Friday, March 25, 2011
30 A's in 30 Days: Dallas Braden
Acquired: Drafted in 24th round (2004).
Contract: One year thru 2011 (eligible for arbitration after 2011).
Position: Starting pitcher; Curt Hennig
2011 Projected ERA: 3.66
2010 Season: Braden arguably put together the most memorable season in team history by a starting pitcher with a losing record (11-14) since Brian Kingman went 8-20 for the A's thirty years ago. His perfect game on Mother's Day (May 9th) would probably crack the top five of my all-time favorite Athletics moments. On the season, Braden reduced his walk rate to just 2.0 per nine innings while starting a career-high 30 games. His gutty, inspiring performance on the mound went a long way towards overhauling his image. Early last year, Braden was the aggressor in a juvenile feud with the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez over one of the game's most ridiculous unwritten rules. In follow-up interviews on the subject, Braden was practically cutting pro wrestling promos. His perfect game was a universal face turn -- leading to appearances on David Letterman, HBO's Real Sports and the cover of Sports Illustrated. His Twitter feed, however, is the equivalent of a social media steel chair straight to my face.
2011 Over/Under: Braden has improved in several important peripheral areas over the past three seasons, despite a K/9 rate that's seems entrenched in the low fives. Last year, the average velocity of his fastball was just south of 87 mph, so he continued to rely on a terrific change-up and the defense behind him. There's a lot of feel and guile in his game -- "Dallas Eckstein", if you will -- and while we're probably watching his professional apex, there's no reason why he can't keep it going. UNDER.
By the Numbers: 1990 – I've previously explained how I ended up missing most of Braden's perfect game. But, on June 29, 1990, I caught all of Dave Stewart's no-hitter against Toronto from beginning to end. That was also the year my family bought our first VCR. There are still old VHS tapes boxed up in a closet at my mom's house and I can still remember a few of the games that I recorded in their entirety. There was the Felix Jose is our future game. There was the Brian Holman almost perfect game. There was the ALCS clincher against the Red Sox. Greatest regret of my life? Not recording Stewart's no-hitter. Of my life.
Surefire 2011 Prediction: A's beat writers will continue to insist that Braden's postgame quips and quotes are positively Charles Barkley-ian. I will continue to doubt this.
Old School Rap Track for the Season: Yellow Brick Road, Luniz