The Athletics are trotting out pitchers who simply refuse to walk opposing batters. It’s getting crazy really. In fact, every member of their current rotation with the exception of Jarrod Parker, sports a sub-2.0 walk rate! That’s pretty amazing. Two of those pitchers have pretty much come out of nowhere this year. Let’s see what we can expect next season.
After making three starts in August and then being sent back down to the minors, Dan Straily is back up with the big club. We are well aware of how dominating a season he has had in the minors this year, posting strikeout rates above 11.0 at both Double-A and Triple-A, while maintaining a mid-2.0 walk rate. Although his already excellent control has looked even better so far in the Majors, as per his 1.9 BB/9, his F-Strike% is merely good, not great. That level would typically match up better with a walk rate closer to three. Of course, it is difficult for any pitcher to sustain a sub-2.0 walk rate, though there are currently 17 qualified pitchers who have done just that.
He has done an excellent job of inducing what we can assume is weak contact, as his O-Swing% sits respectably above the league average. He has also allowed an O-Contact% significantly higher than the league average, which means that batters are making contact with the balls he’s throwing outside the zone, and that should keep his BABIP low.
Given an underwhelming fastball though, one must wonder how much of his impressive strikeout rate will translate to the bigs. He has posted a healthy 9.8% SwStk% so far though, so that’s a good sign, but clearly it’s a far cry from what would be necessary to post a strikeout rate of even a batter per inning. He will be an interesting case of whether we should have trusted the stats or the scouting reports.
Another concern is his fly ball rate, which would easily lead all starters if he had enough innings. The fly ball tendency will reduce his BABIP and he pitches in a good ball park to suppresses the bombs, but it will still be an issue. He’ll be an interesting flyer next year, but I have a feeling that projections will be all over the place.
A.J. Griffin is another guy who has seemingly come out of nowhere and has shown fantastic control as well. He’s walked just 29 batters over 159 innings (a 1.6 BB/9) through the minors and Majors this season. Griffin’s F-Strike% is a decent bit higher than Straily’s and although again it would be difficult to project a sustained sub-2.0 BB/9, he looks to have a low 2.0 walk rate skill.
His fastball velocity is even worse than Straily’s, as it has averaged less than 90.0 miles per hour. Still, combined with a selection of three other pitches, he has generated a SwStk% just below the league average. Griffin has also been a fly ball pitcher, but not nearly to the degree that Straily has. His minor league history also gives us little hope of more grounders in the near term. Griffin should be easier project going forward and will likely be a borderline mixed league play next season.
Of course, Straily has the worse SIERA, but his potential strikeout rate upside and an assumption that his fly ball rate will likely come down some should result in a better ERA projection than Griffin. They should post a similar WHIP though, but then it comes back to the strikeouts in which Straily clearly has the leg up.
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