Wednesday proved to be a perfect day on the Oakland A's schedule. Not only did the big league club…
By The Numbers: Kane County Pitching Staff
Stats good through Sunday, June 10
Scott Deal has blossomed in a repeat of the Midwest League. Going into the year, Deal was seen as a pitcher with good control and an ability to get ground balls, but someone who didn't get enough strikeouts to be successful. Last year, Deal struck out just 74 batters in 149 innings. This year, he has struck out 31 in 43.1 innings, an improvement of about 3 K/9 IP. The improvement in his strikeout rate has not hurt the other aspects of his game, as Deal continues to get grounders and avoid walks. In the A's deep system, Deal gets overlooked, but there are plenty of pitchers who succeed in the majors with a similar skill set. His .434 UVI is very solid, and his performance has not been a fluke. Deal looks to be ready for High-A now in his fourth pro season.
Justin Friend has struck-out a whopping 39 batters in 27 innings, which is a ridiculous 13 K/9. However, he has also walked 17 batters, a rate which needs to come down. Like Midland and Stockton closers Andrew Carignan and Sam Demel, Friend can miss bats, but he is going to need to throw more strikes if he is going to have a major league career. The good news is that Friend has been unlucky this year; 13 K/9 and 8 H/9 implies very bad luck, and indeed, his translations take 4 hits away from his line. The control problems push his UVI up to .419, but if he can cut 2 BB/9 off his line while keeping the strikeouts, Friend could wind up passing Carignan and Demel.
Scott Hodsdon watched batters hit .388 against him in April, leading to a 6.75 ERA. However, my translations at the time called for his ERA to be nearly three runs lower, and after another month of pitching, Hodsdon's luck has evened out, and his ERA stands at 3.92. Hodsdon's walk, strikeout and homer rates were all slightly better in May than April, but the real difference in ERA should have been about half a run, not five runs. Hodsdon's current translations continue to suggest that his ERA should be right around its current 3.92 mark; his ARA is 3.98. What is interesting with the translation is that Hodsdon gives up 11 fewer hits in his translated line, so instead of his ghastly 75 hits allowed in 57 IP, Hodsdon deserves to allow 64 hits in 61 IP. Despite that rather drastic change, the ARA and ERA are almost perfectly in-line. What this means is that Hodsdon has been unlucky on balls in play, but lucky with runners on base. His splits (.331 AVG with bases empty, .286 with runners on, .275 with RISP) confirm this trend. Neither his success at stranding runners nor his high BABIP should continue, so while the individual stats may shift around a bit, Hodsdon's UVI should continue to stay around the .415 mark that it currently sits at.
Craig Italiano leads the minor leagues in ERA with a 0.74 mark. However, he has allowed more unearned runs (7) than earned runs (5), so his RA is more than double that figure. He has also allowed 10 fewer hits than would be expected given an average BABIP. Italiano has walked 28 batters in 61 innings, a rate that needs to decrease if he is going to stick in a big league rotation someday. However, Italiano's great strikeout total (71) and homers allowed (only 1) are very real, and bode very well for the power righty. His UVI is .365, and with nothing left to prove in Kane County, he would be in Stockton by now if there wasn't so much pitching depth in the A's system.
Scott Mitchinson's 1.34 ERA would get more attention if Italiano wasn't on the same team. He has shown impeccable command with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 6 to 1. However, the news is not all good for Mitchinson. First, his ERA is a bit deceiving, as 6 of 15 (40%) of the runs he has allowed in 2008 have been unearned, leading to an RA of 2.24. Furthermore, he has gotten hit-lucky this year, as his translations call for him to give up 10 more hits than he has, leading to an ARA of an even higher 3.43. Mitchinson is 23 years old, so he needs to move quickly. His age may mean that he sees Stockton before Italiano. While the aforementioned caveats put somewhat of a damper on his season, a .364 UVI and 3.43 ARA in a hitter's park shouldn't be dismissed, and Mitchinson's stock is on the rise.
Jamie Richmond's 3.78 ERA pales in comparison to Italiano (0.74) and Mitchinson (1.34) but he's not far behind. Their ARAs are 3.43 for Mitchinson, 3.55 for Italiano, and 3.62 for Richmond. Richmond is similar to Mitchinson in that his K:BB ratio is 6:1. Unlike Mitchinson and Italiano, Richmond's performance has neither unearned run nor BABIP caveats; his luck has been right about average, which is why his ARA and ERA are so close. Like Deal, Italiano and Mitchinson, Richmond could probably succeed in High-A or even Double-A right now, but there just isn't any room at the moment at the higher affiliates. His UVI is .389.
Nick Walters has been very similar to Friend; he's shown an ability to strike hitters out but an inability to consistently throw strikes. Walters' 16 hits allowed in 24.3 IP isn't a fluke; the translations give him 17 hits in 24 IP. However, the 14 walks and 2 hit batters give Walters a rate of 6 free bases allowed/9 IP. As with Friend, lopping 2 walks/9 IP off of that rate would do Walters wonders. The translations for the two pitchers are actually frighteningly similar; Friend's AVG/OBP/SLG translates as .191/.315/.315, while Walters' numbers are .191/.314/.326. The slight difference in slugging (a reflection of some small-sample homer problems) are enough to push Walters' UVI just past Friend's at .429.
About The Author: Nathianel Stoltz is a statistics major at James Madison University in Virginia. He is the creator of the "Ultimate Value Index" or "UVI" baseball statistic. He hopes to some day work in the front office of a major league team. You can e-mail him with questions or comments by clicking here.
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