Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker form another core of young arms for A’s

Jarrod Parker nearly no-hit the potent Texas Rangers lineup during his last outing for the Oakland A's. (Beck Diefenbach/Reuters)

Many people like to associate “Moneyball” with the past success of the Oakland Athletics, but the most important part of those teams in the early 2000s was the pitching staff. Through trades and development, the A’s once again are hoping to form a staff that will help them compete in the American League West.

Two of the most important pieces of that puzzle are Tommy Milone and Jarrod Parker.

Milone was acquired from the Nationals in the Gio Gonzalez trade, which has worked out pretty great for the Nationals as well. The 25-year-old Milone was selected in the 10th round of the 2008 draft and has been impressive moving up through the minor league ranks and is now a solid starter for the A’s.

In 86 starts in the minor leagues, Milone posted a 3.05 ERA in 516 and two-thirds innings, while striking out 465 batters and only walking 84. For those who read my articles, I tend to emphasize the walk-to-strikeout ratio quite frequently. Anybody who is striking out a batter an inning and not giving out free passes will sustain a long career in the big leagues.

In 2011, while at triple-A Syracuse, he struck out 155 in 148.1 innings and only walked 16 batters! Those are Cliff Lee-type numbers. Through 11 starts for the big club this year, he’s already walked 17 and has only struck out 41 in 71.1  innings. But it hasn’t disrupted his effectiveness as he still supports a solid 3.53 ERA.

Six of his 11 starts this year have been quality starts. His stats indicate he’s been effective within the strike zone as he’s lasted seven innings or more six times and never thrown more than 108 pitches, which he’s done twice in two of his last three starts.

While I don’t believe Milone will ever be an ace or anything comparable to Gonzalez, I do believe he’s going to be a nice number two or three for years to come with this ball club. That or Billy Beane will trade him in a year or two for a similar prospect.

In another trade this past offseason, the Athletics acquired Parker from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Trevor Cahill — a deal that has drastically worked in the A’s favor so far. The first-round draft pick (ninth overall) in 2007 was the big piece in this deal.

After a few mediocre seasons in the minors where he posted a 3.41 ERA in 74 starts, the Diamondbacks brought him up for one game in 2011 and he threw 5.2 innings of shutout baseball, while only allowing four hits.

In eight starts with the Athletics this year, Parker has only allowed 13 earned runs in 48.2 innings for a 2.40 ERA, which is currently best among all A’s starters. Unlike Milone, his walk-to-strikeout ratio is not as impressive. He’s given up 24 free passes and only struck out 35. To me, that points to signs of being lucky.

But he was drafted in the first round for a reason, and that is why many still believe the ceiling is high enough for this 23-year-old kid to become a top-of-the-rotation starter. He hasn’t given up a run in his last two outings and hasn’t allowed anyone to cross home plate in his last 18 innings pitched. He still shows signs of being young in those starts as his pitch count rises quickly due to the seven walks in those past two starts and only 10 strike outs.

Still, you have to be impressed with this young man’s work during the early part of the season. These two starters have helped the Oakland pitching staff to post the league’s eighth best ERA at 3.61. If Brandon McCarthy could stay healthy these three could form a solid 1-2-3 punch to help them stay competitive against the Angels and Rangers.

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