Eyeball-Scout: What's For Real And What Isn't With Starting Pitchers

First of all, I know some readers like my "eyeball analysis" and some readers abhor my "eyeball analysis," so let me just say that the fact I do not support my eyeball analyses with stats is not to suggest that those stats don't matter. There are writers who are really skilled at finding, and interpreting, various metrics and I offer a skill that is neither better nor worse, neither more or less legitimate - just different, distinct, and thus hopefully another set of ideas to ponder.

OK, now I've run out of time. Good night. No seriously, regarding some of the A's starting pitchers, a few stray thoughts - which come neutered but not vaccinated:

Josh Outman - I have expressed concern that Outman cannot sustain success as a starter because his fastball lacks great movement and he does not have good control overall. Are his most recent 4 starts for real? I say, "sort of."

What has impressed me is that Outman's changeup looks better and better, to where I believe it is a plus pitch to go with a solid slider and high-velocity fastball. However, what has really allowed Outman to excel lately is that he has been able to throw a lot of quality strikes, and I am dubious as to whether he has suddenly mastered control (not something that often happens) as compared to the notion that perhaps he has had a nice run of unusually good control, allowing him to have an unusually good month.

Dallas Braden - Personally, I think Braden is for real. His success starts with what I consider to be one of the single key skills and that is the ability to command his fastball. Braden is doing what a pitcher wants to do: He is able to spot his fastball early in the count, get ahead, and then work hitters by changing speeds and working both sides of the plate.

How important is "fastball command"? Braden 2009 is actually very similar to Greg Smith 2008, only with the ability to command his fastball.

Sure I'd like to see more strikeouts, and his reliance on fly balls means there will be some HRs, and those shortcomings will prevent Braden from being the #1 in any good rotation. I think Braden's true ability is as a strong #3, maybe a weak #2, which is about what Joe Blanton was for the A's. Not bad.

Brett Anderson - Forget about potential, I think Anderson is the A's second best starter right now. I see him as having every bit the potential to be a #1 starter if he stays healthy. His slider, the last two starts, has been pretty wicked and when you start with a 93MPH fastball you can spot on either side of the plate, you're in good shape.

One observation I would throw in, though, is that Anderson appears to me to have better command from the windup than he has off the stretch.

Trevor Cahill - Cahill is this year's Eveland 2008 and Kennedy 2007. Look at the number of baserunners, not the ERA, and you'll see why Cahill is a ways from turning the corner.

Obviously, fastball command is not there - to the point where like Eveland, Cahill really has no idea where a given pitch is going. Equally troubling is how unimpressive the offspeed stuff has been, to the point where I can't figure out how Cahill put up such good strikeout numbers in the minors. Sure, A and AA hitters will chase pitches major league hitters won't chase, but the offspeed pitches Cahill is throwing right now aren't going to get A or AA hitters chasing or missing.

An additional concern I have, because I still like Cahill as a prospect long-term, is that his motion looks to me like it puts a lot of stress on his shoulder. I remember that Driveline Mechanics rated him fairly low, but not terrible, in terms of injury risk. I worry that as easy as Anderson's mechanics are, Cahill's are anything but fluid or low stress. Just something to watch.

So there's some of my "quickie thoughts," based purely on watching and trying to  observant as I can be. Your thoughts?

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