The Oakland Athletics started their 2017 campaign with their ace Sonny Gray on the disabled list. In his absence, Kendall Graveman (DL), Sean Manaea(5.51 ERA) and Jharel Cotton(5.40 ERA) were expected to keep the ship afloat, but instead it has been 28-year-old waiver claim Andrew Triggs that has been leading the rotation in the early going.
The Oakland Athletics selected Andrew Triggs off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles before the 2016 season, and he found himself bouncing up and down between Nashville and Oakland, first as a reliever, then later on earning a spot as a starter as injuries began to pile up. Triggs made six starts in the big leagues spanning 25.2 innings and earned a 2.81 ERA before exiting his September 2 start against the Red Sox with back tightness, ending his season.
Flash forward to 2017 and Andrew Triggs’ 3-0 record has helped the Oakland Athletics to maintain their 8-8 record in the early going, and the reason that Triggs is undefeated is because he hasn’t allowed an earned run to cross the plate in three starts. Three unearned runs have scored in his time on the mound, but those obviously don’t count towards his ERA, which remains a perfect at 0.00.
Heading into play on Thursday night, Triggs, who had started Tuesday’s game against Texas, and James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners, were the only two starting pitchers that had tallied at least 10 innings pitched and still held a 0.00 ERA.
That changed on Thursday night as the Mariners took on the A’s in Oakland.
Paxton went just 4.1 innings, allowed nine hits and five earned, walking one and striking out eight. He is still having a great year (through all of four starts), as can be seen by the fact that his ERA still sits at just 1.78 and that the argument could be made that he is becoming the ace of the Mariners.
But his outing on Thursday night has left Triggs alone atop the ERA leaderboard.
This is obviously a bit unfair, as Triggs started the season as the A’s number four option in the rotation, meaning that he has pitched in one less game than Paxton and a number of other starters thus far. The fact remains that he is there now, though.
Can He Keep it Up?
That’s what she said.
Triggs hasn’t allowed an earned run, but his FIP sits at 2.57 (still good) while his xFIP comes in at 4.07 (much less good). His 2.04 BB/9 rate bodes well for his overall success going forward and he has never been one to allow a ton of walks, so that figure should stay around two per nine. His strikeout rate per nine however has been much lower this season than his previous outputs at just 4.58. The next-lowest rate he’s had in his pro career was back in 2014 with the Royals Double-A affiliate where he put up a 5.58 K/9.
In his stints in the big leagues with Oakland last season he was striking out nearly one an inning (8.79). On the bright side, he did strike out five Rangers in his six innings of work on Tuesday night, so that rate could begin to creep up and up with more outings like his last one.
The only discernible difference in his pitch usage between this year and last is that he is relying more on his slider and his cutter (23 and 28.8% usage) than he did in 2016, with less emphasis on his heater, which has gone down from a 55.6 usage rate to 47.9%.
For right now, Triggs is holding his own. Once a better scouting report comes out on him it will be harder for him to continue at a similar pace unless he increases his swings and misses. The Seattle Mariners will get the next chance at Triggs on Sunday, which is fitting considering that it was the A’t that knocked Paxton from the realm of perfection last night.