The Oakland A's have played 21 games, which isn't enough time to draw any serious conclusions about anything. However, small-sample April stats are super-fun to play with -- sometimes because they're clearly ridiculous, and sometimes because you hope they aren't and that they are a sign of big things to come. Let's walk through the current 12-man pitching staff and find an interesting stat for each hurler. Click here to see the position players.
Sonny Gray | 6
That's how many walks he's issued through his first five starts. The most he's walked in a game is two, and in four of his starts he issued only one free pass. He only had seven starts all of last season in which he handed out one walk or fewer. His strikeouts are down too as he seems to be pitching more to contact, but given that he's shown he can consistently limit hits and homers that's a tradeoff I'm willing to make. If Sonny continues to walk only 4.4% of batters (that's an elite rate), he really will be a Cy Young contender.
Scott Kazmir | 1.5
That's his bWAR through four starts, putting him behind only Dallas Keuchel, Nick Martinez (!!), and Chris Archer among all MLB pitchers. At that pace, at 32 starts for the season, he'd be worth 12 bWAR this year. Obviously that won't happen, nor will his ERA stay at 0.99, but it's a good expression of just how dominant Kaz has been so far. He's allowing a hit only every other inning, while striking out nearly 10 batters per nine frames. The hits will go up, but it's nice to see he can still rack up the punchouts.
Jesse Hahn | 1
That's the number of starts he missed due to the blister on his finger. The DL wasn't necessary, and Jesse Chavez was good enough in his spot start to wrestle a rotation spot outright from the struggling Kendall Graveman. Hahn is starting today (Wed.), and we can reevaluate his status when we see how that goes. Hopefully this setback will be quickly forgotten, and we can go back to worrying about his fragile arm.
Drew Pomeranz | 4.20
That's his strikeout-to-walk ratio. Like Sonny, Pom's walks are down -- only five, in four starts. But unlike Sonny, Pom is still striking out a batter per inning. Efficiency is still an issue, as he's only finished the sixth inning once so far, and that's because he's still working a lot of deep counts and missing the zone too much. My hunch is that Pom's diminished walk rate seems more likely to be a small-sample mirage than Sonny's is, but I also have to think that his ERA (4.50) will creep down toward his FIP (3.63).
Jesse Chavez | 180
That's how many innings he would throw if he stayed in the rotation for the rest of the year (assuming 28 more starts at his 2014 average of six innings per game). He sat in the back of the bullpen for the first few turns through the rotation, so he's only thrown a dozen frames so far. He reached 146 last year, so bumping up to 180 shouldn't greatly scare even the verducciest among us. Chavez looked awfully good in his first start of the year, and if he settles in like he did in the first half last year then it will be nice knowing that we don't have to freak out about his workload.
Tyler Clippard | 1
That's how many saves he has in three weeks as the team's closer. It's not all his fault, though; he's only gotten two save opportunities, in which he is 1-for-2. There were two other games in which the setup men (specifically O'Flaherty and Otero) blew the lead in the eighth before it could even get to Clippard in the ninth. Otherwise, the "problem" has been that the A's only win by huge margins -- their smallest margin of victory has been three, and they've only done that once. So, Clippard has saved every single game that the A's have won by three runs or fewer. Note that the team still has two total saves, since Chavez earned one with his 11-out mop-up job after Hahn's blister forced him to leave (3+ innings to close out any win counts as a save, just to make the stat as meaningless as possible). Also note that I don't mean to downplay the important truth: the A's haven't won any close games precisely because the bullpen has blown them all. But that's been a group effort, not a one-man circus.
Eric O'Flaherty | 4.82
That's his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), compared with his 11.37 ERA. Still not sparkling, but much more reasonable. I do wonder how much of his latest meltdown (1 out recorded, 3 walks, 1 hit, 3 runs) was due to the moisture in Houston, as the extra-inning rain seemed to pick up extra hard right before he lost all control. All we can do is be patient with a guy who is keeping two-thirds of his batted balls on the ground while striking out more than a batter per inning. Those are elite peripherals on their own. And, as a bonus, he's stranded 5-of-6 inherited runners, so he hasn't been all bad.
Dan Otero | 37.5%
That's his groundball rate, with only 12-of-32 batted balls living on the turf. He's been at 56% each of the last two seasons, so this is quite a drop for him. Otero is supposed to operate by not walking anybody and then keeping the ball on the ground and inside the park. He's two-thirds of the way there -- in 10 innings, his only walk was intentional and his only homer was by the reigning MLB leader in homers who also happens to be leading the league again this year. But if you want to know why the usually reliable Otero has already blown one save and lost another tie game and has an ERA of 4.50, I'll bet it has something to do with all the missing grounders. Heck, he hasn't induced a single GIDP yet, and that's supposed to be his bread-and-butter. Hopefully this one is a small-sample fluke and he returns to normal soon. But, say, guess what new pitch he's throwing 11% of the time, that he'd never thrown before? It rhymes with Nutter Butter.
Fernando Abad | 16-14
That's the total number of plate appearances against him by right-handed batters and left-handed batters, respectively. And, just like in the last two seasons, the lefties are already hitting better against him than the righties, currently by .300 points of OPS. OK, the 2015 numbers don't mean anything yet, but he hasn't been better against lefties since 2012. The greater point is that it's time to stop thinking of Abad as a LOOGY, especially given that a majority of his outings have lasted for at least three outs. His skill is not as a lefty specialist, and that's not how he's being used most of the time. Abad should be looked at like a righty who happens to throw with his left hand, if that makes any sense.
Evan Scribner | 14.00
That's his strikeout-to-walk ratio. Scribner was quietly phenomenal in Triple-A last year, and he's carrying some of that success into the Majors. After striking out the side against the Angels on Tuesday, he has a 1.46 ERA in just over a dozen innings. But the truly impressive part is that he has only walked one batter -- the Doo Watch is on between Scribbles and Otero to see who can go the longest without issuing his second walk. Even if Scribner doesn't make the jump all the way to setup man, he might be establishing himself as an excellent middle reliever.
Ryan Cook | 19
That's the number of games the A's played while Cook worked on his control in Triple-A. He made five quality appearances for Nashville and he seems to be back to normal, having thrown a 1-2-3 inning in his return to MLB on Sunday. The pen is shaky right now, and Cook returning to his old self would be a well-timed stabilizing force.
Chris Bassitt | .000
That's the batting average he's allowed to opposing left-handed hitters, who are 0-for-10 with three walks and a HBP. Of course, he's also only pitched in one game so far, in which he mopped up for Graveman, so you can file this one under "tiny-sample noise," pure and simple. It is no secret that facing left-handers is Bassitt's weakness, and his splits in his debut outing are not representative of his skills (righties went 2-for-7 with a HR). That script will quickly flip.
In conclusion, here is a video of Ike Davis retiring three straight Angels.
If I can't have Pat Venditte, then I at least hope we get to see Ike pitch again this year.