2011 Year In Review: Burlington Pitchers

Our "2011 Year In Review" series continues with a look at the pitchers for the Oakland A's Low-A affiliate.

Burlington Bees Pitching At A Glance
Team ERA: 3.45 (second in the league out of 16 teams)
Strike-outs/Walks: 1028/400 (fifth-least and fourth-least in the league, respectively)
Team WHIP: 1.24 (tied for first)

Pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched are discussed in this article.

It was a successful first season in Burlington for the Oakland A's, as their Midwest League affiliate finished fifth in the league in wins and earned a playoff berth. Although they fell short of a Midwest League title, the Bees featured a number of strong individual performances, as well as a solid overall team performance.

As is often the case with Midwest League teams, pitching was the backbone of the Bees' success, especially during the team's red-hot start to the season. Burlington went 45-25 during the first half of the year, securing a first-half division title. As a number of their top starting pitchers graduated to High-A and above, the Bees slumped some in the second half.

Two of those early season stars were right-hander A.J. Griffin and left-hander Jake Brown. Both breezed through their first two months in the Midwest League and were rewarded with early season promotions. Griffin made eight starts for the Bees, going 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA. His first start for Burlington was a near no-hitter and he never looked back from that outing. He struck-out 46 and walked only five in 52 innings and he allowed only 36 hits. His WHIP was a team-best 0.79. Griffin would ultimately pitch for all four of the A's full-season affiliates in 2011 and he finished with 156 strike-outs and only 32 walks in 160.2 innings.

Brown nearly matched Griffin's Burlington numbers. In eight outings, he went 4-0 with a 1.62 ERA and he posted a 39:6 K:BB ratio. The soft-tossing lefty utilized an array of breaking pitches and change-ups to keep the Midwest League hitters off-balance. He was unable to replicate that same level of success with the High-A Stockton Ports, although he improved with Stockton as the year went on.

With Griffin and Brown moving on to higher levels early in the season, the ace mantel fell to right-hander Blake Hassebrock. The A's eighth-round pick in 2010 had a rough first professional season, but he righted the ship in 2011. In 26 starts, he posted a 2.64 ERA. Hassebrock had a 110:46 K:BB ratio in 139.2 innings and he allowed only nine homeruns. He also induced nearly two groundouts for every flyout.

Right-hander Josh Bowman was also a steady hand in the Bees' rotation. He led the team with 154.2 innings pitched and posted a 3.55 ERA. Bowman, like Hassebrock, did a good job of keeping the ball on the ground and he allowed only nine homeruns. He struck-out 98 and walked 44. Bowman's ERA jumped more than a run after the All-Star break, but his peripheral stats were nearly the same for both halves of the season.

Nate Long, Jonathan Joseph, Jose Macias and Tyler Vail were the other pitchers who logged a significant number of starts for the Bees. Long split his season between the rotation and the bullpen, starting 15 games and relieving in 11. He posted a 3.42 ERA and saved three games. As a starter, the UT-Arlington alum had a 3.62 ERA with a 74:34 K:BB ratio in 79.2 innings. He posted a 2.86 ERA and an 18:8 K:BB ratio in 28.1 relief innings, most of which came early in the season. Long was the A's 16th-round pick in 2009 and had a 3.10 ERA for short-season Vancouver in 2010. The right-hander saw a number of improvements in his statline from 2010, including a jump in his K/IP ratio and a fall in his H/IP and HR/IP ratios.

Joseph missed the first six weeks of the season with an injury. He too split time between the rotation and the bullpen, logging 14 starts and seven relief appearances. The Dominican right-hander had a 3.05 ERA between short-season and Low-A ball in 2010, but he struggled to replicate those numbers in 2011. He had a 5.67 ERA in 81 innings for the Bees. Joseph allowed an uncharacteristically high number of homers (11) and gave up more hits than innings pitched. He also struck-out only 73 in 81 innings after striking out 90 in 94.1 innings in 2010.

Macias was impressive for Burlington. The right-hander had a 3.46 ERA in 80.2 innings over 16 starts for the Bees. He began his season at extended spring training, joining the Bees in late May. Macias struggled in June and July and was actually sent down to short-season Vermont for a brief period. After four impressive starts with the Lake Monsters, Macias returned and dominated for Burlington down-the-stretch. Over his final seven starts, he allowed six earned runs in 41 innings pitched (1.31 ERA) and struck-out 33 while walking six. For his entire year, Macias allowed only five homeruns in 102 innings pitched and posted an 83:24 K:BB ratio. The former collegiate infielder is in only his second full year of being a pitcher.

Vail came into the season as arguably the most highly touted pitcher on the Bees' staff. He was also the youngest, and it showed. The A's fifth-round pick out of high school in 2010, Vail made 13 starts for the Bees. In 57 innings, he posted a 5.68 ERA and a 34:28 K:BB ratio. Things actually got worse for Vail when he was sent down to short-season Vermont. He posted a 6.05 ERA and walked more batters than he struck-out in 38.2 innings for the Lake Monsters. Vail actually had good life on his fastball throughout the season, reaching the mid-90s at times, but he struggled to learn to command his secondary pitches. The A's are still high on the soon-to-be 20-year-old and he should get another crack with Burlington in 2012.

Burlington had an outstanding bullpen throughout the season, anchored by closers Daniel Tenholder and Zach Thornton. Tenholder led the team with 11 saves and he posted a 3.02 ERA in 53.2 innings. The slim right-hander struck-out 58 and walked 18, while allowing four homeruns. It was a second strong season in a row for the A's 2009 19th-round pick, who had a 1.86 ERA in 38.2 innings for short-season Vancouver in 2010.

Thornton spent time as both a closer and a longman for the Bees this season. He finished the year with 83 innings pitched, good for fourth-most on the team. He tied Tenholder with 40 relief appearances and he had five saves. The Oregon alum posted a 2.39 ERA and he struck-out 82 in 83 innings while walking only 22. Thornton also allowed only two homeruns and held opposing batters to a .204 average. He got a brief taste of Double-A baseball at the end of the year, tossing an impressive three innings for the Midland Rockhounds. In those three frames, he allowed only one hit and one walk and he struck-out four. Thornton was the A's 23rd-round pick in 2010.

Dominican right-hander Pedro Vidal was another stalwart in the Bees' pen. He was nearly unhittable, posting a 1.95 ERA in 69.1 innings. He struck-out 73 and walked 23 and held opposing batters to a .185 average. Vidal also saved five games. This was his first opportunity at playing full-season baseball.

Drew Tyson was also a workhorse out of the Burlington bullpen. The right-hander had 33 appearances and posted a 3.81 ERA in 54.1 innings pitched. The A's 17th-round pick in 2010 had a 36:19 K:BB ratio and held opposing batters to a .246 average. He also made two appearances for Vermont, tossing three scoreless innings with three strike-outs.

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