Remembering Joey Devine’s 2008 Brilliance

Four years ago, Joey Devine was a sensation with the Oakland Athletics. The 24-year-old rookie torched the American League for 45.2 innings, allowing just three earned runs to cross the plate in his 42 appearances.

In professional baseball history, there have been 24,553 pitcher seasons with at least 40 innings thrown. In 1911, Buck O’Brien of the Boston Red Sox set an ERA- record that has never been broken. He allowed two earned runs in five complete game starts (covering 47.2 innings, even), enough for an 11 ERA-. Many have come close, but none closer than Devine in 2008 — his 0.59 ERA translates to a 14 ERA-, the second-best mark in history.

But that season was ended in August as Devine was forced to go under the knife for his first Tommy John surgery. Earlier this week, only 23 MLB innings and another Tommy John surgery later, the Athletics outrighted Devine. The 29-year-old elected free agency.

Devine might not quite be ready for the season — his most recent surgery was performed in early April 2012 — but he should manage to find work. He’s young enough to still offer promise, and he did pitch well in his return in 2011 before re-injuring his elbow. He allowed a 3.52 ERA with a 2.98 FIP in 26 appearances, and he extended his stretch of not allowing a major league home run to 60 consecutive innings.

Devine didn’t prove to be the havoc-wreaking force we saw in 2008 when he returned in 2011. Unsurprising, most issues came against left-handed batters, as Devine threw from a roughly three-quarters arm slot and employed a fastball-slider-curveball mix — no changeups for the left-handed batters. Lefties hit .268/.380/.439 off Devine in 2011 after hitting just .191/.286/.230 against him in 2008.

But the dominance against right-handed batters remained. Devine held hitters to an absurd .120/.182/.130 line in 2008; they still couldn’t hit him in 2011, slashing just .156/.245/.163 off him. Against 212 right-handed hitters for his career, Devine has allowed a .224 wOBA — he turned them into Emmanuel Burress.

There’s no guarantee this Joey Devine still exists, and even if it does, there’s no guarantee he can give a sustained effort without his elbow disintegrating again, but the chance is there. With an opportunity, perhaps he can add to what is for now just one of baseball’s brightest flashes in the pan.

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14 Responses to “Remembering Joey Devine’s 2008 Brilliance”

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  1. Tyler says:

    Timely article.

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  2. Krog says:

    I wonder how the pitcher’s who have needed two Tommy John surgeries have fared following their second surgery. I doubt the results are very good.

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    • geo says:

      Chris Capuano. Hong-Chih Kuo. But yeah, in general, multiples don’t tend to bode well.

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    • AK7007 says:

      It is gonna get real interesting what with Devine and Wilson coming back at the same time from second TJ – both were elite pitchers, whereas previous two-time TJ pitchers weren’t exactly crazy good to start with.

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    • ValueArb says:

      During the Rizzo-Strasburg kerfuffle, the stats Yocum gave indicated that a 2nd TJ surgery within 2 years of the first was a career ender about 65% of the time. Which is clearly one reason why Rizzo was so careful with Strasburg.

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    • AA says:

      I think second surgery pitchers are becoming more successful now because of a couple reasons.

      1) The second surgery tends to use a leg tendon instead of a secondary arm ligament, so it tends to be tougher.

      2) The increase in use of PRP, which has eliminated the need for surgery in the first place with guys like Takashi Saito, has also helped with recovery and re-injury in players who have undergone TJS.

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  3. Chris says:

    I remember when he came up for the Braves. He was supposed to be Craig Kimbrel before there was Craig Kimbrel.

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    • Yellowbelly says:

      His mid 90’s fastball had ridiculous movement along with still one of the best sliders I’ve seen. One of those pitchers that was just fun to watch in his prime. It’s too bad his prime was basically only a season or two.

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      • rageon says:

        Sadly the list of “most ridiculous pitches ever” includes way too many guys who were later injured and never the same.

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  4. Billy Beane says:

    Better than Mark Kotsay

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  5. Antonio Bananas says:

    As a Braves fan, I’ll always remember him for the marathon NLDS vs HOU.

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  6. Michael says:

    I’m willing to bet the Red Sox grab him and he’s back on top by the all star break.

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