Curious starting pitcher choices highlight AL Wild Card preview of Athletics vs. Yankees

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The Oakland Athletics visit the New York Yankees in the American League one-game Wild Card playoff game Wednesday.

Starting pitchers are:

Athletics—Liam Hendriks, 0.0 Box-Toppers points in 2018. He hasn’t earned Box-Toppers points in more than three years since May 9, 2015, when he was Player of the Game as a reliever with the Blue Jays. He has just 3.0 career Box-Toppers points, two earned as a starter with the Blue Jays and the Royals in 2014.

Yankees—Luis Severino, 17.7 Box-Toppers points, 10th among all players, eighth among AL pitchers.

Both are curious choices. Hendriks pitched just 24 innings in 25 appearances. He’s not a classic starter, though he “started” eight games in September for the Athletics, pitching no more than 1 2/3 innings in any appearance. The Athletics were 4-4 in games Hendriks started.

Hendriks start is part of the new radical relief pitching strategy in which managers bring out closers or middle relievers to get through the lineup once or twice before bringing out a “second starter” to pitch into the fifth or sixth inning or beyond.

Starting pitchers are usually marquee-worthy players that help fans size up the game in advance. But knowing Hendriks is going to pitch an inning or two is not that helpful. It can be viewed either as a very cagey strategy by the manager or an admission that the team’s pitching doesn’t measure up.

Severino is also a curious choice. Starter J.A. Happ has earned 6.0 Box-Toppers points since being traded from the Blue Jays to the Yankees around July 31. Starter Masahiro Tanaka has earned 6.7 points since July 31, including 4.7 in September.

But Severino, who was the staff ace in the first half of the season, had a comparably weak second half and doesn’t bring much momentum into the postseason.

Severino does lead all Yankees in 2018 Box-Toppers points with 17.7, but he earned 16.7 of those points July 1 or earlier. In fact, Severino led Box-Toppers season player rankings much of July. But after July 1, Severino earned only 1.0 Box-Toppers point the entire rest of the season.

However, it should be noted that 1.0 point Severino earned Aug. 31 is more than Hendriks earned in 2016, 2017 and 2018 combined.

True, the Yankees did not pick their hottest pitcher to start Wednesday. And given Severino’s second-half struggles, Yankee fans may be wondering, “Could we have picked a worse pitcher to start a winner-take-all Wild Card game?” And as if to answer, the Athletics start Hendriks.

The Yankees rank second in overall Box-Toppers team rankings, behind only the Red Sox, with its players accumulating 135.2 Box-Toppers points in 2018.

The Athletics rank eighth with 120.8 points, fifth among AL teams and the lowest-ranked AL team to qualify for the postseason. 

The Yankees finished the season stronger than the Athletics, picking up 8.7 Box-Toppers points since Sept. 20. The Athletics picked up 5.5 points in that span.

Severino is the highest-ranking player on either team (17.7 Box-Toppers points, 10th among all players and eighth among AL pitchers). Yankees top-ranked batter is Giancarlo Stanton with 6.5 Box-Toppers points, 11th among AL batters.

Athletics top-ranked player is Mike Fiers (10.7 Box-Toppers points, 43rd among all players and 19th among AL pitchers). Fiers was acquired from the Detroit Tigers in August. He’s earned 6.7 of his points since the trade. Top batter for the Athetics is Matt Olson (5.2 Box-Toppers points, 30th among AL batters).

The winner of the AL Wild Card game will face the Red Sox in the best-of-five AL Division Series beginning Friday in Boston. The Red Sox are Box-Toppers top-ranked team with 143.6 Box-Toppers points.

About Box-Toppers—Box-Toppers tracks who most helps their team win the most games. Using standard box score statistics, Box-Toppers uses a simple formula to determine a Player of the Game for each Major League Baseball game played. That player is the person who contributed most to his team’s win. In regular season games, players earn 1.0 Box-Toppers point for being named Player of the Game and can earn bonus points for being Player of the Day or top player or batter in their league for the day.

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Athletics vs. Yankees

Here are players for both teams in the AL Wild Card Game Wednesday. Players are listed for both teams ranked by Box-Toppers points earned in 2018. All players listed were on active Major or Minor League rosters at the end of the season—not necessarily all of them will be included on postseason rosters.

Oakland Athletics New York Yankees
Player  Pos BTP Player Pos BTP
Fiers, Mike 3029 pi sp 10.7 Severino, Luis 3567 pi sp 17.7
Treinen, Blake 3495 pi cp 10.0 Happ, J.A. 2536 pi sp 15.7
Cahill, Trevor 2658 pi sp 9.0 Tanaka, Masahiro 3305 pi sp 13.4
Manaea, Sean 3637 pi sp 8.7 Gray, Sonny 3259 pi sp 8.7
Trivino, Lou 3939 pi mr cp 8.0 German, Domingo 3957 pi sp 8.0
Mengden, Daniel 3741 pi sp 6.0 Sabathia, C.C. 1492 pi sp 7.7
Piscotty, Stephen 3570 rf 6.0 Stanton, Giancarlo 2737 dh rf lf 6.5
Olson, Matt 3836 1b 5.2 Sanchez, Gary 3701 ca 5.5
Jackson, Edwin 1812 pi sp 5.0 Gardner, Brett 2486 cf lf 5.5
Anderson, Brett 2597 pi sp 5.0 Judge, Aaron 3767 rf 5.0
Davis, Khris 3242 dh 4.5 Hicks, Aaron 3170 cf 5.0
Chapman, Matt 3849 3b 4.5 Betances, Dellin 3333 pi cp mr 4.0
Lowrie, Jed 2437 2b 4.0 Chapman, Aroldis 2826 pi cp 4.0
Pinder, Chad 3871 lf 2b rf 4.0 Voit, Luke 4053 1b 4.0
Familia, Jeurys 3446 pi cp 4.0 McCutchen, Andrew 2637 rf cf 3.5
Triggs, Andrew 3723 pi sp 3.0 Andujar, Miguel 3839 3b 3.5
Lucroy, Jonathan 2744 ca 3.0 Lynn, Lance 2992 pi sp 3.0
Semien, Marcus 3302 ss 2.5 Robertson, David 2774 pi mr cp 3.0
Rodney, Fernando 1803 pi cp 2.0 Gregorius, Didi 3184 ss 3.0
Canha, Mark 3454 1b lf ph 2.0 Cole, A.J. 3727 pi cp mr 2.0
Blackburn, Paul 3869 pi sp 2.0 Loaisiga, Jonathan 3998 pi sp 2.0
Montas, Frankie 3803 pi sp 2.0 Torres, Gleyber 3972 2b 1.5
Bassitt, Chris 3413 pi sp mr 2.0 Bird, Greg 3562 1b 1.0
Gearrin, Cory 3838 pi mr 1.7 Walker, Neil 2756 1b 2b 1.0
Petit, Yusmeiro 2337 pi mr 1.0 Britton, Zach 2835 pi cp 1.0
Kelley, Shawn 2630 pi mr 1.0
Smolinski, Jake 3424 cf ph 1.0
Laureano, Ramon 4054 cf 1.0
Lucas, Josh 3967 pi mr 1.0
Wendelken, J.B. 4089 pi mr 1.0
Total 120.8 Total 135.2
What are those numbers after players' names?