Last season the A’s got incredible production and value from some unexpected places. Some of these unexpected performances were not necessarily from players who the A’s management thought couldn’t perform, but from younger players who were continuing to develop. The struggles never came for young star pitcher Jarrod Parker last season. Unfortunately for the A’s the struggles have found him this season and there seems to be no end in sight. For every good start he has had there are seemingly four more bad ones that follow it. It doesn’t matter what team he is facing it seems to be an endeavor just to make it to the sixth inning. The struggles however are repairable and Parker can still develop into the Ace everyone thinks he will become.
Apr 20, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jarrod Parker (11) reacts after he gave up a solo home run to Tampa Bay Rays right fielderMatt Joyce
(20) during the second inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Looking at Parker’s numbers this season they seem pretty similar to last years. This even includes some of the more advanced statistics. His groundball percentage and WHIP fall in line with last year’s numbers. There is a slight velocity difference this year, but not enough to warrant concern. There are two prominent numbers that stand out for Parker between last season and this season. They are somewhat subtle but important.
The first number that is causing Parker to struggle is his fly ball percentage. Last season Parker was striking out a decent amount of batters. Couple that with his nearly forty percent groundball rate and he became very successful. This could be because the league had not seen him yet but regardless the numbers were there. This season however, Parker’s fly ball percentage is nearly ten percent higher than it was last season. This consequently has caused the other number I will mention to rise.
Parker’s groundball percentage has stayed the same as compared to last year, but because his fly ball percentage has risen so has his home run percentage. Last year Parker gave up 11 home runs over the course of the entire season. This season Parker has given up 16 with still two more months to pitch. This is where he needs to improve the most (although he is not alone; the whole pitching staff needs to improve in this area). The reason this number has proven costly is because the A’s face some of the most powerful offenses in baseball on a semi-regular basis. This includes the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as well as the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers.
The main reason for these two numbers to have risen is because no one is fooled by Parker’s fastball anymore. Whether that be because he is tipping his pitches or it has straightened out hitters are on it nearly every time he throws his fastball. One thought may be for Parker to talk to Bartolo Colon about his two-seam fastball. This would at the very least create movement on Parker’s fastball thus making it less likely to square up. Another option would be to throw a cutter or sinker, basically anything to keep the hitter’s more off balanced than they are now.
If Parker can figure out what is wrong with his fastball he may be able to salvage his season and help the A’s in their current stretch run. A good time to begin that process would be on Saturday against the red-hot Texas Rangers. If he can throw his fastball where he wants it or figure out a way to add movement to it his chances of success will increase exponentially. That would be a welcomed site to a pitching staff that seems to be heading towards a funk again. The A’s need all the help they can get especially this weekend if they expect to repeat as AL West champions.