Surprise 2: Rich Hill
The rotation has not been impressive as a whole, even for Spring Training. The Athletics had the worst team ERA in the American League, and only the Giants and Padres have pitched worse. Even more troubling? They lead all of baseball with 118 walks, despite the fact they’ve played fewer games than nearly half of the other teams. The A’s rotation wasn’t expected to blow people away, but heading into camp, it seemed like Sonny Gray and Jesse Hahn had a chance to lead young pitchers like Kendall Graveman, Chris Bassitt and , eventually, Sean Manaea.
Rich Hill was slated in as the left-hander and veteran presence, but those who expected him to pitch like he did last season in Boston bordered on delusional. Hill made four starts, two against non-competitive teams, and somehow that justified a guaranteed rotation spot after years of mediocrity out of the bullpen. Sure, Hill made some adjustments – but enough to nullify his entire body of work?
Fans of the Rich Hill signing have to admit that he has been very, very bad. Even from the perspective of someone who opposed the deal, it’s surprising to see how much he’s struggled. In 12 innings, Hill has allowed 15 earned runs on 15 walks and 12 hits. He’s only faced 59 batters, which means opposing hitters are reaching base at an astonishing clip. His numbers were actually much worse before his final start on Wednesday, when he allowed only two runs in 4.1 innings.
Of course, the season has yet to start, so there’s still time for Hill to work things out and become what Billy Beane (as well as many analysts) think he will be. His struggles this spring, though, have really gone beyond what even the most doubtful opponent of this signing would have predicted.
Next: Surprise 3: A League-Leading Amount of Errors