The Oakland A’s have the hottest starter in the American League, but it’s not who you might have guessed back in July when the season began. It’s not presumed ace Frankie Montas, nor last year’s playoff starter Sean Manaea, nor star rookie Jesús Luzardo, nor reliable veteran Mike Fiers. Rather, it’s a pitcher who arguably began the spring sixth on the team’s depth chart.
On Monday, Chris Bassitt was named the American League Pitcher of the Month for September. It’s the first such award of the 31-year-old’s career, and the first for the A’s since 2018.
The honor is no surprise considering the numbers Bassitt posted. In four starts this month, he allowed just one run total, against the Astros, Rangers, Giants, and Mariners. The one run came on a solo homer by Joey Gallo, one of the premier sluggers in the sport. The A’s won all four games, and the resulting ERA was the second-lowest in Oakland history after Corey Lidle’s 0.20 in August of 2002.
Bassitt, Sept: 0.34 ERA, 26⅔ ip, 25 Ks, 5 BB, 23 hits, 2.37 FIP, .262 xwOBA
That line is sparkling across the board. He struck out a batter per inning and five per walk, and achieved his low ERA without anything too fluky with his batted balls — his hit rate and BABIP were normal and sustainable, and he even allowed a homer. Rather, he did a good job of scattering the baserunners, not adding extra ones via free passes, and stranding whoever did reach, aided by an ability to miss bats when needed (12.4% swinging strike rate on all pitches he threw).
After a few rough outings in August, the torrid September performance lowered the right-hander’s season ERA to 2.29, lowest in the A’s rotation by nearly two runs. That mark ranks ninth among all MLB starters with at least 50 innings.
Bassitt, 2020: 2.29 ERA, 63 ip, 55 Ks, 17 BB, 6 HR, 3.59 FIP, .288 xwOBA
All of that success left no doubt about Bassitt’s standing in the rotation. He was the most consistently strong arm in the group all summer, and that earned him a nod in Oakland’s first-round playoff series this week. He’ll start Game 2 of the Wild Card Round against the Chicago White Sox, marking his first career postseason appearance. Coincidentally, the White Sox drafted him in 2011 before trading him to the A’s after the 2014 campaign.
As for his Pitcher of the Month award, Bassitt becomes the 18th Oakland hurler to receive the honor since it began in 1975, and this is the 25th total time the A’s have gotten it. The most recent winner was Sean Manaea in April 2018, the month of his no-hitter. Before that, the list from the last 10 years includes Rich Hill (2016), Scott Kazmir (2015), Sonny Gray twice (both 2014), and Bartolo Colon (2013). Dave Stewart, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito each won three times in green and gold. Click here for the full list.
Congrats to Bassitt on a well-earned honor! May he continue to hound hitters this week in the playoffs.