What Can Oakland Athletics’ Expect From Chris Bassitt?
Despite a setback in Wednesday’s start, Oakland Athletics’ starter Chris Bassitt has been very good since his return to the major league club. In 2015, the right-hander has posted a 2.82 ERA in 73.1 innings, despite a 1-6 record.
Those six losses hardly tell the story for Bassitt, who has looked like an entirely different pitcher in his second stint with the A’s. Heading into Wednesday’s game, Bassitt had a 19.4 percent strikeout rate, along with a 7.0 percent walk rate.
While not ace-like numbers, those are very respectable statistics. Bassitt does not have the kind of peripheral numbers to suggest he can become an ace, but he can be a capable middle-of-the-rotation starter for the A’s. He has suffered from a lack of run support this season, which has led to a much worse record than the one he deserves.
One way to evaluate a pitcher’s ability to keep up such a good ERA is by looking at his FIP. Fielding Independent Pitching measures a pitcher’s performance by weighting walks, home runs and strikeouts to determine how much the team’s defense is helping or hurting the pitcher’s ERA. In that category, Bassitt makes a fairly big jump to 3.71 – meaning he will probably regress in his ERA a bit.
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Part of this regression will likely come because Bassitt has left over 80 percent of runners on base, which is an abnormally high number. Left on base percentage is not a statistic that signals a special “clutch” skill that enables a pitcher to get out of sticky situations, as some might assume. It typically means that a pitcher is allowing a lot of traffic on the bases, and while short-term success is possible, eventually the luck will run out and those runners will score. Batters only have a .250 batting average on balls put in play against Bassitt, another number that signals regression is coming.
However, there’s plenty to like about Bassitt, most notably his consistent ability to keep the ball in the park. Another stat used to determine regression is xFIP, which is very similar to FIP, except that it uses a constant 10.5 percent home run to fly ball ratio to account for difference is ballparks. For instance, someone who pitches in Colorado would benefit from this stat, because it would show that they were a better pitcher than their ERA shows. Bassitt actually has the opposite problem – his xFIP is 4.23, significantly higher than his ERA or his FIP. The same was true last season, when his xFIP was more than a full point higher than his ERA. So why is that?
Although he’s given up five home runs in 70 innings this season, that still gives Bassitt a home run to fly ball percentage of just 7.1 percent. Last season, he didn’t allow a single home run. And those type of numbers hold true throughout his minor league career. Bassitt has never been a very home-run-prone pitcher, and that is something that is very beneficial to his ERA.
Bassitt may not be the next Sonny Gray, but he is much better than what his 1-6 record implies. He can give the team a chance to win every fifth day, if only the offense can provide a little run support.