Oakland Athletics: The Maturation Of Brandon McCarthy

Adam BernacchioAnalyst IIIApril 18, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 10: Starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy #32 of the Oakland Athletics throws against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of a game on April 10, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Brandon McCarthy was once a top prospect for the Chicago White Sox. Baseball America had him as high as third in the White Sox organization back in 2005.

McCarthy has pitched well for the A's

Since then, things really haven’t panned out for McCarthy. He spent two mediocre seasons in Chicago before he was shipped to Texas in the John Danks trade.

The Colorado Springs native didn’t fare much better with the Rangers. Over parts of three seasons, McCarthy had a 4.68 ERA, struck out only 5.5/9, a 1.44 WHIP, and a Groundball Percentage of 33 percent.

During his stint with the Rangers, McCarthy found himself injured a good portion of the time. He missed the majority of the 2008 season with a forearm injury and then he suffered a stress fracture his shoulder in 2009, which caused him to miss the entire 2010 season.

McCarthy signed a free agent contract with the Oakland A’s worth a cool $1 million and so far, that $1 million investment is paying off for the A’s.

McCarthy has thrown quality starts in two of his three starts this season, including his last start against the Detroit Tigers on Friday night. It was his best start of the season as he struck out seven, gave up six hits and no runs in 6.2 IP.

Overall, he has an impressive 2.45 ERA in 22 innings. There have been a couple of things fueling McCarthy’s success.

The first thing that pops out is McCarthy’s new found ability to throw groundballs. Coming into this season, he never had better than a 39 percent Groundball Percentage. Through three games, he has a 47.9 Groundball Percentage. While that’s still not great, it’s much better than in years past.

Not only is McCarthy keeping his infielders busy by inducing groundballs, but he is making them catch a lot of pop ups as well. His Infield Fly Ball Percentage of 16.7 percent is good for eighth best in the American League.

Anytime you can keep your infielders busier than your outfielders, that’s a good thing.

The second thing that stands out to me is McCarthy’s increased velocity. Throughout his career, he has always been an 88-89 mph fastball pitcher.

In three games in 2011, McCarthy has averaged 91 mph on his fastball. Three mph is a huge difference. McCarthy has also, for all intents and purposes, scraped his changeup, which was never a plus pitch for him and he has added a cutter this season.

Whether or not McCarthy can keep this up remains to be seen. After all, three games is a very small sample size. But if he does, the A’s will have another quality pitcher to go along with Gio Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Dallas Braden.

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