Outman makes his second big league start today.
Hard-throwing left-hander Josh Outman was a bit of an unknown entity when he was acquired by the Oakland A's from the Philadelphia Phillies as part of the Joe Blanton deal. Since coming to Oakland, Outman has been impressive, first as a reliever and now as a starting pitcher. Nathaniel Stoltz takes a look at Outman's career numbers to see what the future might hold for the lefty.
With the Oakland A’s playoff hopes gone for 2008, the team has turned increasingly to new faces in an attempt to find talent that can contribute in 2009 and beyond.
One player who has opened some eyes is left-hander Josh Outman, acquired in the Joe Blanton trade with Philadelphia. Since being acquired in July, Outman has moved from the Double-A Midland bullpen to the Oakland rotation in just two months, and he threw five strong innings in his first major league start on Saturday. With so much uncertainty in the rotation, it’s worth investigating Outman’s chances of continuing his success.
Josh Outman was a 10th round draft pick of the Phillies in 2005. In 11 games (four starts) for short-season Batavia that year, the Central Missouri State alum pitched impressively, posting a 2.76 ERA that was only slightly a product of luck. Given Outman’s college pedigree prior to being drafted, success in a short-season league shouldn’t have come as a shock.
The 2006 season saw Outman spend a full year in the Low-A Lakewood BlueClaws’ rotation, and the lefty once again excelled, going 14-6 with a 2.95 ERA. The actual stats once again ran slightly ahead of Outman’s deserved performance, but a 3.87 ARA and .392 UVI are still excellent figures. Seventy-five walks in 151 translated innings pitched (4.48 BB/9), however, is a very high figure for a starting pitcher, especially a former college pitcher in Low-A.
Outman spent most of 2007 at High-A Clearwater, where he posted a career-low 2.45 ERA and made progress lowering his walk rate. However, his homer rate jumped and his strikeouts fell slightly, so his true level of performance actually slipped slightly to a .409 UVI level.
Promoted to Double-A Reading for seven late-season starts, Outman fell flat, seeing his ERA jump over two runs to 4.50 and his UVI (.481) and ARA (4.99) backing the jump. Outman’s problem was continued peripheral regression, as his walk, strikeout and homer rates were all career-worsts. His struggles in the rotation prompted the Phillies to move him to the Reading bullpen early on in the 2008 season.
The move to the bullpen got Outman on the right track again, as his walk and strikeout rates improved slightly from 2007 to 2008, and his homer rate fell dramatically from five in 42 IP to three in 71 IP. Outman’s ability to keep the ball in the park helped him get his UVI back below average, but given that he was pitching in a less important role, the 55-point UVI drop (from .481 to .426) only served to mitigate the value lost in Outman’s role switch.
Enter the A’s, who after trading for the erratic lefty decided to give him another shot in the rotation. In four starts with Midland, Outman posted an identical UVI (.426) to his Reading performance, except in a more important role. He was quickly promoted to Triple-A Sacramento, where he continued his success, dropping his UVI further to .393. In 27 adjusted innings between the two levels, Outman only walked eight batters, by far the lowest rate of his career. While it could be a small-sample fluke, the timing of the drop in walks suggests that something about the switch of organizations and roles was key to Outman finding his control.
Thus far in the big leagues, Outman has tossed 9.1 innings, and the success he has experienced in that time is well-deserved—his ARA of 4.35 matches up nicely with his ERA of 3.86 (remember, unearned runs make ARA usually half a run or so higher). Obviously, it’s a very small sample, but once again, Outman has kept his walks down (two in 9.1 innings). Between Midland, Sacramento and Oakland, Outman has cut his walk rate basically in half from his Philadelphia levels, and with 36 innings pitched since the trade, that sample is becoming increasingly valid.
Outman will start on Thursday and attempt to continue his success, as the A’s look to extend a rare winning streak to five games. His background makes him difficult to draw a conclusion on, but it appears something has clicked for the 23-year-old since switching organizations. If Outman’s post-trade gains are for real, he could be a valuable part of the Oakland pitching staff for years to come.
About The Author: Nathaniel Stoltz is a statistics minor 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.