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Cahill Struggles Continue; Billings Outrighted

August 31, 2011

Trevor Cahill has not had a good year. Coming off a breakthrough campaign in 2010 that earned him a five-year $30.5M contract extension this April that potentially keeps him in Oakland through 2017 with options, Cahill has stunk it up. Last year Cahill had 5.4 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 while allowing 0.9 HR/9. Aided by 56.0% of contact resulting in groundballs leading to a .236 BABIP he had an immaculate 2.97 ERA that hid a mediocre 4.19 FIP. This year the K/9 has improved to 6.5 K/9, the BB/9 has devolved to 3.7 BB/9 while the 0.9 HR/9 is the same (going to two decimal points it is slightly lower from 0.87 to 0.86). One number stands in stark contrast to the 2010 numbers his BABIP. Despite inducing more groundballs (56.6%) the BABIP has rose from .236 to .296 and along with it the ERA has jumped up to 4.26 despite the FIP being similar (and slightly lower in fact) to his 2010 number at 4.13.

The truth of the matter is that this is all we should expect from Cahill. There has been some argument that an early season curveball contributed to a lot of his success early on and that he has since used it less (on the season he has used it 14.2% of the time – yet in August he has only used it 6.4% of the time compared to 16.8% in April) and that could account for the different pitcher that we have seen. I think there is a degree of validity to that argument, but ultimately I think many were just sort of wooed by the great superficial statistics of 2010 and when they returned in April many figured that Cahill would somehow make it work. Yet he has regressed to where he should be and he likely is at best a third starter if not a fourth starter innings eater. I am fine with this. His contract is reasonable for this level of performance in fact he already has earned his 2011 salary despite his struggles.

That all said, Cahill struggled again in Cleveland last night. He went five and a third innings, allowing five earned runs, on seven hits (including a Carlos Santana home run) while walking and striking out two, hardly an impressive performance and not one that gave the A’s much of a chance to win. It started in the bottom of the third when with one out Cahill allowed back-to-back singles to Lou Marson and Ezequiel Carrera. This was followed up by a two-run double by Kosuke Fukudome that allowed the Indians to jump out to a 2-0 lead.

In the top of the fifth, the A’s halved the lead on a Coco Crisp single that scored Jemile Weeks. With the score 2-1 however in the bottom of sixth Cahill walked the newest Indian Jim Thome before surrendering a two run shot to Santana. He then hit Shelley Duncan with a pitch and was removed by Bob Melvin. Then new-pitcher Fautino De Los Santos, had former Athletic Jack Hannahan down 0-2 and surrender another two-run bomb making the lead swell to 6-1. In the top of the ninth the A’s would mount a small rally that resulted in one run coming on a Kurt Suzuki sac fly but it was too little, too late and the A’s would fall 6-2.

This represented the second time the A’s were dominated by Jeanmar Gomez. Gomez went six, allowing one unearned run on six hits, walking one and striking out four. Gomez against the A’s this year: 11 1/3 innings, of two run (one earned) ball, on a combined twelve hits, with three walks and five K’s adding up to a 0.79 ERA. Against everyone else mind you: 6.87 ERA. Again, the A’s lineup makes other people’s replacement level starts look like Sandy Koufax.

The only other noteworthy appearance in this ballgame was the MLB debut of Neil Wagner. Wagner, a former Indians farmhand, pitched the eighth, striking out Santana – his first MLB batter and allowing a lone single and no other damage. Wagner’s call up early on Tuesday required a complimentary roster move on the 40-man roster. I had speculated we’d finally see Daric Barton placed on the 60-day disabled list – the second time I have postulated that this move would occur – and alas it did not. To put Wagner onto the 40-man, Bruce Billings was outrighted to Sacramento. Billings got really bombed in New York by the Yankees, so the small sample size really messes up his numbers but that said in Oakland this year he posted (in three appearances) 12.6 K/9, 10.8 BB/9 and 1.8 HR/9 leaving him with a sloppy 12.60 ERA and still sloppy 6.41 FIP. The outright is significant in that it likely means Billings will not be a September call up for Oakland meaning his future in Oakland is likely even more limited than it appeared to be at first which still was quite limited.

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