Having earned a split against the surprisingly tough Seattle Mariners, the Boston Red Sox (42-37, 6-4 in the last 10 games) travel to Oakland for a three-game set against the Athletics (38-42, 4-6 in the last 10 games). Billy Beane has always loved young pitchers and this edition of the Athletics is no different. However, Oakland’s hitters are another story.
Jarrod Parker (versus Daisuke Matsuzaka in Monday’s opener) is an interesting young pitcher, of which the Athletics always seem to find. Drafted by the Diamondbacks, Parker is in his first full season after being traded to the Athletics. Sporting a 2.57 ERA/3.56 FIP/4.35 xFIP, Parker’s few problems on the mound are self-created. Parker’s 4.40 BB/9 is too high to have sustained success. However, he does keep runners off the bases, as evidenced by his .202 batting average against. Parker’s .248 BABIP may be a function of luck, as his ground ball rate is only 41.0% (sort of average), but is Parker can cut down on the walks, he can become a very good pitcher.
Bartolo Colon (facing Jon Lester) is an innings eater at this stage of his career, but every staff needs one. Get ready for fastballs, as Colon throws his 91.1 MPH four-seamer 40.6% of the time, and his 89.4 MPH two-seamer 48.6% of the time. Colon’s 4.22 ERA/4.14 FIP/4.21 xFIP is slightly below league average. Colon doesn’t hurt himself with walks (1.61 per nine innings) but has given up 12 homers in 89.2 innings this season.
A.J. Griffin (against Franklin Morales on the Fourth) is an intriguing young pitcher. He is not overpowering, with an 89.9 MPH fastball, but he has put up excellent strikeout numbers in the minors. Other than a blip at AA in 2011, Griffin’s ERA has pretty much stayed in the high twos, and his FIP was never far away from his ERA. In his last start he held the powerhouse Texas Rangers to two singles in 6 innings. Color me impressed.
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
In the last two weeks Yoenis Cespedes (.311/.367/.578, .397 wOBA, 155 wRC), Coco Crisp (.295/.380/.409, .370 wOBA, 137 wRC) and Derek Norris (.333/.357/.556, .392 wOBA, 152 wRC) are the hot hitters for the Athletics. That’s the good news. The bad news is that eight Athletics (Seth Smith, Jemile Weeks, Brandon Inge, Brandon Moss, Brandon Hicks, Jonny Gomes, Cliff Pennington and Kurt Suzuki) are hitting .200 or lower in the last two weeks. Ouch!
In the bullpen Ryan Cook, who was selected as Oakland’s All-Star, probably shouldn’t be as successful as he has been with a walk rate of 5.40 per nine innings, but with a batting average against of an otherworldly .104 he gets away with it. Jim Miller is also another bullpen pitcher who is riding his luck with a 1.80 ERA but a 4.09 FIP, a 4.91 xFIP, and a 4.34 SIERA. Brian Fuentes, on the other hand, looks on in jealousy of Cook and Miller. Fuentes is having a horrible season, sporting a 6.84 ERA/5.53 FIP/4.73 xFIP and a -0.4 fWAR.
RHP Andrew Carignan (right elbow), RHP Joey Devine (Tommy John surgery) and 2B Scott Sizemore (torn ACL in knee) are out for the season. LHP Brett Anderson (Tommy John surgery) and LHP Dallas Braden (strain in surgically repaired left shoulder) are on the 60-day DL. RF Colin Cowgill (sprained ankle) and RHP Brandon McCarthy (strained right shoulder) are on the 15-day DL.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
In the last fortnight the hot hitters for the Red Sox have been Cody Ross (.333/.385/.688, .451 wOBA, 185 wRC), Will Middlebrooks (.326/.354/.698, .435 wOBA, 174 wRC) and Adrian Gonzalez (.333/.362/.426, .342 wOBA, 111 wRC, welcome back Adrian!), with a special mention for David Ortiz (.250/.358/.659, .408 wOBA, 155 wRC) and his five homers. None of the regulars have hit especially poorly in the last two weeks, but Nick Punto (.091/.167/.091, .131 wOBA, -34 wRC) and Brent Lillibridge (.000/.000/.000, .000 wOBA, -100 wRC, the Blutarsky Award is for pitchers, dude!) have been ice cold in limited playing time.
On the bump, Franklin Morales continues his surprising season, sporting a 1.38 ERA/1.44 FIP/3.00 xFIP in the last two weeks. Aaron Cook has also been stellar since returning from the disabled list, compiling a 1.29 ERA/2.77 FIP/4.32 xFIP and an amazing 61.7% ground ball rate. Keep that sinker sinking, Aaron! In the bullpen, Vicente Padilla (0.00 ERA/3.05 FIP/5.23 xFIP) retains the Blutarsky ERA award despite surrendering 3.86 walks per nine innings, while Matt Albers (6.75 ERA/10.55 FIP/4.78 xFIP) has hit a rough patch.
The Oakland Athletics are an interesting team. With good young pitchers like Parker, Griffin and Cook, and good hitters like Reddick and Cespedes, the Athletics are probably a couple of years away from contending but Billy Beane always has a trick or two up his sleeve. There could be good times in Oaktown coming.