Tag: Brandon McCarthy

2013 MLB Free Agents: Underrated Pitchers Who Will Provide Good Value

Zack Greinke, Hiroki Kuroda and Kyle Lohse are among the most coveted free-agent starting pitchers on the market this offseason. While those stars will surely help whatever rotation they join, not every team will be able to afford to chase them.

Luckily, there are several other options that should be available in a more reasonable price range. They aren’t on the same level as the three names mentioned above in terms of ability, but they should still provide terrific value.

Let’s take a glance at three starters that should fall into that category.


1. Brandon McCarthy

The last time baseball fans saw McCarthy on the mound, he was struck by a line drive—an extremely scary moment for everybody involved. Thankfully, he was recently cleared for baseball activity and should be ready for roll for 2013.

McCarthy has been widely overlooked for quite some time because today’s stat-centric baseball world loves pitchers who strike out a lot of batters, which he doesn’t do. Yet he’s posted an ERA below 3.35 for two straight seasons.

The 29-year-old starter relies on terrific control (less than two walks per nine innings) and good pitch variation to keep hitters off-balance. As long as he remains healthy, he’s the perfect target for a team looking to fill a No. 3 spot in its rotation.


2. Shaun Marcum

Marcum is a high-upside target who also presents some risk. He has only topped the 200-inning mark once during his career and is coming off a season in which he made just 21 starts. Giving him a contract would be based on the hope he can stay healthy.

That said, a quick look at his numbers will show why he’s worth taking a chance on. The right-hander has not posted an ERA above 3.70 since becoming a full-time starter in 2008. Just as impressive, his strikeout rate was nearly eight batters per nine last season.

He finished the season healthy and should enter spring training in good shape after having the winter to rest any lingering issues. If he goes on to make a full complement of starts next season, he will be viewed as a major free-agent steal.


3. Carlos Villanueva

Villanueva is another interesting case. He has never made more than 16 starts in a season. Instead, he’s been used mostly as a swingman between the rotation and bullpen over the past few seasons. But now he wants a guaranteed spot in the rotation, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.

Judging by his performance during July and August last season for the Toronto Blue Jays, it’s an agreement teams will probably be willing to make. He was Toronto’s best pitcher over that span, including a 4-0 record with a 1.93 ERA in July.

The biggest concern is control (3.3 walks per nine), but every pitcher outside the top tier is going to have at least one flaw. Given his high strikeout rate and periods of dominance last season, he’ll be a tremendous rotation filler for next season.


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Oakland A’s: Does Re-Signing of Bartolo Colon Mean Exit of Brandon McCarthy?

To the surprise of this writer, the Oakland A’s announced the re-signing of suspended starting pitcher Bartolo Colon for a one year deal worth up to $3 million with performance bonuses. 

Don’t get me wrong, Colon was solid with the A’s in 2012 up until his suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. His stat line was 10-9 with a 3.43 ERA in 24 starts. By all accounts, he had a very good season.

However, what can the Oakland A’s reasonably expect from a 39-year-old starting pitcher whose performance was almost certainly amplified by his use of PEDs? If nothing else, he becomes a stopgap in the event of sophomore recession from Tom Milone or Jarrod Parker.

You have to wonder if Dan Straily and A.J. Griffin will have a spot in the rotation now with Colon’s return (he is slated to miss the first five games of the 2013 season to complete the 50-game suspension levied in August).

As it stands, you can reasonably assume Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker and Tom Milone are the top three starters. Colon likely slides into the fourth spot. So barring any injury, it becomes a battle between Griffin and Straily, with dark horses in the form of prospects Brad Peacock and Sonny Gray.

What that certainly means is that the A’s could part ways with Brandon McCarthy. McCarthy has been a top-tier starter during his time in Oakland, but has also consistently battled injury. In that way, he reminded me of the tantalizing, but too-often-injured Justin Duchscherer. Of course, we all know he continues to recover from the frightening line drive he took off his skull against the Los Angeles Angels on September 5. 

According to Jane Lee of MLB.com, Oakland general manager Billy Beane insists that it will not impact McCarthy’s return, but realistically, how can it not? Colon’s return puts in the A’s in a spot where even without McCarthy, there are eight pitchers for five spots in the rotation.

And unlike 2012, there are no guys like Tyson Ross and Graham Godfrey in this mix. Granted, Oakland’s recent injury issues with starting pitching makes it a practical move.

But I have not forgotten that Lew Wolff still owns this team. Any type of excessive payroll is not going to be allowed as long as the A’s are still inhabitants of the Coliseum. So the recent history has shown that if Oakland adds, it will ultimately have to subtract. Chris Young’s return was the symbolic end of Jonny Gomes’ time. Derek Norris sped up the departure of Kurt Suzuki, etc.

In other words, Colon (who was solid while pitching in the Dominican) will have every chance to regain his spot in the rotation. Why? Because he comes with great value for a low price. Nothing in the A’s model suggests doing more than necessary at any one position. So welcome back Bartolo. And it’s likely goodbye Brandon. 

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A’s Star Brandon McCarthy Drops Hilarious Tweet After Release from Hospital

Brandon McCarthy was finally released from the hospital following surgery to fix a skull fracture. We are glad to report that he is doing well and is still hilarious. 

As the Washington Post reports, McCarthy was struck in the head with a line drive last Wednesday and suffered an epidural hemorrhage, brain contusion and skull fracture.

He underwent two hours of surgery to relieve the pressure on his brain. Thankfully, though, the athlete was discharged on Tuesday and, as this tweet proves, was in great spirits:


That tweet is some kind of special.

Not only is it hilarious at face value, but it gives fans who know him a reason to let out a sigh of relief. If humor is indeed the best medicine, it’s McCarthy administering a great deal of aid to all of us who feared for his health. 

Of course, Team McCarthy is a two-person comedy troupe. His wonderful wife, Amanda McCarthy, is just as hilarious on Twitter and is a must-follow for any fan of much-needed chuckles. 

Here is her perfect retort to her rather rambunctious hubby:


Not that these were isolated incidents of humor, because both husband and wife prove capable of seeing the comedy in the most frightening of circumstances. 

Here is another gem from Brandon:


I guess we will give him a pass for the time being, especially if his wife plans on making him wear a helmet wherever he goes:


The great news of the day remains Brandon McCarthy going home to be with his loving family and getting a jump on the healing we hope is quick and complete. 

The Washington Post report issues that McCarthy is making steady progress and is able to walk down a hallway and go up and down four steps. 

It didn’t mention his ability to laugh and make others do the same, which is priceless. 


Follow me on Twitter for more wonderful news. 

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Oakland A’s: 16 Games in August Will Determine Playoff Chances

Do not be fooled by the logjam in the American League Wild Card standings.

Although there are five teams within 2.5 games of each other for that Wild Card play in game, in reality this is about three teams: the Detroit Tigers, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Tampa Bay Rays.

That is all you see on the sports networks; that is all you hear on the radio. 

Except there are still 38 games to play for the surprising Oakland A’s, who have managed to win in ways that would surprise even the most faithful fan, still just 0.5 games out of those standings. Like the other surprise team in this picture (Baltimore), the A’s face a daunting September schedule that looms as a potential derailment on the playoff train.

That said, the A’s fortunes will largely hinge on how much of a cushion they can give themselves as they embark on the next 16 games of their season.

Starting tonight against the Kansas City Royals, the A’s play four teams with a combined record of 30 games under .500 in 2012. Even though 10 of the 16 are away from the Coliseum, the A’s will have to win in double figures to position themselves for the playoffs.

Let’s start with the Royals.

At 49-65, it has been another long year for Kansas City. Some of their young talent in the field has not lived up to the hype (namely Eric Hosmer). But despite their record, they have played the A’s tough, splitting six games so far this year. With Jarrod Parker’s elongated rest between starts, Brandon McCarthy and Dan Straily pitching, the A’s have to get at least two in this series.

From Kansas City, Oakland comes home to face the slumping Cleveland Indians.

A surprise team earlier in the year, the Indians have faded quickly. Posting a record of 10-21 since the All-Star break, Cleveland has been relegated to playing out the string in 2012. The A’s play the Indians seven times between Aug. 17 and Aug. 30. The aim should be to win five games against a team that has sunk down the stretch.

The A’s host the Minnesota Twins from Aug. 20 to Aug. 22 in Oakland.

In many ways, the Twins were the team that jump started Oakland into postseason contention, as the A’s swept them at Target Field to begin the second half of 2012. That series was in stark contrast to the three-game sweep Minnesota gave the A’s during their nine game losing streak in late May.

The one constant between the two teams has been that Josh Willingham has bashed the A’s. So far, Willingham has hit five home runs in six games against his former team. Keeping him (somewhat) in check and getting to Minnesota’s weak starting rotation will be key. Two out of three games here should be a minimum, with a sweep being the ultimate aim.

Finally, the A’s will travel to St. Petersburg from Aug. 23 to Aug. 25 in a big three-game series against current Wild Card leader Tampa Bay.

The Rays took two of three from the A’s in Oakland as its starting pitching allowed a measly five runs in three games. The series is even at three games apiece, but Oakland will need to play well at Tropicana Field as that set sandwiches series between Cleveland and Minnesota. 

Ultimately, I feel the A’s will have to win 89 games to qualify for the postseason. I project that based on the number of teams still playing, the schedules of the other contenders and, ultimately, the schedule that awaits Oakland.

With that said, to have a reasonable chance to get to that figure, the A’s will have to win 11 of the next 16 games, thus putting their record at 72-58 going towards September.

While the team does have the benefit of playing every other contender, Oakland’s schedule is fourth toughest (.507 opponents win percentage), and they play 27 of the final 48 games on the road.

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2012 Oakland Athletics: Midseason Checkpoint at the 100-Game Mark

At the last checkpoint, the Oakland A’s were 39-42 at the midway point of the season. On pace for 78 wins, they have gone a blistering 16-3 since to move to 55-45 and are on the verge of taking the lead in the American League wild-card standings. For the month of July, they are 18-3 and show no signs of slowing down.

What is all the more remarkable about this turnaround is that is has happened without many of the cogs people expected the A’s to need to have any kind of chance to contend for anything in 2012. For starters, Jemile Weeks, expected to be the catalyst for the Oakland offense, continues to languish around .220 for the year. The A’s shortstops have combined for splits of .184/.244/.276 as of July 28th. That is by far the worst in baseball. Catchers have not been much better, performing at splits of .198/.250/.269 in 2012. 

Meanwhile, the A’s have the No. 1 pitching staff in the American League despite having three rookies in the rotation. The team ace Brandon McCarthy has missed chunks of the season with a balky shoulder and rotation stalwarts Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden have yet to make one pitch at the major league level. 

So what have the A’s done well? First off, they are getting great production from Yoenis Cespedes. Backed by a hot July, Cespedes currently has splits of .302/.361/.541 for an OPS of .902. Considering “The Cuban Missile” has missed about 30 games to injury, the production he has had is all the more remarkable.

Even more of a surprise has been the amazing play of Josh Reddick. Billy Beane looks like a genius for acquiring the right fielder for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney. All Reddick has done is lead the team with 22 home runs, drive in 50 runs and compile his own slugging percentage of .537 with an OPS of .885 in 2012. By far the A’s most consistent hitter during the year, Reddick has helped the A’s balance out their lineup over the course of the season. 

Of course, Oakland’s success could not happen without great pitching. The trio of Jarrod Parker, Tom Milone and A.J. Griffin has done more than just complement veterans Bartolo Colon and the surprising Travis Blackley. They have become the lead story in a rotation that continues to surprise.

Parker, while having some struggles in July, still sits at 7-4 with a 3.38 ERA on the season. Milone has been lights out in Oakland, going 9-7 overall, while Griffin has truly been a pleasant surprise. In six starts, Griffin has gone six innings in each, winning his last three decisions while posting an ERA of 2.25 on the year. Instead of being a warm body until other starters got healthy, Griffin appears to be firmly planted in the rotation. 

Knowing how quickly the situation can change, it is important to note that the A’s still have a tenuous schedule to navigate. The 10 games with Los Angeles and six with Texas will likely determine if Oakland has a position in the 2012 playoffs. But there are also six games with Tampa Bay, three more with the Yankees, three with another division/wild-card hopeful, the Detroit Tigers, as well as six with the always pesky Seattle Mariners.

Either way, to be on pace for 89 wins with this team, there is no doubt that Bob Melvin deserves more than just a little consideration for AL Manager of the Year. Whether he will merit it will depend on his team in the next few weeks.

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MLB Trade Scenarios: Top Starters Likely to Be Available at the Deadline

The MLB trade deadline brings excitement each summer as contenders try to improve their team while pretenders look to the future.

The saying in baseball is that you can’t have too much pitching, so starting pitchers are always at high demand around the deadline.

An elite starting pitcher can be the difference in reaching the postseason or making a run at a World Series Championship.

Cliff Lee was traded at the deadline to the Texas Rangers a few years ago and led them all the way to the World Series.

There doesn’t appear to be a pitcher on Lee’s level, but there are good pitchers that should become available by the deadline.

Let’s take a look at some of the top starting pitchers who could help your baseball team get to the next level.

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Oakland Athletics: Josh Willingham and 5 Players That Need to Re-Sign for 2012

For the Oakland Athletics, the 2011 baseball campaign is creeping to a halt.

Having had a tumultuous and exciting six months of baseball that included benchings and a firing, injuries and trades and, oh yeah, a movie release based on the team’s general manager (which opens nationwide today), the A’s are ready to put the season behind them as quickly as possible.

Yes, like most teams, the A’s have encountered some peaks through the course of the year; but the valleys have been absolutely abysmal—the nadir being a 10-game losing streak that they never fully recovered from.

Much of the blame can be and was attributed to the slothfully slow start offensively by the team as a whole. Although several players did warm up a bit midseason, by then the A’s had lost two of their starting pitchers for the season, and were in a tailspin that was difficult to overcome in a competitive AL West division.

With that in mind, the A’s head into the offseason with numerous players eligible for free agency and salary arbitration. This September has allowed Oakland to examine their 40-man roster and not only take a deeper look at those youngsters who have bright futures with the team, but also determine which veterans should be traded and which ones should be kept on next season.

Here are five players who the A’s need to re-sign this offseason.

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Oakland Athletics: Brandon McCarthy Making a Case for an A’s Encore in 2012

For the first time this season, Brandon McCarthy tossed a complete game and won.

Now, it’s not the first time this season that McCarthy has gone the distance; he’s done that four times. It also marked the second consecutive game that he has pitched the entire game.

On this particular Saturday, though, McCarthy was masterful on the mound.

He allowed just three hits while walking none and striking out ten Mariners without allowing a run. The shutout was only the second of his career, and first of the season.

The A’s were able to secure the victory thanks to a two-run double by Cliff Pennington in the fourth inning and a fifth-inning solo homer by Scott Sizemore.

McCarthy completed the game having thrown just 98 pitches, and he walked off with the victory to a standing ovation from the 19,732 fans in attendance at Oakland’s O.co Coliseum.

“That was awesome,” McCarthy told MLB.com’s Jane Lee following the game. “It’s one of those things where as much time as I’ve spent hurt and you’ve got everyone out there and behind you when things are going well, it kind of makes you feel like you’re on top of the world.”

The injuries that McCarthy referenced are one of the main reasons he has managed to fly under the radar for much of the season. His signing in the offseason was viewed by most fans as only a depth signing, and his winning of the fifth starter position was seen only as the result of Rich Harden injuring himself and Tyson Ross being inexperienced as an MLB starter.

Despite being effective early on, his six-week stint on the disabled list just appeared to be the norm for his career path.

And yet, he just keeps putting together consistent effective performances on the mound, start after start.

For the season he has an 8-7 record, although that win total would certainly be higher were it not for the Jekyll-and-Hyde offense of the A’s this season. His ERA is a very respectable 3.41 this season, and heading into Saturday’s performance against the Mariners, he was allowing just 1.5 BB/9 this season. He also posted a 6.3 K/9 rate, although it is worth noting that he has recorded 10 strikeouts in each of his past two outings.

With Brett Anderson out for the 2012 season and Dallas Braden’s status uncertain as his rehab from shoulder surgery progresses, McCarthy very well could be auditioning for a new contract to return to Oakland in 2012.

With the inconsistency displayed by Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez at times this season, McCarthy’s reliable performances and veteran experience would be a welcome return as the A’s put a young rotation back out on the diamond in 2012.

Another few solid performances as the season winds down would certainly strengthen his case for a well deserved new deal to stay in Oakland for another season.

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Oakland Athletics Rotation Set: Brandon McCarthy Named 5th Starter

After weeks of speculation, the fifth starter competition is finally over and the A’s have their rotation set heading into the final week of spring training.

Injuries and ineffectiveness removed Rich Harden, Josh Outman and Bobby Cramer from the competition, leaving Brandon McCarthy and Tyson Ross to battle it out as the Cactus League came to a close.

With one game left before the beginning of the Bay Bridge Series against the reigning World Series champion San Francisco Giants, manager Bob Geren finally declared McCarthy the winner and fifth starter.

McCarthy experienced his only negative outing of the spring in his last start, but it was not enough for him to lose the job.

“He really only had one rough inning all spring,” Geren said. “Other than that, he’s been very good.”

McCarthy was the most experienced starter remaining in the competition for the fifth starter role after Rich Harden was sidelined by a strained lat muscle on the first day of spring training.

“He obviously has a little bit of previous experience, and he’s had a great spring,” Geren added. “He’s only had one walk and 20 strikeouts, which is obviously a good indicator of how well he’s throwing.”

McCarthy has a 17-18 record, 4.58 ERA, 5.8 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 ratios over parts of five major league seasons with the Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers. McCarthy has made only 22 starts over the past three seasons due to shoulder injuries.

This spring he has appeared fully recovered and ready to contribute to an already stellar Athletics rotation.

McCarthy’s main competition for the fifth starter role this spring, Tyson Ross, will now compete the final week for a role in the bullpen. Ross posted a very impressive 0.59 ERA this spring in 15.1 innings pitched.

The A’s could keep Ross in the bullpen in long relief and for spot starts, or they could decide to send him to Triple-A Sacramento to continue on a regular pitching schedule and receive consistent innings.

“That’s a decision we’ll have to make at some point,” Geren said. “I’m mostly encouraged about Tyson and his development this spring. He’s been pounding the strike zone with good fastball command.”

With so many left-handed pitchers on the A’s staff (Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Braden in the rotation, along with Brian Fuentes, Craig Breslow and Jerry Blevins in the bullpen), Ross stands a good chance of making the team as an additional right-handed arm.

Ross has expressed interest in remaining a starter, but he would embrace any role that earned him a spot on the major league roster. He gained experience as a reliever last season with the Athletics in two stints in the majors.

Ross should excel whether pitching out of the ‘pen in Oakland, or continuing to gain experience as a starter in Sacramento.

Bob Geren seems to agree that Ross will have no problem with either role.

“He’s got such a high ceiling, such big potential in whatever he does.”


Brandon McClintock covers the Oakland Athletics and Major League Baseball for BleacherReport.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @BMcClintock_BR.

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Rich Harden Hurt: Oakland Athletics’ 5th Starter Competition Down to 2 Already?

It feels like I’m having a flashback or experiencing déjà vu. Welcome back Rich Harden, to the disabled list that is.

Technically, Harden will not see the disabled list for his latest injury, at least not yet, but he did manage to strain his lat muscle during the first day of official spring training workouts for pitchers and catchers.

The injury, while it does not appear to be major, will set Harden back for a couple of weeks: “We’ll wait until he’s pain free,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “It’s estimated that would be two weeks.”

Harden does not seem too concerned about his most recent injury, stating that it reminds him of an injury he experienced during the 2008 season. He returned from that injury after a small stint on the disabled list and put together one of his best seasons, going 10-2 with a 2.07 ERA in a split season with Oakland and the Chicago Cubs.

“It’s frustrating,” Harden said of his current injury. “But I still feel like I can go out there and be healthy for the season after this.

“I can come back and pitch well, (but) I was excited to get going just because I was feeling so good.”

Harden spent the offseason working with A’s pitching coach Ron Romanick. The two worked on mechanics, fixing bad habits that Harden says he picked up after his trade from Oakland to the Chicago Cubs during the 2008 season. His work with Romanick has already included four bullpen sessions, so he won’t be too far behind schedule when he returns in approximately two weeks.

Speaking of his work with Romanick, Harden says: “Mechanically, I was feeling like I’m where I need to be. The ball was coming out real good.” 

Harden will still compete for a spot in the rotation when he returns to the mound, but in the mean time the attention will shift to two other starters returning from injury: Josh Outman and Harden’s Texas teammate Brandon McCarthy.

Outman hasn’t pitched since June 2009 after having Tommy John surgery, and Brandon McCarthy has struggled with shoulder injuries that kept him out all of last season. Technically also in the mix for the fifth starter spot are Tyson Ross and Bobby Cramer.

“I don’t think it changes anything,” A’s assistant general manager David Forst said. “We added depth in the offseason, and we still feel very comfortable with it.”

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