Jason Hammel has been around the block. He's played for Tampa Bay, Colorado, Baltimore, and Chicago. Now, he's an Oakland Athletic. After putting up three consecutive seasons with a FIP over 5.00 (that's terrible), he was traded to the Rockies for a player who was most recently spotted in Korea, pitching for a team from the city of Daegu. He would go on to have a breakout year in 2009, and stoop back to mediocrity through 2013 (excluding 2012, in which he sported a 123 ERA+ in 20 starts for the Orioles) before experiencing the first half of 2014. His ERA+ skyrocketed to 129 and his FIP plummeted to just over 3.00. Truly, a magical first half.
Then came the Athletics' first true blockbuster trade since Gio Gonzalez went to Washington. Jason Hammel and a guy named Jeff (whose last name I have given up on spelling) were shipped to Oakland for two prospects each with all-star potential, including Addison Russel, a young infielder with the raw talent to be a future MVP, and Billy McKinney, two prospects that baseball clubs nationwide would be fistfighting to acquire, whatever the price. The Cubs, however, found one. Included in that price, Jason Hammel.
In his A's debut against the cross bay rival Giants, he was unable to log the sextet of innings required for a quality start. Though many apologists may point to the Cespedes error driving up the pitch count of Hammel, it should be noted that there would not have foreseeably been any outs on that play whether the error was made or not. Therefore, Hammel, in my opinion, was very uneconomical with his pitches, even more so when you consider his opponent: The anemic offense of the San Francisco Giants. Had he not logged so many pitches, it can be reasonably stated that, in all likelihood, o'Flaherty never would have been called on in the name of logging an inning in middle relief and allowing two runs in the process.
All negativity aside, though, the advanced (and some unadvanced) metrics point to Hammel's success in his debut: He was able to log a 3.24 FIP on the night. To put that in perspective, had he pitched in the exact same manner all season, his FIP would have fallen in a range that FanGraphs calls, "great." Not too shabby. Furthermore, he was able to keep his ERA at 3.60. Not phenomenal, but respectable, even more so when when you consider that the juxtaposition between his ERA and FIP indicates something of a shabby defensive performance by those on the field behind him.
There was also one additional factor that may have governed, to a certain extent, his performance. That left thumb of his. It seemed to be stuck in an uncomfortable angle, and that may have been causing him pain and/or annoyance, detracting from his focus and therefore his effectiveness. However, given that he was deemed able to remain in the game, I can't imagine that it was anything more than an irritant.
Tonight was not a bad night for Hammel. Though many fans, including myself, were driven away by his high pitch count, his performance was not cause for any true concern. He was unable to get a quality start, the requirements of which are, in my opinion, too lenient, and therefore was rightfully charged with a loss. However, he could have justly received a no decision, given his satisfactory numbers for the game.
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