Clearing the Bases: Oakland Athletics

Baseball in Oakland has been rather tedious the last couple of years. The last time the Athletics made the playoffs was in 2006, which was also the last time that they finished a season with a winning record. Billy Beane has been known for having a relatively low team payroll and is not usually known for going after star players. Instead, he prefers to produce his best players through the farm. The Athletics offer to build a new ballpark in Fremont, California recently got turned down so there is not a whole lot of things to be optimistic about if you are an A’s fan, or is there?

Meet the newest ace in the making in the Bay Area, and no, im not referring to Tim Lincecum. I am referring to a pitcher named Brett Anderson. He arrived in Oakland via the Dan Haren trade in December of 2007. Anderson spent 2008 in the Athletics minor league system. In 2008, he was absolutely superb for being just a young 20 year old. After starting just 13 games, he was promoted to AA Midland and he pitched even better in his six starts there. He showed the ability to have great control as he walked just under two batters per nine innings in his minor league career. He also proved that he can be a dominant strikeout pitcher at a very young age by striking out 9.7 per nine innings throughout his minor league career. He had a very respectable ERA of 3.36.

After he proved to be such a disciplined pitcher in the minors, he was called up to the Athletics rotation this past season where he started 30 games and continued his success. His strikeout numbers regressed a little bit to 7.7 strikeouts per nine innings, but this is still above the A.L. average of 6.9 per nine innings. He also showed that his command of the strike zone was no fluke. He walked only 2.3 batters per nine innings and most importantly, he was able to sustain an above average ground ball rate. Approximately 51% of balls in play were ground balls, which is good for 12th best among major league starters. He has done basically everything that a young pitcher must do in order to be successful so we know that his performance last year is absolutely no fluke. He was one of the most valuable players on the Athletics last year by posting a WAR of 3.8, second to Mark Sweeney.

Now lets look at his pitch f/x data, which is basically tells us everything we need to know about where his pitches are located, how they move, their velocities, etc. I think Brett Anderson’s slider is by far his best pitch, even though he goes to his curveball awfully frequently. His curveball and his slider are two good secondary pitches to his fastball, but I think he should use the change more so he can be more deceiving. He only goes to his slider about 10% of the time but he had about 2.5 runs above average when throwing the slider last year. That was more than any of his pitches. He makes batter whiff 12% of the time when pitching his slider. I also like the movement of his slider because it moves down and in to right-handers and down and away to left-handers. His slider also has about 3.5 inches of break to it. That is not seen very often with the slider, but nonetheless, it is a good pitch. Anderson seems to make a habit of pitching on the left side of the plate from the catchers perspective on most of his pitches. He must do a real good job of jamming right-handed batters which is indicated by his splits here.

So A’s fans, enjoy the ace in the making that you have. He pitched like at an elite level after the all-star break last year with an ERA of 3.48 compared to 4.64 in the first half, allowing 7 HR’s in one more inning pitched compared to 13 in the first half, and lastly, a K/9 of 8.8 and a SO/BB ratio of 4.3 compared to 6.6 and 2.67 in the first half respectively. I think he will be a dark horse AL Cy Young candidate this year. Okay, that might be giving him too much credit.

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