We’re into September and the final month of the Major League Baseball season. September 1 is a significant day in professional baseball lore as on this day rosters expand from 25 to 40 players. This allows minor league prospects to get some playing time in the Big Leagues. Or at least it did–2019 will be the final year of the roster expansion. Starting in 2020, the ‘regular season’ roster limit will increase from 25 to 26. On September 1, rosters will expand only slightly from 26 to 28 players. Moreover, teams are required to have 28 players on their roster from September 1 through the end of the season.
In the past, roster call ups have provided ‘reinforcements’ for teams in postseason contention and a chance to evaluate minor league talent for those that are not. That’s precisely what we have here as the bumbling Los Angeles Angels travel to RingCentral Coliseum to take on the Oakland Athletics. The Angels are going nowhere 15 games out of wild card contention and having lost 8 of 10 and 9 of their last 11. Oakland, meanwhile, pulled into a tie with Cleveland for the second wild card spot by virtue of their win on Tuesday night. The Tribe and A’s are now one game behind the Tampa Bay Rays and the top wild card spot in the American League and 5.5 games up on the Boston Red Sox.
Oakland has has turned a hefty profit this year with most of the damage being done on their home field. Overall, they’ve banked +16.7 units and with a record of 44-24 at RingCentral Coliseum they’ve made +15.2 units at home. The Angels have been an awful ‘investment’ all season losing -16.3 units overall and going 30-42 -7.8 units on the road. They’ve also lost 10 of 14 in head to head play to Oakland (-5.0 units).
The Angels will give the ball to their prospect lefthander Patrick Sandoval. Sandoval has a lot of upside for a 22 year old with good velocity on his four seam fastball. He still needs to learn the nuance of being a big league pitcher and consistently getting the better of Major League hitters. He’s coming off the best start of his young career at home against Texas on August 28 going 5 innings allowing 1 hit and 0 ER while striking out 9 and walking 3. In four games this season he’s got a 5.71 ERA with LA losing 3 of the 4 starts. On the road, he’s put up a 9.00 ERA averaging just 4 innings per start.
Oakland acquired the very solid and consistent Tanner Roark at the trade deadline and since joining the team he’s been just that–solid and consistent. In five starts for his new team he’s put up a 3.30 ERA. Pitchers like Roark don’t get the superstar treatment but they’re incredibly valuable to teams with playoff aspirations. Roark is good for 6 to 7 innings of decent pitching every time he takes the mound. He might not dominate teams and win a lot of games single handedly but he invariably keeps his team in a position to win. Angels have lost money against right handed pitchers this year (46-45 -2.6 units) and against AL West rivals going 27-38 -15 units.
Right now these teams are going in different directions. Halos are just playing out the string while the Athletics have a legit shot at a wildcard berth and five games on deck against opponents with losing records (the Angels and the hapless Tigers). They’ve beat up on left handers this year 42-12 +12 units averaging 5.4 runs per game and it’s doubtful that Sandoval can shut them down.