Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mid-Term A'Ssessment – Bullpen

Huston Street – RHP

The Good News: Well, if you throw out his first three and last three appearances this season, his ERA dips to 2.72, with an opponents' batting average of .194. He remains one of the prettier A's, as his delicate countenance is still a hit with the squealing teens who think the team arrived in Oakland in 2000. Let's see, what else…oh, he hasn't made an error all year.

The Bad News: Street's first two years (2005, 2006) were almost identical in their awesomeness. Since then, he's developed several maddening habits that threaten to torpedo his career as a closer. Most notably, he's run afoul of the long ball – yielding six in just 43 innings. His struggles are pretty transparent to A's fans, so it blows my mind that I've been able to predict when Street doesn't have "it", while the coaching staff sits on their hands. Street has had next to no command of his out pitch (slider) this year and when he can't throw it for strikes; hitters lay off and wait for his straight-as-a-string fastball. Now, I don't buy into the whole "closer's mystique", but when Street scuffles, he fidgets, fusses and agitates himself in an overt scene that everyone can see and opposing hitters can't wait to pounce on. He's already got five blown saves this year and continues to reduce his trade value with every uneven outing.

2nd Half Sure Fire Prediction: Street's arbitration eligible after this season and talks for a long-term contract have understandably stalled. He's rumored to go to a half-dozen teams before the trade deadline, but my guess is that the A's wait until the offseason to deal him. Eight or nine weeks of non-pressure, non-pennant race baseball might cure what ails him.

Grade: C+

And, the Rest…: Independent League refugee Brad Ziegler has been outstanding since coming up. He's thrown almost 22 scoreless innings to start his career and fans have clamored for him to ascend to closer. As great as he's been, though, he doesn't miss many bats and his .193 batting average on balls in play is unsustainably low. Santiago Casilla was terrific for the first six weeks. He went on the DL in mid-May with an ERA under 1.00. Since his return, his ERA is 7.20 in 11 appearances.

In last night's game against Tampa Bay, I noticed that Andrew Brown bares more than a passing facial resemblance to former journeyman reliever Jeff Parrett. They're also similar in that Parrett spent one year (1992) with Oakland, putting up a line that mirrored Brown's low ERA, good strikeout rate, too many walks approach.

Keith Foulke and Alan Embree have been up and down all year. Foulke has been torched by righties and looks uncomfortable in the role of middle reliever. Embree is 100 years old. On May 11, his ERA was 2.60. Since then, it's 5.85.

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