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THE THREE WORST LETTERS IN SPORTS... UCL

Matt Moore is just the the latest hurler to be diagnosed with an injured UCL meaning there is an extreme amount of certainty that his 2014 season ifsover, surgery will be needed, and that he won't be ready to start the 2015 season on time. This is yet another example, I don't know how many anyone needs anymore, to show why the idea of drafting a pitcher early makes little sense. Volatility in performance is one thing, we all have to deal with that, but it's flipping insane how many arms end up on the shelf these days, and with surgery needed in many an instance. Here are some of the top arms that have already spent time on the shelf, and we're not even to the mid-point of the first month of the season.

Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Kris Medlen, Mat Latos, Hisashi Iwakuma, Mike Minor, Patrick Corbin, A.J. Griffin, Doug Fister, Derek Holland, Jarrod Parker, Jeremy Hellickson, Taijuan Walker, Brandon Beachy, James Paxton etc.

It's obnoxious really.

Back to the Rays' situation...

Who takes over for Moore? At this point we don't know for certain who will take the ball Sunday, but it appears to be down to two names.: Erik Bedard and Cesar Ramos.

We all know what Bedard is. He's a guy who gets Ks, better eight Ks per nine since the 2007 season, but he's also constantly walking people (3.7 per nine for his career and worst than 4.25 the past two years). All those pitches often lead to struggles to go deep into games, and that's at least part of the reason that he's only posted 11 wins the past two seasons despite 50 starts.

Ramos is a lefty who has made 147 appearances over six big league seasons. Only three of those outings have been starts. Jesse Chavez might be having success with the Athletics pulling off that trick, but it's extremely hard to do – move from the bullpen to the rotation. Beyond that looming fact there is this – Ramos just isn't that talented. A quick review shows a 7.23 K/9 mark which would likely go down as a starter. His 3.54 BB/9 mark isn't going to impress any managers. His 3.96 ERA and 1.35 WHIP? That's nothing other than league average junk. He has done a good job generating grounders, but even that mark regressed last season from his 46 percent career rate all the way back down to 41 percent.

Hard to say it, but Bedard looks like the better option though he's still not worthy of being a mixed league add.


Don't forget to read my Daily Trends piece for April 10th, 2014. It will let you in on the best and worst plays of the day.


ATHLETICS REMOVE JOHNSON FROM 9th

Jim Johnson, only the second man in the history of baseball with back-to-back 50 save seasons has been demoted from the A's 9th inning duties less than two weeks into the season thanks to two blown saves, a lose and an 18.90 ERA. “Trust me, I wish I had an answer for you,” he said. Here's what manager Bob Melvin said. “There’s no timetable... we have plenty options. That’s the good thing about our team, our versatility. We’ll play it by ear based on how the game’s going, who’s available on that particular day.”

Don't consider me shocked at this news. If you recall, here is my writeup on Johnson from the 204 Draft Guide.

Will Jim Johnson continue to excel with the Athletics?
NO. Jim Johnson leads baseball with 101 saves the past two seasons. He is only the second man ever to do that (Eric Gagne in 2002-3). Johnson has gotten it done. However, he's not overly skilled. Johnson has a 5.96 K/9 mark for his career, so it's pretty fair to guess the 7.17 K/9 mark he posted last season will regress. It's also fair to point out that Johnson had a 1.28 WHIP last season which is far from dominating and just barely better than average. The fact is that Johnson is a good pitcher who generates copious amounts of grounders. However, he's never been confused with a dominating arm. Johnson blew nine games last season, and also picked up eight loses, and it's not like the A's aren't afraid to make changes so Johnson may not have as long a leash as some would lead you to believe.

What do the A's do now? Here are the options.

Ryan Cook might be the leader in the clubhouse for the role if not for the fact that he just returned from injury. One of the better setup men in the game, here are his career numbers: 2.53 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 9.40 K/9, 3.74 BB/9, 1.30 GB/FB ratio. Through 1491. innings Cook has only surrendered six homers, a total that could easily rise, but this is a stable skill set. There's also this. He's closed for the A's before as he had 14 saves during the 2012 season.

Sean Doolittle has, literally, only been pitching for three years. A converted player, hit stuff is undeniable. Sean throws 94 mph and that's about all he does (he throws his heater 87.5 percent of the time). Don't mistake that though for a lack of effectiveness. Doolittle dominates big leaguers. Over his 119 outings here are the impressive totals: 3.03 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 9.25 K/9, 1.78 BB.9, 5.21 K/BB, .218 BAA. Those are elite numbers. Three things go against him closing. (1) He's never done it before and some managers just won't turn to a guy with no closing experience. He does own three career saves. (2) Though his career HR/9 rate is just 0.59 there are some concerns that the big fly could be an issue given that he owns a career GB/FB ratio of 0.68. His home park helps, but it could all go horribly wrong for him at a moments notice do to the long ball. (3) He's left-handed and many teams don't want to turn to a lefty for fear of matchups with righties in the 9th (don't forget though that the A's have recently used the likes of Brian Fuentes to work the 9th).  The number suggest it doesn't matter as Sean's actually got a lower OPS against righties (.531) than lefties (.577).

Luke Gregerson has the most experience of the group and he brings with him an impressive track record. In 368 career appearances the slider throwing righty is the proud owner of some impressive ratios: 3.86 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 9.10 K/9, 2.76 BB/9, 1.43 GB/FB. He's functioned almost entirely as an 8th inning man for the vast majority of his career, but he does have 16 saves to his name. This is his first season with the green and gold after five years with the Padres.

Dan Otero owns a 2.38 ERA and 1.34 WHIP over 48 big league outings. He's also the owner of a sub six K/9 mark. His 58 percent ground ball rate is fantastic, but he has the worst skill of the four options, not to mention the least experience.

The Athletics have a great group of arms to turn to. Otero has no shot working the 9th. Doolittle is my favorite of the bunch, but he's left-handed (though as I noted it hasn't shown up in his splits). Cook has the most 9th inning work but he's also just fresh off injury. Meanwhile Gregerson has the most experience and longest track record of success. He's also worked only five innings in his Athletics career.

It's a total crap-shoot as to who will take over. I don't think anyone knows. I'm going with Doolittle, but the fact is any of the top-3 options could run with the job and have tons of success doing it.

I'M WORRIED ABOUT...

While it's not really fair to say I'm worried about him since I was never interested in him to start with, it should be noted that Abraham Almonte is now batting .242 with 12 Ks for the Mariners.

Charlie Blackmon will slow, we all know that given his feverish start to the year (.471 through 34 at-bats). I'm extremely concerned by the fact that he has one walk in 36 plate appearances. That's just not going to get it done. Remarkably, he's only struck out one time as well.

Edwin Encarnacion had a 1.32 BB/K mark last season. Is his wrist bothering him or is this a slow start? Could it be both? Whatever is going on his control of the strike zone has vanishes as he has 12 Ks in just nine games leading to a 0.33 BB/K ratio.

Tyler Flowers is hitting .444 with a .5647 BABIP. He's a career .212 hitter with a .291 BABIP. You figure it out.

Wil Myers has a below average 0.36 K/BB ratio last season which was part of the reason that I was dubious about his ability to hit .293 again. He's hitting just .229 with no homers on the young season and part of the blame can be laid squarely at the feet of his 0.27 BB/K rate.

Yangervis Solarte is 26 years old. This is his 8th professional season. Yes he's hit .286 during his minor league career but he also has a blah .336 OBP an a poor .397 SLG. Add in that he's only hit 41 homers while stealing 33 bases in 672 games and I just don't care that he's started off well this season.

 

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