Little was expected from 30-year-old Chris Bassitt entering the season. He was solid in 11 games (eight starts) for the A’s in 2018, but had still yet to prove himself to be a reliable major league arm. He began the 2019 season on the injured list due to a lower-leg contusion, but didn’t seem likely to open the year in Oakland’s rotation even if healthy.
By late April, a mix of injuries and underperformance opened a spot in the rotation for Bassitt. The righty grabbed it and hasn’t looked back since. He has been one of the A’s most consistent starters, and on Saturday night he added another highlight to his strong season.
Bassitt, 9/7 vs DET: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 11K, 108 pitches, 73 strikes
Bassitt’s 11 strikeouts were a career high and led Oakland to a 10-2 victory over the Tigers. Let’s take a closer look at his great night.
On the surface, Bassitt’s start wasn’t all that impressive. The strikeouts were nice, but he only completed six innings and gave up eight hits. He allowed a .297 wOBA, which actually ranks 10th-highest out of his 24 starts this season.
But Statcast paints a different picture. His .265 xwOBA against was his eighth-lowest mark of the season. This was thanks in part to a 33.3% whiff rate on the night (his second-highest in a start this year) and a 7° launch angle against (tied for his second-lowest).
Bassitt’s command was also phenomenal. His 60.2% zone rate was his third-highest mark of the year. The only starts in which he threw more of his pitches in the zone were his previous two starts, against the Royals and the Giants.
Bassitt has been limited by control issues at times this season, so it’s nice to see his command trending in the right direction, even against lesser opponents.
“He has the ability to be a little effectively wild,” manager Bob Melvin, via our own Alex Hall. “When he’s not giving free passes, it makes it a lot easier on him, to where if he gives up a hit or two like he did [Saturday], there aren’t guys on base.”
Bassitt’s bread and butter is his slow, loopy curveball, and it was working as well as ever on Saturday night. He even said so himself.
“We’ve been kind of tinkering my grips on my curveball just because I feel like it’s been kind of popping out of my hand of late,” said Bassitt, “but tonight was I’d say by far the best it’s been all year.”
This time, the numbers support the eye test. Bassitt threw 20 curveballs on Saturday night, 11 for strikes. He also picked up four of his 11 strikeouts on the pitch. It was not put into play a single time.
Bassitt’s fastball was also quite effective, drawing six whiffs. But it was his curveball that kept hitters off balance all night.
Unfortunately, there’s a notable caveat to Bassitt’s strong start — it came against the Tigers. Detroit’s offense is tied with the Miami Marlins for the worst in the majors, as both teams have mustered only a 77 wRC+. The Tigers have scored just 520 runs this season.
Detroit also has the highest strikeout rate in the league at 26.7%. Only five Tigers hitters have posted a wRC+ of 100 or better this season — outfielder Nicholas Castellanos (105) who was dealt to the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline; left-handed pitchers Matthew Boyd (176) and Gregory Soto (471); and veteran Miguel Cabrera (101) and outfielder Victor Reyes (100).
Unfortunately, this puts something of an asterisk on Bassitt’s dominant night. But he still got the job done against a lineup of (somewhat) major league-caliber hitters.