By Jason Wojciechowski on September 11, 2013 at 7:54 AM
Opponent: Minnesota Twins
Starting pitchers: Sonny Gray vs. Mike Pelfrey
First pitch: 5:10 PT
A's in the West: First place, 2 games ahead of Texas
A's in the Wild Card: Texas is also the top Wild Card; Tampa Bay is second, 4 1/2 games behind Oakland
Baseball Prospectus playoff odds: 68 percent division, 31 percent Wild Card
I hope you won't consider this a lecture on how to be a fan or anything of that sort—that's obnoxious and I hate when people do that. (Hence my stance on The Wave, which is essentially "quit being such a whiny hipster, you're not actually going to miss any of the game.") I just want to point out a certain amount of helpful emotional distance as regards bad losses and playoff races, which is that when Ryan Cook blows a winnable game in the eighth inning by giving up a homer to Josh Willingham in the eighth inning, that hurts the A's playoff chances, but it doesn't hurt those chances any more than if Compliantpork had hit four bombs in four at-bats and the Twins had won 9–3. A loss like the A's suffered last night is emotionally painful, and it would be frustrating if the A's were up 15 in the division or down 15, but their place in the standings is what it is irrespective of the manner of winning and losing.
Like I said, that's the perspective I take on it, not the perspective I think you're required to take.
I have no idea what Mike Pelfrey has been up to lately. He's still tall (6'7"), I know that much. He's apparently getting his velocity back. Check the month-by-month rise here after he had Tommy John surgery last May:
He hasn't been any good this year, with an ERA of basically 5 and the 20th-worst (out of 135) strikeout-to-walk ratio among pitchers with at least 100 innings. There are actually some pitchers succeeding with K:BB's in Pelfrey's range (Felix Doubront, Matt Moore, Jorge De La Rosa, Jeff Locke), but it's not easy, and most players near Pelfrey are more like Jerome Williams (125 ERA-) and Jason Hammel (124 ERA-).1
As friends of the program have noted, ERA+ actually shows the league average is 74% higher than Fernandez's ERA, not the other way around.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) September 11, 2013
Here's a primer on ERA+ vs. ERA- and how the latter is the more telling metric: http://t.co/yEaEUbZlF8. Fernandez ERA- best since 1911, too.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) September 11, 2013
Sonny Gray has had one unqualifiedly bad outing in his eight in the major leagues. I look forward to the coming battles over whether Gray or Parker is the best short right-handed starter in baseball. Here is a list of right-handed starting pitchers with a better-than-league-average ERA (by ERA+, so with park adjustment) that Baseball-Reference has listed at 73 inches (6'1") or shorter, leaving out Parker and Gray:
- Tyler Thornburg
- Yusmeiro Petit
- Anibal Sanchez
- Jenrry Mejia
- Tyler Chatwood
- Hiroki Kuroda
- Joe Kelly
- Bartolo Colon
- Danny Salazar
- Chad Billingsley
- Johnny Cueto
- Adam Warren
- Mike Leake
- Kris Medlen
- Chad Gaudin
- Jake Peavy
- Miguel Gonzalez
- Carlos Torres
- Jeremy Guthrie
- Ross Wolf
So maybe I overstated my case, since Thornburg, Sanchez, Mejia, Chatwood, Kelly, Salazar, Cueto, Leake, and Medlen could all be in this discussion at some level or other.
Note that if we reduce the height to 5'11" or shorter, we're left with, besides Gray: Thornburg, Colon, Cueto, Leake, Medlen, Gaudin. So Gray has some company.
Prediction: A's win.
ERA- is like a + stat, but flipped: you want to be below 100 to be better, so a 125 ERA- means the pitcher is 25 percent worse than average. Here is Patriot's explanation of ERA- (there called aERA) and why it's better than ERA+. Jeff Passan is getting on board! ↩