Today, we take a look at Evan Scribner and the A's attempts to fill the role of garbage-time reliever. He was picked up via waivers from San Diego in October of 2011.
He has a career K:BB ratio of 2.3:1. Unfortunately, his career ground ball % is only 36.9%, leaving him at the mercy of the opposing bats, weather and his outfielders. As indicated by his appearance on Tuesday, he simply does not have the stuff to face power hitters.
Scribbles currently boasts four pitches: fastball, cutter, changeup and curve. The changeup is seldom used and the command is spotty. The fastball tops out around 90 mph. The cutter comes in around 84 and the curveball is in the low 70s. When he uses the curveball well, he can roll through a couple of innings.
0:03 - Curve, ground ball out: This is what Scribner can go to to pick up weak contact for outs. The well-placed curve won't get hit hard.
0:13 - Fastball, ground ball out: Pitch came in a bit high, but Andrus was unable to capitalize. Kind of an unremarkable pitch, but it was OK for a first pitch. It wasn't right out over the plate, but it got the job done.
0:21 - Perfect pitch to throw to Hamilton, the curveball in the dirt. The curve can be an awfully good out pitch. When he has his command, he can mix it with the fastball and retire a few guys.
0:33 - Fastball right out over the plate. This was a gift from the BABIP gods. Moss was positioned perfectly. Unfortunately, this was a very hard-hit ball that Scribner left out over the plate. It's pitches like these that lead to performances like last Tuesday against Anaheim.
0:41 - Curveball out over the plate, between the belt and the knees. Another hard-hit ball to the right place.
0:45 - Nice location! He has to keep locating the fastball like that.
0:53 - Nice job putting the fastball low in the zone. That's a ball that's rarely going to leave the infield.
1:08 - Good job keeping the fastball from the heart of the plate. He gave Kinsler a bit more of the plate than he should have on an 0-2 pitch, though.
1:15 - Fastball out over the plate. Not great. Luckily, Andrus isn't known for power.
So, what is there to take away from this performance? He doesn't have enough pitches to do much more than relief work, and unless he really masters that curve, he won't be able to do much more than the role he's currently in. He got away with a few mistakes, though he made quite a few nice pitches. The pitch that struck out Napoli was excellent. If he can master the changeup or cutter, he'd be able to do a lot of damage against opposing hitters. Every single one of the pitches in that video was a fastball or curve. Here's an appearance against a much weaker Padres lineup, as well. It didn't really change my conclusions about him.
Since the departure of Travis Blackley, the A's have experimented with both Scribner and Jesse Chavez in hopes of finding someone who can eat up innings. Unfortunately, Blackley had a very poor spring in 2013 and it appeared to Beane and the rest of the front office that his 2012 was just a flash in the pan. What they had in 2012 was a very rare commodity: a swingman who could fill in as a spot starter, long reliever or even as a middle reliever. He could be plugged into essentially any role the A's needed. Right now, they seem to be looking to use that 7th bullpen spot on a guy who can simply eat up innings. Unfortunately, it's hard to find someone who is on a big-league roster to eat up innings while not giving up runs. Most of the garbage-time relievers who don't give up runs quickly find themselves in bigger roles and those who do give up runs quickly find themselves out of the major leagues. It's one of those roles where they're looking for the least ugly girl at the dance.
Past the 25-man roster, there are few viable options at the moment. Looking through the River Cats roster, Figueroa appears to be struggling, while Ekstrom and Banwart, the only viable candidates right now, aren't on the 40-man. Andrew Werner struggled through his first four starts but looked quite good last Friday against Salt Lake City. However, I can't imagine the A's will put him in the bullpen. Andrew Carignan and Jordan Norberto remain out with injuries. My personal hope is that Norberto fully recovers, pans out and can work as a legitimate middle reliever who can routinely go 1-2 innings.
For the moment, it appears to be Scribner or Chavez.
In other words, Scribner or bust.