Honestly, I thought Dan Otero was a joke when he was brought up. A Giants fan had told me that he was terrible and I believed him, no questions asked. The lesson here is to never believe a Giants fan.
So far this season, Otero has a 1.66 ERA, a 1.80 FIP, and a 2.49 xFIP. This is a pretty remarkable line for someone who doesn't have overpowering stuff out of the pen and looks a bit like a troll. But how is he doing this? Is it a total fluke or is Otero the real deal?
Well first of all, I want to deal with his brief 2012 MLB stint with the Giants. It was from here that the idea of his ineptitude sprouted. But while the 5.84 ERA was Oterrible, his 2.77 FIP was not. And the ridiculously small sample size produced by only 12 innings pitched created some wonky numbers. For instance, opposing hitters had a .422 BABIP against him while having a line drive rate in line with the MLB average (only 2% higher). His LOB% was also a full 12% lower than his career norm which means that his luck was especially low with runners on base. So his 2012 cup of coffee wasn't as bad as one might think, and going by the peripherals, it may have actually been slightly above average.
Now fast forward to this year. Otero was a man amongst boys in AAA, leading to a promotion to the majors. Upon coming to Oakland, the trollfaced sinkerballer has done nothing but shut teams down, albeit in low leverage situations. The reason for this is easy as pie -- he doesn't walk anyone. Ever. The guy's BB/9 is 0.42 this year. On top of that, he doesn't give up home runs. Ever. He literally has never given up an MLB home run. And he's only given up 14 in his professional career.
Otero's 2013 numbers seem fairly sustainable and I can see him being a future 3.50 ERA type pitcher in the bullpen. His FIP is good and his BABIP against is actually higher than league average. The only possible reason why he could run into trouble this season is if our faltering middle infield messes him and his groundballs up. This could happen, with Otero throwing a career high 65% sinkers, but even a slight regression would have him as an above average pitcher.
Like it or not, Dan Otero has become a quality reliever this year. I find myself wincing less and less when he comes in, and if he keeps it up, he could start seeing higher leverage situations. With the inconsistency of Blevins behind the top guns, the A's have a bit of a hole in the 5th and 6th innings. Perhaps Otero is the solution.