At long last, we are going to look at some pitchers in our Oakland Athletics season review series. Given that they usually have higher jersey numbers than position players, only one of the first 17 A's we reviewed was a hurler. However, six of the next seven will be pitchers. We'll start with No. 25, incidental swingman Josh Lindblom.
Name: Josh Lindblom, aka ... Josh
Position: RHP, starting
Stats: 1 start, 3.86 ERA, 4⅔ innings, 2 ER, 5 H, 1 HR, 2 Ks, 2 BB, 1 HBP
WAR: 0.1 bWAR, negative-0.1 fWAR
How he got here: Acquired from Texas Rangers prior to 2014
2014 Salary: $500,100
2015 Status: Free agent*
2015 Salary: TBD (estimated $500,100)
* claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh Pirates, then released
There's not much to say about Josh Lindblom, but he played for the A's this year so we'll say as much as we can. He was acquired as the spare part in the trade that sent Michael Choice to the Rangers for Craig Gentry; the Rangers picked up low-minors lottery ticket Chris Bostick, and the A's got Lindblom as depth for their starting rotation. It was a win-now trade, with the A's sending two prospects in exchange for one established MLB player and one MLB-ready depth pitcher. Gentry did his part as the valuable platoon outfielder, and Choice flopped in Texas (for now), so the trade was a success so far in terms of the headline players. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Lindblom didn't get a chance to contribute much to the cause.
Lindblom had pitched in the Majors in each of the previous three seasons. He appeared exclusively out of the bullpen in 2011 and 2012, but the Rangers stretched him out to start in 2013. For the A's, he was an emergency option, the guy you turn to when you need a starter at the last minute but whom you don't trust with a regular rotation spot. His job was to pitch for Triple-A Sacramento and then fill in on a moment's notice in Oakland when called upon.
As it turned out, that call only came once in 2014. The second game of the season was rained out, marking the first regular season rainout at the Coliseum since 1998. Therefore, a doubleheader was scheduled the next day to complete the season-opening three-game series against the Cleveland Indians. The A's opted to bring up a spot starter from Triple-A in order to keep the rest of the rotation on regular rest, and that starter was Lindblom. Due to the last-minute doubleheader, the team was allowed to add a 26th player for the day without sending anyone down, so there was no corresponding move. Lindblom just came up, made his start, then went back to the minors and was never heard from again.
The start itself was mediocre. Lindblom didn't quite make it through five innings, but he went long enough that he accomplished the primary objective of not completely screwing over the bullpen. He only gave up a couple of runs (on a homer by Mike Aviles), so he kept the team in the game while he was in there. It wasn't a quality start, but it's safe to say that he got the job done. The A's ended up losing when Jim Johnson couldn't hold a 4-3 lead in the ninth, but that's not Lindblom's fault. Although he'd been acquired for Choice, he received no decision in this game.
One way to illustrate how mediocre Lindblom's start was is to look at how it measures up on the two versions of WAR. Baseball-Reference thinks it was a good start, because the results were good -- he only gave up two runs and he finished with a better-than-average ERA (105 ERA+). Fangraphs thinks it was a bad start, because the process was bad (in terms of fielding-independent pitching stats) -- he didn't strike out a lot of batters, he walked one for every K, he gave up a home run in a small number of innings, and he got no extra credit for stranding 91 percent of his baserunners. If you're wondering what the difference is between the two WARs, that's one good example.
That was Lindblom's only MLB appearance in 2014, but it wasn't because the A's didn't need a spot starter again. He fell flat in Triple-A, posting a 5.79 ERA in 84 innings over 17 games (16 starts), and he made only two appearances after June 26 due to injury. After a lost season, the A's designated him for assignment on Nov. 28 to make room for the acquisitions in the Josh Donaldson trade. The Pirates claimed him off waivers, but they released him 11 days later.
2014 season grade, relative to expectations: C- ... He was supposed to be an emergency spot starter. He made an emergency spot start, and it was the definition of mediocre. That's about all there is to it. He could have dropped the minus by staying healthy and available all year.
2014 season grade, overall: C- ... Perfectly average replacement-level player. He is the "R" in WAR.
Nope. There are none. Instead of a video of an average pitcher, here is the Average White Band playing a song that is neither engrossing nor offensive.
Josh Lindblom was not an important part of the A's story in 2014, but he was a part of it. He will probably not be a part of it in 2015. And that's all I have to say about that.