2011 A's Retrospective #24: Brad Ziegler

By Jason Wojciechowski on February 11, 2012 at 3:10 PM

It is appropriate that Brad Ziegler follows Brandon Allen in the retrospective series after the two were traded for each other at the 2011 deadline.

After Ziegler scuffled a bit in 2010, seeing his walk rate crack four men per nine, he returned to form in 2011, whiffing nearly seven per nine, walking just over three, giving up zero homers in 37 2/3 innings, and getting, per Baseball Prospectus, 73% groundballs. Seventy three! Just three pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched cracked 70% on the year: Jonny Venters, Bobby Cassevah, and Ziegler. The ex-Athletic submariner slots right in between those guys as far as quality: Venters brings an excellent strikeout rate to the table along with his grounders, while Cassevah's game is entirely predicated on worm-killers, with his strikeout-to-walk ratio standing alarmingly near one.

Ziegler's had three years out of four like this, but he's 32 years old now and no longer making the minimum salary (though he's hardly expensive -- Arizona signed him for less than $2M for 2012), so I think the A's did well to get two potentially decent players for him. Good bullpen arms are lovely and well, but if you're not going to be challenging for a title anyway, you can gamble on the Jordan Norbertos of the world to get you through the year. It helps that a full year for a reliever entails being on the field for about 40% as many plate appearances as a full-time starting position player -- if Chris Carter hits .180/.270/.310 and the A's play him every day, that's a lot of suffering for the fans, even if he bats eighth. If Jordan Norberto is terrible, you can pitch him in four-run games and only throw him out there when the fans have tuned out anyway.

Chad Bradford left the A's after 2004 and Ziegler showed up in 2008. With the latter's departure, I guess that means we have to wait until 2015 for the next extreme ground-baller with a terrible pedigree to burst onto the scene. (Nobody wrote a book featuring Ziegler, though, which is too bad, because his story is great, too: released by the Phillies because he wasn't good enough for Low-A, indie leagues, signed by the A's, works his way up as a mediocre starting pitcher, fractures his skull, converted by Ron Romanick to submarine style, fractures his skull again, then makes the bigs, goes 39 innings of scoreless baseball to start his career, absolutely shattering the previous record (25), breaking the A's record for scoreless innings at any point (37), and then has four generally good seasons of major-league pitching. Tell me that's not awesome.)

Anyway, if the next Bradford/Ziegler shows up in 2015, just in time for the San Jose park to open, I guess that's fine. My money is on J.C. Menna, who put up a 5.70 ERA for Vermont in 2011. (J.C.'s real name is Gerald. I have no idea where the "J" comes from.)