With Jesse Hahn scratched from his start to rest his sore forearm, Chris Bassitt will take the hill for the Oakland A's. From the standpoint of trying to win the game, this is a bummer because Hahn is having a fantastic season with a 114 ERA+, but from the standpoint of a 39-50 team I can find two
silver green and gold linings in this. The first is that Hahn, with an injury history and a professional career-high of around 115 innings, will get a short midseason rest, and thus a sort of stepping stone toward building to a full workload in 2016 -- assuming this is indeed just a muscle strain and therefore a short bump in the road. The second golden lining is that we get another chance to evaluate Bassitt.
As I've written before, Bassitt's scouting report says that he's excellent against right-handed hitters but struggles against lefties. Fortunately, the schedule has allowed him to ease his way into things; in his first start, he faced a bad lineup full of righties (Rockies, only 3 lefties), and in his second start he moved a half-step up to a bad lineup full of lefties (Mariners, 7 of them). Now he gets a slightly bigger challenge against the Indians, with a decent lineup full of as many as 7 lefties:
- Jason Kipnis (149 OPS+, 2nd in AL in bWAR)
- Michael Brantley (only 119 OPS+, but 151 last year)
- Brandon Moss (14 homers, is Boss)
- Carlos Santana (career 125 OPS+)
- David Murphy (136 OPS+)
- Michael Bourn (used to be good)
- Francisco Lindor (could be good any day now, and had 2 hits last night)
The rest of the roster is right-handed, including both catchers and the current third baseman (Giovanny Urshela). Of those lefties, Kipnis in particular has been tough on right-handers with a 1.010 OPS and more walks than strikeouts in 236 plate appearances. The switch-hitting Santana has been better from the right side (against LHP) for his career, but that split is currently flipped in his smaller 2015 sample.
How has Bassitt performed against lefty hitters so far? Nico gave us an eyeball scouting report, with a positive review of Bassitt's slider but fears about his fastball command, his curve's consistency, and his changeup overall. As noted in that report, the results turned out pretty well even though Bassitt often missed his spots. His lines against LHH and RHH in his first two starts:
vs. LHH: 6-for-23, all singles, 4 Ks, 1 BB, 1 HBP, at least 6 "loud outs"
vs. RHH: 4-for-17, 1 double, 2 Ks, 0 BB
As you can see, Bassitt has done fairly well against all hitters so far, with only one extra-base hit in his two starts and a sharp K:BB ratio. Of course, the A's ended up losing both games, but they also only scored one run themselves in each contest so they were probably going down no matter who was on the hill -- none of their 11 shutout wins this year have come by a 1-0 score.
As the A's pile up the losses in July and contention slips further from their grasp, it gets more and more likely that they will trade starting pitcher Scott Kazmir. If they don't do that, it'll probably be because Kazmir's injury unexpectedly forces him to miss some time. In either scenario, Bassitt seems like the next guy on the rotation's depth chart, so this could be an audition for August rather than just for 2016 -- especially if Hahn has to miss time in the second half too.
Chris Bassitt is finally going to get a real test on Saturday. He's stayed stable so far with the help of some training wheels, but he'll face some seriously tough lefties in Cleveland. How do you think he'll perform? What did you think of his first two starts? Share in the comments! Game time is 3:35 p.m.
Bassitt, first 2 starts: 2.53 ERA, 10⅔ innings, 6 Ks, 1 BB, 0 HR, 10 hits, 1 HBP
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