Mid-Season Report Card: The Pitchers

Bartolo looking as svelte as ever. (Photo: Steve Bowles - Left Field Bleachers)

Bartolo looking as svelte as ever. (Photo: Steve Bowles – Left Field Bleachers)

I had meant to post this entry and a few other updates during the weekend but some things came up and totally derailed those plans. Nevertheless, with the All-Star Game eight days away we still have plenty of time to look at the job the pitching staff has done in 2013 so far. As usual, the A’s have one of the better pitching staffs in baseball as Oakland hurlers have pitched to a 3.72 ERA, seventh overall in the majors, and a 1.201 WHIP that ranks fourth in the league.

Starters

Bartolo Colon (3.1 WAR, 140 ERA+) – After getting nailed for synthetic testosterone last August I seriously doubted Colon would ever pitch in the majors again. His time already seemed limited at 39-years-old (now 40) and a suspension seemed like the final nail in the coffin. To my great surprise, not only did the A’s bring Colon back, he has been the best starter in the rotation. How is he doing it? As Janet Jackson would say, it’s all about control. Colon has walked just 14 batters in 113.1 innings, giving him a 1.1 BB/9 that leads the American League. His 1.1.03 WHIP is the lowest of his career. The threat of another suspension still looms in the background as the Biogenesis scandal unfolds, but the A’s are going to get every last bit of pitching they possibly can out of Colon. Grade: A+

A.J. Griffin (1.3 WAR, 99 ERA+) – Most of Griffin’s stats across the board are strikingly similar to last season, but he is giving up more home runs, which in turn has bumped up his ERA almost a full run. Last year, Griffin surrendered 10 homers in 82.1 innings, while this year he has given up 18 in 114.1 innings. Griffin is still striking out hitters as the same rate, his WHIP is nearly identical to last year, and his walk and hits allowed rates per nine innings is exactly the same as well. Griffin has pitched decently so far and if he can get a handle on limiting long balls his numbers will look even better and he will continue to improve. Grade: B-

Tom Milone

“Hey man, they’re mostly solo shots.” (Photo courtesy of Flickr)

Tommy Milone (1.0 WAR, 95 ERA+) – Much like Griffin, Milone is putting up similar numbers to last season but is seeing balls leave the yard at an increasing rate. He has given up 19 in 114 innings after surrendering 24 in 190 last year. Despite the uptick in HR/9 (1.5 this year compared to 1.1 last year) Milone is actually giving up fewer hits and his WHIP is down. If Tommy can learn how to keep hitters in the ball park more often he’ll be just fine. Grade: C+

Jarrod Parker (1.2 WAR, 96 ERA+) – What a turnaround. Through seven starts on May 6, Parker had a 1-5 record with a 7.34 ERA and a .345 opponents’ batting average. It looked like the sophomore slump had hit him hard. Since then however, he has pitched to a 2.48 ERA and .181 opponents’ batting average in his last 10 starts over 72.2 innings. With his early season struggles in the rear view, Parker is poised for a strong second half and I expect him to be our strongest starter heading down the stretch. Grade: B-

Dan Straily (0.4 WAR, 86 ERA+) – One look at Straily’s ERA might throw you off as the young right-hander is actually showing plenty of signs of improvement in 2013. His HR/9 is way down (2.5 last year compared to 0.7 this year) and his H/9 and BB/9 are down as well, leading to an improved WHIP. He’s still striking out batters at the same rate as well. He has struggled with his focus at times, especially in tight situations, but he should continue to get better as he gets more experience. Grade: C

Brett Anderson (-0.6 WAR, 63 ERA+) – After compiling 16 strikeouts and a 1.38 ERA over 13 innings in two starts, Brett saw his ERA soar to over seven during his next three starts. It looked like he was getting it back together after pitching 5.1 innings of relief in the 19 inning marathon victory over the Angels on April 29, but a stress fracture in his right foot has kept him sidelined since then. When Brett is healthy he is among the best in the game, but keeping him off the DL has proven to be an almost impossible task in his career thus far. Grade: Incomplete

Relievers

Grant Balfour (1.4 WAR, 216 ERA+) – Two years ago Balfour was inked to a contract because the A’s somehow had some extra dough lying around, Billy Beane was looking for relievers and Balfour was the best left on the market. At the time, it seemed like a deal that would provide a good veteran arm to consume some late innings, but it has turned out to be much more. With 40 straight converted saves dating back to last April, Balfour tied the franchise record set by Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley. He is the only pitcher in the league to not have a blown save this year, converting all 22 chances. While it’s unlikely he can pull a Brad Lidge ala 2008, Balfour has been the best closer in baseball this year and is setting himself up for a nice payday with the A’s. Grade: A+

Sean Doolittle (0.6 WAR, 118 ERA+) – Although it’s been an up-and-down season for Doolittle so far, he’s shown progression in his approach to pitching and hasn’t let his struggles affect his confidence. Even though his strikeout rate is down (8.1 K/9 compared to 11.4 K/9 last year) he is giving up less walks and has shown improved control. The downside to his game this year is that his fastball, which has touched up to 97 on the radar gun at times, has looked awfully flat and doesn’t have much movement. Grade: C+

Ryan Cook (0.7 WAR, 148 ERA+) – After an All-Star campaign as a rookie Cook has been the most stable member of the A’s bullpen not named Grant Balfour in 2013. Even though his H/9 has increased significantly (5.2 in 2012 compared to 7.2 this year) Cook is walking less batters and has yet to surrender a home run in 37.1 innings pitched. Grade: B

Jerry Blevins (0.4 WAR, 113 ERA+) – He may be walking less batters this season, but Jerry is giving up more hits and has surprisingly struggled against left-handed hitters. While right-handers are hitting .208 against him, left-handers have a .281 clip, with three of his four allowed homers coming from that side as well. His stuff and control seem to be fine, so I expect Jerry to rebound a bit in the second half of the season. Grade: C+

"Don't worry about me. I'll be fine." (Photo: Steve Bowles - Left Field Bleachers)

“Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.” (Photo: Steve Bowles – Left Field Bleachers)

Pat Neshek (0.5 WAR, 171 ERA+) – Neshek has a nice ERA and ERA+ so far, but his 1.427 WHIP shows that he’s letting way too many hitters get on base. While he certainly hasn’t been bad by any means, he can’t keep up his current rates and expect to continue being successful. However, he has been steadily improving since his rough start and has only walked one batter in his last eight appearances, so it looks as though he has turned a corner. Grade: B-

Jesse Chavez (0.4 WAR, 124 ERA+) – The first time I looked up his career numbers I questioned why this guy even had a roster spot at the Major League level. He was a 29-year-old journeyman with a career 5.56 ERA after all. After three appearances and a 6.23 ERA to start the season, I figured it was only a matter of time before he was sent back up I-80. Sure enough, he was optioned to Sacramento April 29, only to be recalled May 10. He’s been lights out since then, lowering his season ERA to 3.16. His most impressive and noteworthy effort came June 13 in the 18 inning win against the Yankees as he pitched 5.2 scoreless innings of relief to earn his first win as a member of the Athletics. He’s had his stumbles here and there, but he has shown that he can hang in the majors. Grade: B

Evan Scribner (0 WAR, 75 ERA+) – An integral part of the bullpen during last year’s playoff run, Scribner struggled a bit early on and was sent to Sacramento in May. He now has a 1.65 ERA and a 0.878 WHIP in Triple-A so we should definitely see him back in Oakland sometime soon. Grade: Incomplete

Dan Otero (0.1 WAR, 121 ERA+) – This former Giant has looked decent in his eight innings of work, having yet to walk a batter. He’s surrendered 12 hits though. Grade: Incomplete

Hideki Okajima (0.1 WAR, 189 ERA+) – You can never have enough left-handers in the bullpen, but Okajima looked very average in his limited action. Back down in Sacramento, I don’t see him coming back to Oakland unless somebody gets hurt or falls apart completely. Grade: Incomplete

Chris Resop (-0.3 WAR, 66 ERA+) – I hope I never see this guy again. Grade: Incomplete

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