Jason Hammel struggled in his first four starts with the green and gold. By the end of his fourth start, an 8-1 A’s loss in Houston, Hammel had pitched to the tune of a 9.53 ERA with Oakland, and had been taken deep 5 times. Over those starts, Hammel allowed 18 earned runs, 10 walks and 26 hits, all in just 17 innings pitched.
In Hammel’s last two starts, he has allowed one earned in 12 innings pitched. While his start against Tampa Bay was a high-wire act, he pitched out of trouble very effectively, and gained his first win with the A’s.
Against Minnesota, Hammel put together his best performance yet, going 6-1/3 innings, allowing one run on a first inning solo homer to Brian Dozier while lowering his ERA to 5.90.
You knew all of that though.
What is interesting is what Bob Melvin had to say of Jason Hammel after the game on Sunday, “The ball was down in the zone, he mixed his pitches and the slider was sharper. After the second, we saw a lot of ground balls.”
This will all be key going forward for Jason Hammel. According to FanGraphs, Hammel was using his slider anywhere from 27.3%-39.3% of the time in his four losses with Oakland. Against Tampa, he used the slider only 13.5%. In an interview after Sunday’s game, John Jaso said, “I asked [Hammel] what his out pitch is. He said the slider. It was a good pitch to get him back to where he needed to be mechanically.”
This shows that the A’s catchers (Jaso on Sunday, and Derek Norris against Tampa) are getting to know their new pitcher a little bit more. While they may have known that Jason Hammel considers the slider his “out pitch” before, they now know in what situations his slider can do the most damage. Hammel has been mixing his pitches more, and to that end he said, “It’s harder to hit four pitches than two.”
If Jason Hammel can continue on this little streak, he makes the A’s pitching staff intimidating one through five.