Wednesday, January 20, 2010

2009 Final A'ssessment: Starting Pitchers

Trevor Cahill - (10-13, 4.63 ERA)

2009 Grade: C

The Good: Oakland's
Pitch-bury Doughboy (I know, I know…I'm still working on it.) finished strong with a 4-2 record and 3.44 ERA in his last nine starts. His 178.2 innings pitched was no small feat for a 21-year-old who'd never thrown more than 125 innings in a professional season. On April 12, he no-hit the Mariners for 6.2 innings and his aforementioned season-ending run included 14 combined shutout innings vs. the Angels and Rangers.

The Not-So-Good: Cahill struck out just 4.5 batters per nine innings. I don't care how sinker-bally, pitch-to-contact you are…that's terrible. His K rate placed him 74th (minimum 160 IP) in all of baseball, right behind Braden Looper – not exactly the high-rent district for right-handers. His dramatic platoon split (.920 OPS vs. LH; .689 OPS vs. RH) needs work and it wouldn't kill him to find a better conditioning program in the offseason. Actually, I've seen
how he's built…it might kill him.

Brett Anderson - (11-11, 4.06 ERA)

2009 Grade: B+

The Good: On July 6, Anderson entered his start against the Red Sox with a 5.45 ERA. Nine innings later, he became the first rookie southpaw to shut out Sox at Fenway in 20 years. In this very blog, I mocked those who believed one start could signal a pitcher's "arrival". Then, from that start through the end of the season, Anderson went 7-4 with a 3.03 ERA and 98 Ks in 101 innings.

The Not-So-Good: He finished a distant – and inexplicable – sixth in AL ROY balloting, despite having better numbers than Detroit's Rick Porcello (3rd) and Tampa Bay's Jeff Niemann (4th). Anderson had one of those goofy reverse-platoon splits, as lefties posted an OPS more than 100 points higher than what righties could muster. Most of the other negatives surrounding his inconsistent first half can be written off on his age (21).

Dallas Braden - (8-9, 3.89 ERA)

2009 Grade: B

The Good: Back in mid-March, I dragged the family out to Phoenix for Spring Training. I caught Braden's start against the Giants and could see that this kid finally was ready to drop the afro-flake act. I even mentioned this a few days later
right c'here. Through his first 18 starts, Braden's ERA was 3.12 and with even a shred of run support, he'd have won 10 games by then. Dude even took a line drive off the back of his hand in a start on May 10 and stayed in the game. What? We lost 87 games in '09…you can't pass up an opportunity to over-celebrate something good.

The Not-So-Good: Braden was horrific in his final four starts (7.40 ERA) through July 31, before missing the rest of the season with a bizarre foot infection. Before his July collapse, Braden had only given up more than three earned runs in one start. His foot infection led to nerve damage and while reports indicate he'll be ready for Spring Training, the most recent word is that he still doesn't have feeling in some of his toes. Just so we're clear, this does NOT negate my prescient observation before last season. I checked.

And, the rest…: 24-year-old Gio Gonzalez had one of the more maddening seasons in recent memory. He gave up 11 runs in 2.2 innings on July 20 vs. Minnesota – in a game the A's came back to win – and in his next start, he beat the Yankees in the Bronx on two hits/one run over six innings. He posted a 4.40 ERA with 80 Ks in 71.2 innings after that debacle against the Twins.

Hackensack's own Vin Mazzaro beat the White Sox in his Major League debut and had an ERA under 3.00 after his first six starts. In his next 11 starts, his ERA jumped to 6.91. I flew up to Oakland and watched the first SEVEN batters reach base against him in a start on August 2. After a shaky April, Josh Outman posted a 3.16 ERA in his 10 starts from May 3 through June 19. Jalen and I caught his last start in San Diego when he left after 1.2 innings with an injury that required Tommy John surgery.

I'm beginning to think the two of us are bad luck.

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