Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Oakland A's - Looking at the Rotation

Here we are with only 2 teams left in the AL to cover, it’s time for Billy Beane’s “moneyball” club, the Oakland A’s! The A’s are almost always a young team, and have a organizational knack for getting excellent production out of pitchers, though they do also tend to break down quite a bit. The A’s have a very up and down staff this year, with only one or two real veterans present to help keep the other starters on track over the long season.

Jarrod Parker so far has 3 career starts in the majors, two of them with the A’s this season and has so far looked very good having gone over 6 innings in both of his starts, and having given up only 1 run in each. It appears that a bit of Parker’s success comes from the general unfamiliarity that the league has with him, having pitched well, if not terrifically at every level in the minors. His control is probably the real deal, he’s never given up a lot of walks. His BABIP is right in line with the league so I can’t say he’s going to watch that spike, but he does have a few red flags about him so far. He’s giving up nearly ⅓ of his fly balls for line drives, and he’s giving up a lot of fly balls. With all of that said Parker’s harder to project than most, almost no service time, and a 2 start sample size, so take anything said about him with a grain of salt. My take is that while he looks good now, that line drive rate needs to come down or he’s going to start getting killed when the league has more tape on him.

Graham Godfrey has been optioned back to AAA for the moment after 3 progressively rougher starts. His ERA didn’t look good and by his 3rd start his command looked to have gone the way of the dodo, walking 5 in as many innings en route to giving up 4 runs on 3 hits that day. Graham is probably going to get worked out in AAA for a while, and get his command back up to snuff before seeing any more innings in the bigs but his line from his 6 appearances (5 starts) last year was promising enough. He looks to keep the ball down well enough when he’s on. Godfrey will probably get another few starts by the end of the year, but it’s hard to tell if they will be through his absolutely earning them or if circumstances will force a few hands and bring him back up. It’s a long year, I doubt we’ve seen the last of Godfrey this year, and if he can get his control back he’s capable of sticking around longer on his trip to the show.

Tyson Ross looked pretty good in his first 2 outings this season, but has since had two major meltdowns, a 4 inning 9 run debacle against the Orioles and a 3 & ⅓ inning 7 run drumming by the Rays. The adage is that you’re never as good as you look when you’re winning, and never as bad as you look when you’re losing. This may be the case for Ross, who has walked 8 and struck out 10 over his first 20 innings this season, and may be a victim of poor luck as much as anything else. He’s keeping the ball down very well, keeping more than 3 out of every 5 balls in play on the ground, and while they’re finding holes now, that can’t carry on all year. I’d look for Ross’ numbers to normalize a bit, his BABIP is ridiculously high at an even .400, but for a groundball pitcher that’s totally unsustainable, and it’ll come down and with it, his ERA and WHIP will start to look more respectable.

Tommy Milone has been pitching like the biggest gamble on the team, so far he has gone 8 innings and shut out his opposition twice, and has also given up 5 or more runs in 5 or fewer innings twice, with two starts that just fell short of being quality starts in the middle of April. While Milone has given up 5 home runs so far, 3 of them were against the Red Sox in a single start, maybe just a bad day against a good lineup. Milone has kept his strikeout rate right on with his 5 starts from last year, but he’s walking about twice as many batters so far. With that he has however kept the ball down better, and if that’s more indicative of who he is, a few rough starts won’t break him. If he starts to show the flyball pitching tendencies the 5 starts last season showed us, he’s liable to get into more trouble. Milone’s young enough at 25 to develop some bad habits if he’s not guided well, but he’s also still young enough to make adjustments on the fly. I expect growing pains from a pitcher who was striking out around 8 per 9 innings in the minors who hasn’t quite blown his stuff by guys at the major league level.

Brandon McCarthy has done a little bit of everything as a pitcher so far, but has looked to have really come into his own since joining Oakland and could be poised to put together another year not too dissimilar from last season’s effort. He’s not keeping the ball on the ground quite as well, but he’s not exactly a flyball pitcher either at the moment. He looks pretty good with whatever changes he’s made, though he’s walking literally twice as many batters (2.6 per 9) as he did last year, but that could all just be the early season and as he makes adjustments that could start getting better. I don’t think McCarthy’s going to necessarily put together an ace caliber season, but he should be a very useful piece for the A’s this season, whether they trade him at the deadline or make a run at resigning him after the year.

Bartolo Colon has looked awfully ace like so far, and has definitely managed to turn himself into quite the “crafty veteran” at 39 years old. Colon’s going to have to be pretty slick to keep up this pace all year, and will have his off days, but his control is there and that might just be all he really needs. Colon’s BABIP is about 50 points lower than his career average, so it’s probably not totally sustainable, but he’s also had to learn a lot as a pitcher since he was with the Angels. I don’t know that Colon can sustain this kind of production all year but I don’t see why he wouldn’t be able to remain effective through the season, even if he drops off some as the season wears on.

Oakland is currently sitting one game over .500 and aren’t necessarily a bad team, but over the long season they don’t have a strong enough lineup to really hang on once the Angels start clicking as a team. Their rotation has its question marks, and while some are performing head and shoulders above expectations it probably won’t be enough to have Oakland looking at a playoff berth this season despite the 2nd wildcard spot.

No comments:

Post a Comment