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Godfrey Activated; Figueroa Demoted

May 22, 2012

Graham Godfrey, as was expected despite repeated “we’ll wait and sees” was recalled today to make the start in lieu of Brandon McCarthy whose shoulder pains sent him to the disabled list. Godfrey struggled his first time through with Oakland, going 0-3 in three starts with a 5.06 ERA and 5.40 FIP backed by 3.9 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and 1.1 HR/9 in his 16 innings of work. Since being sent down to Sacramento he posted a 3-0 record with a 1.21 ERA and 2.76 FIP powered by 6.8 K/9, 1.5 BB/9 and 0.3 HR/9 in 29 2/3 innings. I think and hope that once McCarthy is activated Godfrey can slide into a long man role, but I am not holding my breath that that will occur.

Meanwhile the man being sent back to Sacramento is the correct choice in Pedro Figueroa. Figueroa has appeared in eight games of relief work, throwing nine innings of 2.00 ERA but 6.74 FIP baseball. Figueroa has notched 3.0 K/9, 9.0 BB/9 and 1.0 HR/9 or in other words three strikeouts, nine walks and a home run. His amazing 95.6% strand rate and .217 BABIP have helped him avoid the disaster that is putting that many men on base via the walk. He will not in the interim be missed. The A’s bullpen now goes to just four lefties, though even that seems too high.

Jason Wojciechowski of Beaneball, gave me grief about my obsession with the “too many lefties” refrain (along with a funny, comment that given my constant disappointment with no true long man that Travis Blackley‘s addition left me arguing with myself over the too many lefties and no long man – as Bob Melvin said Blackley would be a long man – note as I expected he hasn’t been) and asked what difference did it make? While I wanted to reply to this a few days ago, I neglected to and this roster move provides me with a natural time to bring up my point. Which is that having a bullpen that is so heavy on lefties just leaves you vulnerable to righty platoon splits. While lefties are quite effective versus right-handed hitters in the American League thus far: .231/.303/.361, they are less so against their right-handed counterparts: .258/.328/.417. Dare I say this is a problem with too much sample size as everything sort of blurs, but the A’s bullpen just leaves very little flexibility and when you have a team of young pieces you don’t want them necessarily getting shelled against righties needlessly. This is far from a heady statistical argument but frankly, platoons due hold some merit and having so few options (especially since Grant Balfour for a long while was a right-handed closer) just limits the opportunity to be successful with platoons. Not that deep, skewer me now Jason!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 22, 2012 8:26 pm

    I would note this:

    LHB v RHP: 259/333/413 (all-MLB rather than just AL — the numbers aren’t substantially different)
    RHB v LHP: 255/322/412

    That said, there are more righties batting: about 34k PA by righties so far this year, against just 14k by lefties. On the other hand, lefties hit lefties worse than righties hit righties by almost 50 points of OPS (40 of those points being in SLG).

    It’s a balancing act, in other words. I’d be concerned about a lack of balance in the important part of the bullpen (which I think the A’s actually have right now — once you’ve designated Fuentes as the closer, that leaves your next two best arms, who you’d ideally mix and match in close-and-late situations, being right-handed), but once you get past those three or four guys, I’m not sure it matters whether the scrubs are lefties, righties, or Pat Venditte.

    • May 22, 2012 8:47 pm

      That is fair. Maybe this is old fashioned David, this is way it has always been done somehow shining through when he shouldn’t?

      • May 22, 2012 8:54 pm

        Old before your time! I mean, let’s say the A’s didn’t have Ryan Cook, but instead had … I don’t know, two Brian Fuenteses. I can’t find a good lefty comp to Ryan Cook. At the beginning of the year, with Grant Balfour as the designated closer, I would not have liked a two-Brian-Fuenteses setup crew because of how often you’re giving the platoon advantage to the other side. The fact that you’d never have a righty throwing to Josh Hamilton in an important situation probably isn’t worth that. I think we’d have agreed on this.

        Where we part ways is just at the composition of the bullpen as a whole, where we’re talking about a sixth-inning guy, a mopup man, a long reliever (ahem), and so forth. You see five lefties and you’re like “what’s the deal bro” (I made you say “bro,” sorry) and I see a bunch of lefties pitching in situations where it doesn’t really matter and I just shrug.

      • May 22, 2012 8:59 pm

        But at the same time, I think you’d agree high leverage situations are not simply limited to the 8th and 9th innings. So yes, lets say we had the problem of two Brian Fuentes’ (or would it be Fuentii) – also as an aside these days I imagine the closest LHP comp to Cook is Aroldis Chapman maybe? – I agree with you wholeheartedly in what you write. But that situation does manifest itself earlier as well. Now I suppose you can counter with, well then you can use the other set-up guy in the 7th, and save the other one for the 8th, falsely that sort of assumes that there is going to be just one instance of wanting a platoon. The mop-up guy can be whatever, but I feel one way especially for small-market teams to maximize their bullpens is to have guys who are good at doing specific things. Instead of just saying, here take a bunch of pitching situations and say they don’t matter and have all these lefties, we can have a mix that helps us get through tougher spots where we don’t have that “shutdown guy”.

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