April 2, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jarrod Parker (11) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland A's: Breaking Down Jarrod Parker's Early Season Struggles

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Two weeks ago I wrote a post on whether or not Oakland A’s starter Jarrod Parker should be placed on the DL or sent down to the minor leagues to work out his struggles.  In his two starts since that article, he has thrown two mediocre outings, pitching five and six innings and giving up three and four earned runs respectively.  And while Parker’s ERA still remains a bloated 6.86, A’s fans should back away from the ledge.

Two starts of six and eight earned runs (getting the hook in the eight run game after 3.1 innings pitched) and getting replaced early on in games are skewing the number. Parker is only averaging five innings a start, and giving up on average 3.8 runs per start.  While Parker can partially be to blame for the earned runs, a conservative managing strategy coupled with solid bullpen work has negatively affected Parker’s ERA (in essence, since the bullpen has pitched so well the coaching staff is more willing to pull Parker early in games or when he is in trouble).

While the media likes to focus on ERA (and in the proper context, ERA can be an effective tool to evaluate players), advanced metrics can paint a better picture.  While Parker’s batting average on balls in play is regressing, his home run rate is still atrocious. This season, 17 percent of the fly balls Parker induces are going for home-runs. Home-runs are a death kiss for pitchers.  Parker also seems to have trouble with both left-handed batters and when falling behind in the count.  Using Fangraph’s 2013 splits, it is apparent that Parker is getting behind in counts and seems to be throwing balls over the plate in order to get a strike, and as a result he is getting clobbered.

Looking at Parker’s Pitch f/x data it seems his velocity is consistent and his pitches aren’t lacking movement. The effectiveness of his two-seam fastball has even improved since my last post. Therefore it may be Parker’s approach that is hurting him.  Getting ahead in the count seems to be the key to having success as the season goes on.  While this is true of many pitchers, it is especially relevant to Parker this year.  A regression of his home-run rate will also improve his performance, however the solution is yet undiscovered.

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