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Scouting Pitchers: Oakland Starters & Radar Love: First-start fastballs for team aces

James Benkard

James Benkard writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Scouting Pitchers: Oakland Starters & Radar Love: First-start fastballs for team aces

One early surprise this season is the performance of the Oakland starting rotation. When Brett Anderson gave up five runs to the Orioles on April 18, it was the first time an Athletics starter had lost a game. Through 14 games, they are 6-1 with an AL-best 2.70 ERA. On the way back are Trevor Cahill, who is rehabbing a sore left (non-throwing) shoulder at Triple-A Sacramento, and Vincent Mazzaro. He didn’t make the final cut for the rotation, and is 1-1 with a 2.51 ERA at Sacramento.

Anderson signed a four-year deal that could earn him $31 million on April 16, reports. Oakland could have him through the 2015 season, during which he will be paid $12 million. In his April 16 faceoff against Baltimore’s Brian Matusz, Anderson was at 91-94 mph with an 80-84 mph slider. Anderson did lose a little velocity as the game wore on. For his part, Matusz was at 91-92 with an excellent 84 mph changeup, and a lot of late, unpredictable movement on his pitches. Unlike a lot of young pitchers, Matusz is not over-using his breaking pitches, but establishing his fastball and working off it. His 23 strikeouts now lead the major leagues, and he might make me eat my prediction for his 2010 numbers: “160 innings, 4.60 ERA.”

As for the rest of the Oakland rotation, Ben Sheets has battled his command, with his 10 walks third-most in the AL. Sheets has been at 91-93 mph, down from the 93-97 of his salad days in Milwaukee. He has been compensating by working the ball lower in the zone than is usual for him. Sheets’ 78-83 mph curveball is more than one pitch, as he varies its depth and gives it a slider break now and then. There are rumors that he will work in his changeup more than a few times a game. His velocity might pick up in the second half as he gets stronger.

Gio Gonzalez has made some waves with his first two starts. Gonzalez was at 91-93 with the high-70s curve working on April 9 when he faced Torii Hunter and the Angels. Afterwards, Hunter said Gonzalez has “the best left-handed curveball in the game.” Gonzalez is also working in a low-80s slider.

Justin Duchscherer has been moving 82-86 cut fastballs in on hitters and showing good command of his impossibly slow (70 mph) curveball. It’s a nice story, but I wouldn’t count on him too heavily. Dallas Braden has also contributed three nice starts. He deals a 72-75 mph changeup with an 85-87 mph fastball. He has allowed just three stolen bases in 300 major league innings, and wasn’t too bad in 2009 (8-9, 3.89 ERA). His stuff is still short for an AL starter, so expect him to be bumped when Cahill is ready.

Radar Love: In this first edition for 2010 of Radar Love, here are the fastball velocities for all 30 teams’ aces in their first start.

American League:

Baltimore: Kevin Millwood: 87-91
Boston: Josh Beckett: 93-96
Chicago White Sox: Mark Buehrle: 84-88
Cleveland: Jake Westbrook: 89-92
Detroit: Justin Verlander: 95-99
Kansas City: Zack Greinke: 91-96
LA Angels: Jered Weaver: 89-93
Minnesota: Scott Baker: 90-94
NY Yankees: CC Sabathia: 92-94
Oakland: Ben Sheets: 90-93
Seattle: Felix Hernandez: 93-97
Tampa Bay: James Shields: 89-93
Texas: Scott Feldman: 87-90
Toronto: Shaun Marcum: 84-87

National League:

Arizona: Dan Haren: 89-93
Atlanta: Derek Lowe: 87-90
Chicago Cubs: Carlos Zambrano: 90-94
Cincinnati: Aaron Harang: 89-94
Colorado: Ubaldo Jimenez: 94-99
Florida: Josh Johnson: 92-96
Houston: Roy Oswalt: 91-95
LA Dodgers: Vicente Padilla: 91-94
Milwaukee: Yovani Gallardo: 90-92
New York: Johan Santana: 89-91
Philadelphia: Roy Halladay: 90-94
Pittsburgh: Zach Duke: 84-89
St. Louis: Chris Carpenter: 89-94
San Diego: Jon Garland: 86-90
San Francisco: Tim Lincecum: 90-95
Washington: John Lannan: 86-91

Article first appeared 4/19/10