By Jason Wojciechowski on August 14, 2013 at 7:46 AM
Opponent: Houston Astros
Starting pitchers: Jarred Cosart vs. Jarrod Parker
First pitch: 7:05 PT
A's in the West: One game (two wins) behind Texas
A's in the Wild Card: Leaders for first Wild Card
Baseball Prospectus playoff odds: 36 percent division, 43 percent Wild Card
Yesterday's 5–4 final score and narrow miss on a walk-off homer by Chris Young, who sliced a ball mere inches from the fair pole in left field, sat around and watched Bob Melvin talk to the umpires about it, waited for the umps to go review it, then finally minutes later stepped back into the box and waved at a high fastball for strike three, as Chris Young does, should not obscure that after all that I said about Jordan Lyles, he had his third-best game of the year against the A's:
I'm not good enough at iPad video scouting to tell you whether all those balls in play that resulted in outs were more luck, more hitter fault, or more pitcher inducing weak contact. The specific memory of Josh Reddick's screaming liner on a hanging hanger of a pitch sticks with me
Goddamn did that ball hang up. I started shouting about how hard Reddick would hit it before he made contact. Sigh.— Jason Wojciechowski (@jlwoj) August 14, 2013
but a closer analysis is called for and, I'll be honest, I was playing Angband while I watched.
Today is a Jarr[e|o]d battle. The one for the Astros is a well-regarded prospect (or was a well-regarded prospect—he hasn't used up his rookie eligibility yet, but I assume he's here to stay) acquired from the Phillies in the 2011 Hunter Pence trade. Jason Parks rated him fifth in the Astros system, but the Astros system is quite good, as three of the players ahead of him are Jonathan Singleton, Carlos Correa, and George Springer, all of whom have star potential, and the fourth is Delino DeShields, who hates to run. Parks and the BP team saw Cosart as a future reliever, but he's starting for now, and he's starting with a 95 mph fastball and a curve with a similar PITCHf/x profile to that of Adam Wainwright (though Cosart's comes in about 4 mph harder).
Cosart has made five starts this year and he's yet to allow more than two runs, earned or otherwise, in any game, including his seven-inning start at home against the A's on July 23rd. The thing is that Cosart has walked 17 and struck out just 14 of the 132 batters he's faced, percentages that won't make anybody's momma proud. If the A's can take advantage of all the balls in play and all the free baserunners, this game won't be as dire as Cosart's 1.36 ERA this year might indicate.
Jarrod Parker has somewhat quietly salvaged his year. He still doesn't have a single dominant start to his name (just twice, for instance, has he notched more strikeouts than innings pitched, and one of those was his four-homer game against Cleveland), but from April 30th to July 23rd, Parker lowered his season ERA in every game he pitched. He then had a bad outing against the Angels on the 28th, but was very solid against Texas and Toronto in his two starts so far this month. From May 6th to June 23rd, Parker threw nine straight quality starts, and in July and August, five of his six games have met that standard.
Baseball Prospectus still has Parker basically at replacement level, in no small part, most likely, because it doesn't buy into his record on balls in play (the .254 BABIP is good even for his park and defense) and we may have to accept that this merely decent pitcher is what Parker is.
For what it's worth, he and Trevor Cahill have almost exactly the same WARP over the last two years.
Prediction: A's win.