Oakland A’s may need Cole Irvin to take another step forward
By David Hill
Absolutely nothing could have been expected from Cole Irvin heading into the 2021 season. The Oakland A’s had acquired him from a pitching hungry team in the Phillies for the ever popular Cash Considerations, typically a code for a player being a depth piece and nothing more.
But something strange happened on Irvin’s journey to being a depth option at Triple-A. He performed well in spring training, and when injuries began to take their toll on the A’s pitching staff, found himself as their fifth starter. In a bigger surprise, Irvin held on to that role for the entire year.
Oakland A’s may need more from Cole Irvin in 2022
Despite leading the league with 15 losses, Irvin had a solid year. He notched ten wins while posting a 4.24 ERA and a 1.329 WHiP over his 178.1 innings, striking out 125 batters with 42 walks. He was a dependable arm in the back of the rotation, taking the ball every fifth day as he also led the AL with 32 starts on the season.
The A’s may also need more from Irvin going forward. If their expected fire sale occurs, he could end up being Oakland’s second or third starter. There will be pressure to not only prove that the 2021 season was not a fluke, but to take another step forward.
It is fair to wonder if Irvin can do that. He turned 28 years old on January 31 and is presumably at the beginning of his prime. There may not be much more of a step forward that he can take.
Likewise, Statcast is not exactly bullish on his being able to replicate that success. While his command was impressive, Irvin was in the tenth percentile for whiff rate, spin rates on his fastball and curve, strikeout percentage, and expected batting average. According to the metrics, the opposition should have hit Irvin for a .282/.339/.446 batting line, moving his expected ERA to 4.95.
There are always going to be pitchers that outperform expectations. It is entirely possible that Irvin is one of those types of arms, a pitcher who seems like he should be getting hit hard but remains a solid piece of the rotation for years. The A’s are going to need that to be the case going forward should the fire sale actually happen.
Cole Irvin was a revelation for the Oakland A’s in 2021. They will not only need him to continue his strong performance in 2022, but to take another step forward.