What Did Opening Day Mean for the Bullpen?

By Jason Wojciechowski on April 4, 2017 at 7:57 AM

Let's open with the quotes from Jane Lee and Susan Slusser's game stories:

Bob Melvin: "Not only did Kendall give us what we needed, but we ran some bullpen guys out there that did what they were asked to do."

Melvin: "The plan was if we got to the ninth inning, especially with the right-handers they have, [Casilla] was going to pitch the ninth inning."

Melvin, on using Madson against Trout and Pujols in the eighth: "It was matchups."


And just to recap the facts: with Kendall Graveman clearly done (over 100 pitches and sharp but hardly with perfect-game stuff) after six, Melvin went to Ryan Dull to face the bottom of the Angels' lineup, Andrelton Simmons, Danny Espinosa, and Martin Maldonado, a switch-hitter sandwiched between two righties, and three very light touches with the bat.

Sean Doolittle then came in to face Yunel Escobar, a righty, and Kole Calhoun, a lefty, in the eighth. They're both pretty good, decent threats to get on base with enough pop that you can't just burn it in there. Those two outs accomplished, Ryan Madson pitched to the best player any of us have ever seen followed by the best right-handed hitter any of us have ever seen (the latter of whom isn't as dangerous as he once was overall, but who can still hit a screamer over the wall in a second if you let him). All of this happened with a one-run lead.

Santiago Casilla then came in to retire Cameron Maybin, Simmons, and Espinosa, because Madson allowed Trout to reach base and therefore had to get CJ Cron to get out of the eighth.


So, does all this portend a new day in bullpenning, with Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle as a lefty-righty top two, playing matchups to get the toughest outs in the toughest situations in the seventh or eighth (and maybe the sixth when needed), with Dull and Casilla picking up the next tier down in leverage?

Or does it just mean that Madson, Doolittle, and Dull share the seventh and eighth, the choices going by matchups, Casilla pitches the ninth, and the rest line up for all the other situations?

The odds, given the last five and a half years with Bob Melvin, are on the latter. But wouldn't it be nice to dream about the former? Wouldn't that be fun to see in a bullpen with a bunch of above-average guys but no Mark Melancon? (Madson is the A's version of Melancon, but compare his three-year, $22 million contract to those handed out to the elite closers out there and you realize the gap between normal free agents and the weird photocopies of faxes of printouts the A's bring in.) Time will tell, I suppose. #timewilltell