Oakland Athletics: Could Rich Hill Have Scott Kazmir-Like Comeback In 2016?

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On November 20, 2015, the Oakland Athletics officially signed starting pitcher Rich Hill to a one year, $6 million dollar contract. The reason Hill decided to sign with the A’s was because they agreed to use Hill as a starter in 2016. However, fans and critics alike were wary of this deal because Hill does not have that much recent starting pitching experience.

The A’s obviously see potential in Hill or else they would not have signed him. He is looking for a comeback season as a starter and Oakland is prepared to offer him just that. Could Hill’s possible comeback this upcoming year rival the success Scott Kazmir found in 2014 with the Athletics?

Hill’s and Kazmir’s stories are a little different, but both had the same goal once they signed with Oakland – to once again be successful as a starting pitcher in the MLB. Even though they both had similar dreams, their road to return to the big leagues is what sets them apart.

First off, Kazmir did not play for any Major League organization in 2011 while Hill always seemed to make it to the big leagues at some point each season since his debut in 2005. Additionally, no matter how bad Kazmir pitched, he was always considered a starter. Hill, on the other hand, pitched exclusively in various relief positions from 2010 to 2014. Lastly, Kazmir started off his MLB career with the Tampa Bay Rays as a very solid, top of the rotation starting pitcher while Hill really only had one good season back in 2007 and has always been considered a No. 4 or 5 starter.

That being said, if Hill is able to find just as much success as Kazmir did in Oakland, Hill’s comeback story will be even greater than Kazmir’s because Hill definitely has more to overcome. He needs to be strong enough to pitch 150 to 200 innings – the typical workload of a starting pitcher for an entire MLB season. He needs to be able to master the strike zone, which is something he has struggled with in the past. And, he needs to be a reliable No. 2 starter behind the sensational Sonny Gray.

It is believed that Hill has the tools to do this. Even though Hill spent some of the 2015 season with the Washington Nationals’ Triple-A team and an independent baseball league, he signed a minor league contract with the Boston Red Sox in August. While with the Sox Triple-A team, Hill started five games and had a 2.78 ERA and a 3-2 record by the time Boston called him up on September 8.

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Hill was placed in the Red Sox rotation and made his first MLB start in six seasons on September 13. For the last month of the 2015 season, Hill pitched extremely well as a starting pitcher. He made four starts and had a 1.55 with a 0.66 WHIP. This included one shutout on September 25. Additionally, he was able to strike out 36 batters in 29 innings pitched.

Hill pitched great as a starter for the Red Sox, but that is such a small sample size. The question that remains is if he can maintain that success for an entire season. 2016 will make or break Hill. For the sake of the team, let’s hope Hill has a fairytale comeback with the Oakland Athletics this upcoming year.

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