Keep Expectations Low for Jarrod Parker

Jarrod Parker is set to make his return to the Oakland Athletics sometime in the first half of 2015. Having undergone two Tommy John surgeries, though, it is unfair for our expectations for Parker’s success to match those we had prior to his operation.

In a 2007 article by USA Today writer Daniel Paulling, only 20% of pitchers who undergo a second Tommy John surgery come out with any major league success. In the seven years since, that success rate has gone up to around 78% by some accounts but, as of 2014, that number is a bit skewed. Of the 43 pitchers who had a second Tommy John, only 26 actually had successful returns to the majors. Seven of those players had unsuccessful returns and 10, and this is where the statistic gets skewed, were never given the chance to attempt a return to the majors. Essentially, the 78% success rate only looks at the 33 players who pitched after the surgery and excludes players never given the opportunity making the actual percentage of documented success stories 60%. Of course, that number could be higher if those 10 players had their big chance but we’ll never know.

So, we look at Jarrod Parker and assume he has anywhere from 60-78%, not totally terrible odds and every indication from the Athletics is that his recovery is going smoothly but we also have to consider that he hasn’t pitched a major league game since September 28, 2013 and that there may be a bit of trepidation in having Parker return to pitch 7 innings a night every five nights.

Of course, we all want Jarrod Parker to return to his original form. Parker, once considered the ace of the Athletics’ pitching staff, is 25-16 with the A’s and has a career 3.68 ERA. While nobody would mind seeing the ERA go down a few points, there is nobody who would turn down a pitcher that has a winning percentage over .600.

Parker is unlikely to start more than 20 games in 2015 and the expectation that the A’s are going to be just fine when Parker returns may be an unfair expectation. It is true that Jarrod Parker’s success will contribute in a major way towards the A’s success in 2015 but the season hardly hinges on his return. When it comes to our expectations for Jarrod Parker in 2015 it may be wise to heed the advice of Walter White and “tread lightly.”

So what should our expectation be? Our first, and most important, expectation should be that Parker returns at all. Every indication given from the team leads me to believe that this expectation will be met.

The second expectation we should have is that he can maintain a relatively low ERA upon his return. With the depth that the organization has on the mound, Parker throwing anything over 3.50 may put him on a tight leash. If he can go out and pitch comparable to his 2013 numbers, he should be able to remain in the rotation. Don’t expect him to be an ace just yet.

The third expectation is that he stays healthy and can make it through the end of this season without any complications or DL stints. If these three expectations can be met in 2015, then our 2016 expectations can be as crazy as you’d like them to be. In a way, 2015 is Parker’s audition for 2016. Will he be an ace in 2016 or will he be a solid third or fourth pitcher or will he be pitching at little league training camps? All of those questions should be answered by the end of 2015 but until then, let’s keep our excitement at bay and wait and see how his recovery truly goes.