Leave it to a sidearmer to be nigh impossible to figure out. I don’t mean by hitters — well, in this case I hope I do mean by hitters — I mean by prognosticators. He may as well put on a full body costume, ring the doorbell, and proclaim, “Trigg or Treat!” Who is that? Is that a relief pitcher who should mostly face righties or a solid #3 SP?
What makes Andrew Triggs so especially difficult to predict is that in almost every way his profile suggests both pros and cons. Consider this...
It is very unusual for sidearmers to succeed as SPs, largely because pitchers who come from a low arm slot usually struggle against “opposite hand” hitters, and starting lineups can stack themselves accordingly.
Let’s just say that when Justin Masterson is your crown prince, you have a very, very small castle. Masterson has a 64-74, 4.31 ERA career record built on dominance of RH batters (.220/.308./310 against) and futility trying to tame LH batters (.283/.369/.431 against).
As a result, the natural presumption is that Triggs is vulnerable as a SP, facing a slew of LH batters that will get a good look at the ball out of his hand and get accustomed to the arm slot as they see him a second or third time through the order.
Here’s the thing: in his career so far, Triggs has been very good against RH batters...and even better against LHs. The sample is still only a modest 120 IP, but so far RH batters have a career slash line of .269/.319/.410 (.315 wOBA) and LH batters have a rather stunning line of .242/.307/.394 (.301 wOBA).
How is this explained? The Eyeball Scout has noticed that Triggs does something many sidearmers and submariners do not do — and the Eyeball Scout cannot figure out why more have not followed suit — and that is to bore that hard breaking slider right in on the hands of LH batters. That slider, which disappears away from RH batters, is also a weapon against LHs, in a Mariano Rivera cutter kind of way, as it ties up batters in on the hands. Also, Triggs effectively sinks his fastball down and away from LH batters and generates a fair number of ground balls, but I would say that his effectiveness on the inner half is more essential than his good work on the outer half.
However he is doing it, Triggs is most definitely doing it: he has been very effective against LH batters, which in a vacuum suggests that he has the tools to succeed in the middle of a rotation. Then again, a wealth of history suggests that RH sidearmers/submariners just cannot sustain success over time against LH batters.
Does Triggs have what it takes to go 2-3 times through a lineup? Yes and no. On the surface, Triggs’ splits show that each time through the order he gets worse. However, in one case it’s a matter of going from “terrific” to “merely very good,” and in another case the sample is a tiny 17 IP.
The first time through the order as a SP, Triggs has held batters to a microscopic line of .223/.274/.310. (Hey, if that SP gig doesn’t work out, those numbers would play awfully nice in the pen.) The second time through Triggs has still been pretty effective, though there is a somewhat noticeable dropoff: .256/.301/.419. The third time through, Triggs has a 7.79 ERA with an opponent slash line of .257/.316/.464, but with only 17 IP of data these numbers are unduly influenced by a couple bad innings.
So basically here you have data that suggests Triggs could be a dominant short reliever, but that he also has the tools to be an effective SP. If he can stay healthy, that is...
Each of his two seasons, Triggs has had his season end due to injury. In 2016 he pitched mostly out of the bullpen before making 6 starts. In 2017 he was exclusively a SP. So each curtailed season he was pitching out of the rotation when injury hit.
Is this an indication that Triggs’ body cannot withstand the stress of pitching 6 IP every 5 days? Hard to know, since the stress of pitching 3 days/week could also take a toll. Furthermore, despite an across-the-body motion that hurts my shoulder to watch, Triggs has not had arm problems. It has been his back which has stabbed him in the, well, back.
If the goal is to keep Triggs healthy, do we know which role gives him a better chance to avoid the DL? I’m not sure we really do.
I see a range of three possible outcomes for Triggs. Given that his floor seems very high, at worst I could see him being a very good reliever. Or I could see him being a disappointing SP (e.g., ultimately more like a #5 SP), who is ultimately stretched as a SP but can soldier on when brought out of the bullpen and asked to start. Or I could see him beating all the “oughts” to be, as Oakland continues to hope he will be, a legitimate middle of the rotation SP (e.g., a #3 SP).
Does Triggs have the skills, stamina, and durability, to thrive as a SP? Or is his skill set screaming bullpen and he has masqueraded as an effective SP so far only due to small samples and some unsustainable success against LH batters? If there is one A’s player whose projection screams “Um, I really don’t know!!!” it’s Triggs. Anything, and nothing, will surprise me.
What is Andrew Triggs’ true talent level as a pitcher?
This poll is closed
A #3 SP
A #4 SP
A #5 SP
A dominant short reliever
A decent but fungible reliever