Dallas Braden is like the baseball equivalent of a bumblebee. Everyone, excluding the bumblebee itself, knows that a bumblebee can’t fly. Its body is too large for such tiny wings, it’s not sleek like the wasp. Likewise, everybody, except Braden himself, knows that his stuff won’t hold up in the majors.
Braden is a classic junkballer. His calling card is a fastball that averages just 88 MPH along with a “Bugs Bunny” change up that comes in 15 MPH slower than his fastball. He also throws a slurvy offering that averages 75 MPH, a cutter at 82 MPH and will even mix in an occasional screwball. In 69 minor league games, Braden posted an ERA of 3.30, averaged a K/9 rate of 10 and a walk rate of 2.4. Despite the sexy numbers, scouts weren’t buying Braden because of the aforesaid quirky repertoire. See for yourself in Pitch F/x. The game chart is from his start on 6/5/09, when he struck out 7 Orioles over 7 innings pitched, having allowed just a run on 5 hits. I’m pretty sure those four little dots on the middle right are screwballs.
Right now in the A’s rebuilt rotation that features stud arms like Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Vince Mazzaro, this former 24th round pick is leading the way for Oakland with a 4.39 tRA and a FIP of 3.72. He has 2.9 wins above replacement over 22 starts, and over his last 190 innings Braden has 3.5 WAR. That’s not too shabby for someone who was regarded as organizational roster filler coming up through the minors. Unfortunately, Braden’s season recently has been interrupted by an infection in his foot.
Braden is not getting the whiffs he was getting in the minors (5.7 K/9) and that’s a concern, but at least for now he’s proving to be an above average major league starter. Braden ought to give hope to young soft-tossers across the globe to remain undeterred when scouts tell them that their stuff won’t play in the big leagues.
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