Pitching shakeup

By Jason Wojciechowski on May 10, 2014 at 12:28 AM

On this day (or I guess given the timestamp, yesterday) the A's made two roster moves involving pitchers, one of which necessitated a sort of associated intraroster move. Ready for it? The rundown!

  • Dan Straily from MLB to Triple-A
  • Ryan Cook from MLB to the disabled list
  • Joe Savery from Triple-A to MLB bullpen
  • Fernando Rodriguez from Triple-A to MLB bullpen
  • Drew Pomeranz from MLB bullpen to MLB rotation

Straily has been pretty bad, although it's worth noting:

Straily 4.93 5.78 .240
Milone 5.86 5.60 .290

That's before Milone's remarkable eight-inning outing against Washington, which, given that his entire season to this point had been 27 2/3 innings, will do wonders for his overall numbers. Still, it's not entirely obvious which of those two pitchers you choose to demote on the merits of their performance.

But you don't make a decision like this by looking at ERA and saying, "You suck more than him. You gone." The A's are still hoping to get something from Straily, and it may well be that Milone essentially is what he is -- sending him to Triple-A would serve no developmental purpose. Straily, by contrast, could still get back on track and go on to fulfill something like his no. 4 starter upside.

One thing he can hopefully do in Sacramento is rediscover his velocity. When Straily debuted in late 2012, he was throwing around 92.5 mph with his fastball. These days, that's more like 89.5. Velocity isn't everything, but it's a big thing, and 3 mph is a really big thing, especially for a 25-year-old in what was supposed to be his second full big-league season. Will the A's find out he's hurt? Can he make a mechanical adjustment to get some oomph back? Is this just what he is? If this is just what he is, well ... it was fun while it lasted.

As to Cook, there's apparently no structural damage. You'll forgive me if I'm not out in the streets firing my guns in the air in joy just yet. It's May and he's already had a shoulder and a forearm injury. When you start thinking about all those sliders he throws and pondering compensation in his mechanics for pain and injury cascades, it's easy to add a silent "yet" to "no structural damage." Or, hell, a "that you know of." It wouldn't be the first time a first look at a pitcher's arm didn't turn up a problem that later turned out to have been there all along.

Savery, you'll recall, was a waiver-wire pickup. He's a guy. Just a guy. A dude. Don't get excited. He throws in the low 90s. Fastball slider changeup. Lefty. From Houston.

Rodriguez is more exciting. He came over with Jed Lowrie in the ... well, in the Jed Lowrie trade. I don't know where I was going with that. The writing process, laid bare!

In any event, Rodriguez pitched tonight and his stuff looked filthy. Before his Tommy John surgery, he was throwing 95 at the end of 2012, with a tight curve as his other pitch. I liked the way he looked tonight. I understand why the A's acquired him.

Looking at the 2012 PITCHf/x data, the curve doesn't really jump out. Factoring in velocity and movement, it actually bears a strong resemblance to Jim Johnson's:

Pitcher Velocity H-Mov V-Mov
Rodriguez 80.4 4.2 -5.8
Johnson 80.5 4.6 -5.6

(Data from Brooks Baseball and Baseball Prospectus. The movement columns are inches of break. Horizontal is away from right-handed hitters. Vertical is compared to a ball with zero spin.)

So on the one hand that's a little scary because of Jim Johnson's season so far, but on the other hand:

Year FIP
2011 3.26
2012 3.21
2013 3.47
2014 3.58

So it ain't so bad. The groundballs are still there. The BABIP is not. Jed Lowrie ain't helping, but mainly this is just some angry-ass dragons doing their work. Johnson will be fine, Rodriguez will be fine, and the A's, especially once Eric O'Flaherty regains health, will have far too many good bullpen pitchers. Dan Otero: best seventh reliever in the league. Bank it.

Oh, and Pomeranz? I don't know, man. We'll see. I don't know.