, 3-0, 2.31/0.90 ERA/WHIP), and he adds one important element that Griffin does not give the team: protection from the long ball.
This is something that should take on extra importance with the heightened importance of each game of the playoffs. A key home run can change the momentum of a given game (and potentially a series) in a flash, and without having the luxury of large sample sizes, reliability over stuff and upside might be a more important consideration for the Athletics here.
It’s not going to be an easy choice either way, but the safe bet here might be Straily at the back end of the rotation for the A’s, especially given that their probable ALDS opponents are the Detroit Tigers, who have a few guys that like to slug the baseball once in a while.
Oh, and for what it’s worth, Straily (6.0 IP, one run, eight hits, one HR) had less trouble with Jim Leyland and co. than Griffin (5.0 IP, four runs, seven hits, two HRs) too. Just saying …