Ever heard of a guy named Collin Cowgill? No? You’re not alone. Jim Leyland has already made it clear that he intends to run 11 pitchers on the playoff roster in this ALDS (against my better advice). I really wish he wouldn’t. I have no idea what the A’s playoff roster is going to be or if Mr. Cowgill will actually be on it, but he’s a perfect example of the kind of weapons that the A’s are going to be combating the Tigers with.
Cowgill is a mediocre hitter overall, but one who does quite well against right-handed pitching (and horribly against left-handed pitching). He’s not the only guy that the A’s have in that category either. The A’s also have a number of guys – most of whom will likely be in the starting lineup every day against Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez – who hit righties well but fail miserably against left-handed pitching.
So… how do we expect this thing to go? Sanchez gets pulled in the 6th to let Phil Coke pitch to Seth Smith (and his .521 OPS against left-handed pitching) with runners on. Smith gets pulled for Collin Cowgill. Leyland is faced with the decision to pull Coke without ever throwing a pitch, or watch Cowgill or Johnny Gomes drive in runs. With a shallow bullpen, he’s going to have to go – almost all the time – for the latter. With a deeper bullpen (and the same solid reason for that remains: the Tigers have NO good options for pinch-hitters off the bench) Coke can retreat to the bullpen and we can watch Brayan Villarreal trot in and fillet Cowgill (or Cowgill himself head back to the bench without taking a swing…). Villarreal would, of course, have been warming up all along in expectation of just such a move. The Tigers have a much weaker bench than do the Athletics, this is a fact. However, the Tigers bullpen is (at least potentially) not only deeper than that of the A’s but deeper than the A’s positional bench as well.