By Jason Wojciechowski on May 17, 2012 at 1:15 PM
I wrote on Tuesday that the A's had claimed Travis Blackley on waivers. The matching 25-man move to make a hole for Blackley to get on the active roster was to send down Andrew Carignan. The only other real option was Pedro Figueroa. Neither has been good this year (6.03 FIP and 6.98 FRA in eight innings for Figueroa, 5.43 FIP and 8.34 FRA in 6 1/3 for Carignan), so you're just getting into managerial preferences and player development when you choose between them.
Well, you're also getting into handedness issues, as David Wishinsky points out. This move, because Blackley is a lefty, leaves the A's with five lefties and two righties. Asked about this, Bob Melvin indicated that he didn't care whether Blackley is a lefty or righty because he's here to be the long-man. What's amusing about this if you follow the A's blogosphere is that it pits poor Wishinsky against himself -- I've heard him on the Tarp Talk podcast and elsewhere rail many times against the A's refusal to carry a long man because it leaves them vulnerable to early or pre-game starter injuries that result in bullpen games, those times where you use four pitchers for two innings a piece and leave yourself feeling short-handed for the next few days as guys recover from throwing 2-3x as many pitches as they normally do.
Well, now the A's have a long-man, but it's at the expense of Wishinsky's other great bugaboo, the all-lefty bullpen. I've never actually heard Wishinsky explain why a team carrying more than two (or maybe three if you're really pushing things) lefties matters so much. If your entire bullpen's skill-set is such that nobody can pitch to righties, that's one thing, but I'm not sure that's the case in Oakland. Jerry Blevins doesn't really do very well against opposite-hand batters, but Brian Fuentes, owner of a change-up, has a non-giant split, and who knows with Pedro Figueroa, Jordan Norberto, and Blackley. Maybe it's a bullpen with four specialists and Fuentes, or maybe it's just a bunch of pitchers.
In any case, this isn't 2013 or 2014. The A's are a .500 ball-club, sure, but per the Baseball Prospectus adjusted standings, they're lucky to be there. If the way they've actually played indicates their true talent, they'll fall back. And even if they don't fall back, are they any better than a .500 club? Would a four-righty/three-lefty pen make them a .550 team going forward such that they could challenge Tampa or Toronto for the Wild Card? (Or even Boston, who, for all their struggles, still came into today just 1 1/2 games back of the A's.)
Assuming the A's don't really consider themselves to be in contention, they're still doing what they've been doing since basically Day 1 of this off-season: building toward the future while putting a respectable club on the field. The respectability of the club doesn't take a hit by having five lefties, and if anyone outside the A's front office has any insight regarding the developmental benefits of sending down Carignan and/or keeping Figueroa in the big leagues, then I'd be interested in hearing about it. (Or, hell, if you're inside the A's front office and you want to share, drop me an email. I won't tell anyone.)
Then there's third base, where the A's have lost Brandon Inge to his groin injury. Adam Rosales comes up to do Adam Rosales things, which seem likely to be "approximate the offense that Inge was likely to provide going forward, which isn't anywhere near the offense that Inge has provided so far because neither Inge nor Rosales can slug .545 for long, but play worse defense because Rosales is so jittery and weird that he can't just sit back and make the play and also he doesn't have massive tattoos of his children's names on his forearms."
Of course, he's starting at first base today, with Josh Donaldson at third, which is really just Bob Melvin trolling us. I cannot pretend to like this move, to say "well, there's probably a good reason for it," etc. I mean, sure, Melvin didn't just put Rosales in a hat and pull him out and stick him at first because he's playing randomness games, so there is a reason buried deep in this somewhere. But what I mean is that I can't imagine any possible reason being given that would satisfy me instead of making me just shake my head in sadness. Rosales has not been good enough to be on the team until May 17th despite Beane flipping through about 13 third basemen in that time, and yet the day he comes up, first base it is. Sure. Ok.