By Jason Wojciechowski on January 24, 2007 at 4:00 PM
It's a banner day when Darin Erstad signs with the White Sox instead of the A's. There were far too many rumors floating around that he was going to bring his sub-700 OPS to Oaktown to let me be comfortable. Now that I know he's taking his "grit and hustle" to the South Side instead of the East Bay, I can breathe easy and get back to wondering whether Brian Urlacher's neck is going to swallow his head before the Super Bowl.
On the other hand, Kirk Saarloos is gone. The A's sent him (and a PTBNL) to the Reds for David Shafer (and a PTBNL). Saarloos fell off a little bit last year, but was a decent bet to be a league-average pitcher from a runs standpoint (because of the A's still-very-good defense), though like a below-average one from a defense-neutral standpoint.
Shafer's 25 this season, so he's three years younger than Saarloos, but he has yet to even pitch as high as AAA. He was apparently a closer at AA last year, as he racked up 26 saves, but his more important numbers include: about 50 innings, just two homers allowed, sixteen walks, and 52 strikeouts. So he's over a strikeout per inning, obviously, and he's about 3:1 on the K:BB ratio. Neither of those numbers are flukes, either: in his five years in the Cincinnati chain, he's at a homer per eighteen innings, 2.7 walks per nine, and 9.8 strikeouts per nine. His hit rate, for what it's worth, stands at 7.3 per nine, so that's pretty sweet also.
He basically saves the A's some dough while likely sitting in AAA this year in case one of the real relievers breaks down. While he's likely injury depth, I wonder about his durability, as he's only once thrown more than fifty innings in a season. That appears to be an artifact of his usage pattern, as his games-pitched numbers don't seem absurd, but you still worry about getting him up to 60-90 major-league innings without the requisite arm strength to manage it.