AL Wild Card Game: Breaking down five starting pitcher options for the Oakland A's

Thursday, my esteemed colleague Mike Axisa ran through the starting pitching options the Yankees have for their coming date in the AL Wild Card Game. I'd like to run through in somewhat similar fashion with Oakland Athletics, as all roads are pointing to them being the other combatant. 

The first thing to consider here is that the game is likely to turn into a bullpen game pretty fast. In general, teams these days wouldn't let a non-Scherzer type starting pitcher see the opposing lineup a third time in a win-or-go-home game like this with a day off afterward. The A's fit the bill here for bailing on the starter at the first sign of trouble the second time through. 

Consider Blake Treinen. He's been one of the most dominant relievers in baseball this season. He's also worked at least two innings nine times. He even went three innings once. I could see A's manager Bob Melvin trying to get up to three innings out of him here. 

We've already shortened the game considerably with just one guy. There are also Jeurys Familia, Lou Trivino, Fernando Rodney, Shawn Kelley and several other capable arms out in the bullpen. 

Basically, we needn't look at just the entire season performance of the starters, but instead focus on who is most likely to get through four (or maybe even just two or three) innings unscathed. 

The Yankees have a little more power against left-handers, but their average and OBP are a wash. Yankee Stadium has that very short right-field porch, though, so it's possible the A's would lean toward a left-hander if the candidates are close. 

The candidates: 

Mike Fiers, RHP

The likeliest choice, Fiers has a 3.09 ERA in eight starts since being acquired from the Tigers in early August. Despite being a right-hander, Fiers has been tougher on lefties this season, which is always nice when visiting Yankee Stadium. 

Something to consider: Fiers has a 3.72 ERA in the first inning, compared to 1.86 in the second and 2.25 in the third. Keep this in mind for the final "candidate" here. 

Also, Fiers has allowed a .517 slugging percentage in the fourth through sixth innings, leading me to believe he'd need to be in a quick hook situation. 

Edwin Jackson, RHP

How about this, huh? Jackson was released (as a minor-leaguer) by the Nationals on June 1 and now he's gonna play longer than they are. He's now 6-3 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. He's been almost equally tough on righties and lefties and has actually been better on the road than at home. Jackson has been excellent in the first three innings this season, almost equally among the three, pitching to a 2.06 ERA and holding opponents to a .166/.242/.284 line. 

It jumps to .275/.344/.493 with a 4.62 ERA in Innings 4-6. 

He hasn't seen the Yankees since June 10 of last year, so maybe there's an element of surprise as he's been using his cutter a lot heavier than in years past. I know the name has a stigma attached, but Jackson would be a fine choice. 

Brett Anderson, LHP

Fresh off a scoreless 6 2/3-inning performance, Anderson is the only lefty option here and the game is likely in Yankee Stadium. That could matter to Melvin and his staff. 

One problem: 

  • Anderson at home this year: 2.01 ERA, 0.83 WHIP
  • Anderson on the road this year: 5.36 ERA, 1.51 WHIP

Yikes. 

Uh oh. Problem No. 2 coming:

  • Anderson in the first three innings this season: 5.27 ERA. 

Next! 

Trevor Cahill, RHP

The heavy-ball throwing Cahill returns from injury Sunday, so the A's first will have to see how he performs. His home/road splits are worse than Anderson's:

  • Home: 1.49 ERA, 0.88 WHIP
  • Road: 7.02 ERA, 1.68 WHIP

He's also had first inning issues (5.21 ERA), so I think we can safely count him out, too. 

An opener

The A's did this against the Yankees on Sept. 4 and won. Liam Hendriks got a three-up, three-down first inning and then Daniel Mengden worked 4 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit. If the A's went this route in the Wild Card Game, they'd probably need to use a higher-leverage reliever and then turn the ball over to one of the above listed starters (remember the Fiers note), but something like Trivino to Mengden could work out just fine. It's definitely an option on the table. 

In fact, everything would be on the table. My hunch is it's either Fiers or Jackson, but it's possible they'd use an opener and then go to either one of them. 

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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