The Oakland A’s have been one of the best teams in baseball. They are 53-33 and have a 3.5 game lead on the Los Angeles Angels for the American League West plus lead the AL in wins above average (11.1). Fangraphs’ projections give them a 13 percent chance at winning the World Series — the second best in the AL behind the Detroit Tigers (17.1 percent). Their hitters are tied for first in on-base percentage (0.331) and lead the league in runs per game (5.00). Their pitching staff has the lowest combined ERA (3.15) and they just added Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs.
Samardzija leaves the Cubs with a 2.83 ERA, a 3.07 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings. His average Game Score on the season of 57.2, which is 24th best among starters qualifying for the ERA title. Don’t read too much into his 2-7 record: 12 of his 17 starts have been quality (pitched at least 6 innings and allowed 3 or fewer earned runs).
Hammel brings a 2.98 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings and 4.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio to the A’s. His average Game Score (59.6) is 13th among starters qualifying for the ERA title.
Here is how Oakland’s starting rotation looks now:
The deal, however, isn’t without some reasons for caution.
Samardzija has seen his ERA baloon to 5.45 in June, allowing 20 earned runs in 33 innings pitched over six starts. However, the right-hander has been throwing the same percentage of his pitches for strikes, seen fewer line drives as balls in play but more fly balls leaving the yard.
In other words: not much to worry about yet. The bright side for Samardzija will be better run support. The Cubs provided just 2.3 runs per game in his starts this year in a league that averages 4.0. And as I stated earlier, Oakland averages five runs per game. Even they cut their offense in half it would still be more support than Samardzija received in Chicago.
Hammel is also not without concern. Last year as a Baltimore Oriole, Hammel had a 4.97 ERA, 4.93 FIP and struck out just 6.2 batters per nine innings. However, he is relying on a slider more and phasing out his curveball and changeup.
Opposing hitters are batting 0.170 against his slider with just seven extra base hits in 159 at bats. And unless he makes a mistake with it square in the strike zone, hitters just aren’t able to do much in terms of power.
Oakland was already a favorite to emerge out of the American League and make a World Series appearance. The addition of Samardzija and Hammel makes that even more feasible.