5 Reasons Dan Straily Can Fill the Bartolo Colon Void for the Oakland A's
I do not want to write this without omitting the contribution Bartolo Colon made to the 2012 Oakland A's. Whether he was clean or dirty throughout the year, no one knows, and frankly, I do not care.
His 10 wins were tops on the team before Major League Baseball suspended him for the remainder of the 2012 regular season (50 games total). But that said, Colon was the most consistent pitcher on the A's staff until last Wednesday.
Sadly, we can only speculate as to how much of that was due to performance enhancing drugs. There is no doubt, however, that his loss created a void in the A's rotation. That was evident as Oakland was forced to start Tyson Ross against Tampa Bay, and he was predictably shelled.
That all said, we are not here to talk about Colon or Ross. The person in question right now is the meteoric Dan Straily.
Sent down to make room Brett Anderson, Straily will be back up as soon as he is eligible (August 30th). As such, I fully expect him to be the person to step in to Colon's spot in the rotation.
The quintet of Anderson, McCarthy, Milone, Parker and Straily will be leaned on to help the A's make a push towards an improbable playoff berth.
I fully expect Straily to be able to hold up his end of the deal. And here are my reasons why.
When Straily returns, there will be 31 games left in the regular season. This means Straily could pitch a maximum of six times.
Having only pitched three times and a grand total of 17 big league innings, scouts and players still do not have a complete feel for the type of pitcher Straily is.
Combine that with the fact that he possesses three very good pitches, and Straily becomes a sneaky weapon in the race to the playoffs.
Although he is a starter, the best case scenario I can think of is the late season and postseason success of then-rookie Francisco Rodriguez for the Anaheim Angels in 2002. He bedeviled the New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins and San Francisco Giants in the postseason, because they did not have enough information to game-plan against him. In addition, Rodriguez possessed a filthy out pitch similar to Straily's: A hard biting slider.
Like Colon, Dan Straily is a pitcher that does not get rattled on the mound.
The best example of that was in his start against the Kansas City Royals. With the bases loaded in the second inning, A's pitching coach Curt Young came out and talked to Straily, emphasizing that he get back to throwing his pitches.
From there, Straily calmed retired Kansas City's Chris Getz and kept them scoreless over the six innings he pitched. By all accounts, the man is rattle proof. And that is vital in a pennant race.
His lone bad start, when Straily allowed five runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Angels in an Oakland slugfest. Not only did he get down on himself, but the A's also stayed in position long enough to win the game.
That is not to say every start will be a quality start or that fans should expect lights-out performances. What I am saying is that one of the biggest elements to late season success is steely nerves. Straily seems to have those in spades.
If he does not succeed, it won't be because he is afraid of the moment.
Here is a category that many Major League pitchers are hard-pressed to match Bartolo Colon in.
Having pitched a total of 152 1/3 innings, Colon issued a meager 23 walks. That is a ratio of one walk every approximately 6 2/3 innings, a great measure of his control. Overall, his strikeout to walk ratio was 91:23 or just about 4:1 on the season.
Again, it is a small MLB sample size, but Straily managed a 12:4 ratio of strikeouts to walks, exactly 3:1. Issuing just four walks in 17 innings, that computes to approximately one walk per 4 1/3 innings, a very respectable rate.
Ultimately, Straily's WHIP stood at 1.18, slightly less than Colon's 1.21. That is to say, if he continued on his path and avoided any very bad starts, the numbers would be a wash.
If we take the numbers further and combine minor league data, Straily's WHIP is just under 1 (0.997), and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is an excellent 191:44 or 4.34:1.
It is not realistic to expect Straily's strikeout numbers to compute to the MLB level, but his control so far has. This makes him that much more effective, because he does not have a tendency to put extra hitters on base.
This is where there is a difference between Straily and Bartolo Colon.
No one in baseball's recent history threw more fastballs as a starting pitcher than Colon, upwards of 91 percent. His change-up and occasional slider were used so rarely, they seemed more effective simply because they were so infrequently used.
Straily does have a good fastball, ranging from 91 to 95 miles per hour. It usually sits consistently around 92-93 miles per hour, though.
But that is not the reason Straily made such a huge climb through the minors and ultimately to Oakland. Besides good control and a good enough fastball, Straily commands two plus secondary pitches.
First and foremost, he has what scouts have described as a swing-and-miss slider.
This is in direct contrast to Colon, who typically got his strikeouts looking with his cut fastball. Having the ability to get strikeouts with a pitch out of the strike zone eliminates one of the issues Colon had: base hits allowed in pitcher's counts.
In addition, Straily has a good change-up.
While not as good as his slider, he does legitimately subtract between 9 and 14 miles per hour off the pitch, making it effective against hitters sitting on his fastball.
Not to beat a dead horse, but that does differ from Colon's approach of pounding the zone with fastballs. While he kept the walks down, that did contribute to Colon allowing 161 hits in 152 1/3 innings.
As high as most of the baseball community is on Straily's prospects, there is only one rotation spot for two capable rookies as A.J. Griffin also vies for that final spot. This is a situation that could be beneficial for the A's twofold.
I say that because Straily would probably be a better bullpen option than Griffin because of his ability to get strikeouts and his above-average control. Another strong arm could only help the A's in September, if the decision was made to give Griffin the fifth spot in the rotation.
Either way, I think the A's can do better than having the inconsistent and walk-prone Tyson Ross being called upon in any type of key spot out of the bullpen.
The reality is that the A's can only benefit having two more consistent and fresh arms going into September. It stands to reason though that putting both in position to play to their strengths is more important.
I am not manager Bob Melvin, but I can only imagine that it is nice to have his pitching problems.
The September call-ups are going to be interesting in that there are a pair of players Oakland fans want to see (Straily and top prospect Grant Green).
Truthfully, though, the late season tryouts are not going to happen this year.
Smack in the middle of a race, the only people you can honestly expect to see in any real capacity are Griffin, Straily and, perhaps, Colin Cowgill in a pinch hitting/running and defensive capacity. I would be surprised if anyone else from Sacramento comes up and does anything with the expanded rosters.
In three starts, Straily showed that the hype was mostly warranted. Giving up five runs to the potent Angels offense is no crime.
The hope A's fans have to have is that it is not a trend, considering the teams Oakland will be playing in September trying to make the postseason (i.e. Yankees, Rangers, Tigers). Whether he starts—which is likely—or comes out of the bullpen, there is no reason to expect nothing but continued success from Dan Straily down the stretch.