Within the last few days an article was posted on another website that may or may not be owned by the people who own TBS, this article (which I’m sure you can go find on your own) was centered on the premise that Brandon McCarthy was nonessential to the success of the Oakland Athletics. Let’s disregard the fact that the article doesn’t fully commit to the statement, stating many reasons why he can continue to be a crucial piece for the A’s, but I’m not here to critique the structure of their argument. My beef is with the premise the entire article was based on in the first place.
When Brandon McCarthy was signed prior to the 2011 season, essentially as a free agent flyer signing by Billy Beane, nobody expected much from him considering his injury history and the A’s lack of luck with injuries over the last few years. But McCarthy was impressive in Spring Training, fought his way into the starting rotation, and wowed us with his command and poise. His recurring shoulder issues had been largely tied to his extreme over the top delivery. He dropped down to a more 3/4 arm slot, with the hope of putting less stress on his shoulder. There had been doubts about his future as a pitcher, and while he didn’t avoid the DL in 2011, he did manage to keep the shoulder problems from becoming serious, perhaps requiring a season ending surgery.
Fast forward to Opening Day 2012, the A’s are in Tokyo, Japan to play the Seattle Mariners. And it’s not Gio Gonzalez, or Trevor Cahill making that first start… both of them had been shipped away. Brandon McCarthy had ascended from 5th starter barely making the rotation, to starting Opening Day in 1 year’s time. Certainly some obstacles before him had been removed by those trades, but there was no doubt that McCarthy was deserving of the honor. McCarthy did miss more time with shoulder issues again, but he continued to prove that he has all the ability to help lead this young pitching staff. In his 2 years with the Athletics so far, McCarthy has an ERA of 3.29 in 281.2 innings of work. His BABIP of .295 and .296 indicates that his success is not a symptom of amazing defense or blind luck, he’s become an extremely effective pitcher.
Of course we all recall the frightening injury McCarthy sustained against the Angels in September, and his recovery from that serious injury has been nothing short of remarkable. With the entire offseason to heal, he should be totally good to go when the 2013 season rolls around. There’s no telling what psychological hurdles might remain in returning to the mound, but he is of strong mind so there’s no doubt he can overcome those hurdles.
So as Brandon McCarthy enters free agency for a second time, and in much better position than he was 2 years ago. It is imperative that the A’s do everything in their power to bring him back to Oakland in 2013. My stance is based on something A’s Director of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi said (I’m paraphrasing) when during the Blog Day I was able to attend this year. He stated that when constructing a pitching staff, namely a starting rotation that you don’t build a 5 man rotation… you build a 162 game rotation. Sure the A’s won the AL West with a rotation consisting of 5 rookie pitchers, but is that something the A’s should bank on repeating? Much of the A’s success in 2012 was built upon the leadership of Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon. And while Colon was later revealed to be doing some naughty things that ended his season, the leadership he provided cannot be ignored. The A’s had 10 different pitchers make starts during the season, and the quality pitching depth they had was a major factor in the team’s success.
If the A’s are able to bring back McCarthy, it would most likely bump Dan Straily or A.J. Griffin from the 2013 rotation. But the chances of one of them finding their way back in would be high considering the injury history of McCarthy, and the daily grind that is the MLB season. It’s tough to say how much the A’s should be willing to commit to McCarthy, but the simple fact is this, he is a critical part of the A’s success now and in the future. And we all would like to see him back.