Athletics

How A's reliever Yusmeiro Petit became baseball's version of a unicorn

yusmeiropetitcelebratesap.jpg
AP

How A's reliever Yusmeiro Petit became baseball's version of a unicorn

Yusmeiro Petit has bucked just about every trend of a major league relief pitcher.

Nowadays, most relievers come in throwing high-90s gas, yet Petit's fastball has never averaged 90 miles per hour in any of his 12 big-league seasons.

Most relievers can only throw one inning per appearance and must have their total innings limited throughout the season. Petit, on the other hand, has ranked in the top two for innings pitched among true relievers in each of the last three seasons.

Many relievers experience a sharp decline when they reach their mid-30s. Petit, 34, seems to just keep getting better with age.

In December of 2017, the A's signed Petit to a two-year, $10 million contract with a club option for a third year. That might seem like a high price to pay for a non-closer, but the right-hander has been worth every penny, and then some.

Last season, Petit went 7-3 with a 3.00 ERA and 1.01 WHIP, helping Oakland reach the postseason for the first time since 2014. He pitched 93 innings, second-most in the majors among true relievers.

This year, Petit has been even better, going 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. His 51 innings again rank second among true relievers and his 45 appearances are tied for second. Petit is on pace to top 90 innings out of the bullpen for the third straight season.

"And it's not like he's 24 years old anymore," A's manager Bob Melvin noted. "Most guys coming out of the bullpen are throwing 96 miles an hour now too. He does it very uniquely. It seems like he gets better as the years go by. He's probably the one guy right now that we look to give multiple innings. He comes in, gets out of a jam, and then goes back out there again. I don't know how many times he's done that."

To Melvin's point, Petit has already accumulated 16 multiple-inning appearances this season. While he has only averaged 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings, he has walked just six batters the entire year, giving him a phenomenal 6.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio, seventh-best in the majors among pitchers with at least 50 innings.

As previously mentioned, Petit has remained effective without throwing hard -- his fastball sits at just 89 mph -- by mixing an effective curveball, slider, and changeup, all pitches he can throw for strikes. 

"The appearances, the games -- similar to last year -- there are very few guys that can do what he does and do it effectively without 95 miles an hour," Melvin said. "He was a great signing for us and continues to be."

[RELATED: Do A's have closer controversy?]

Petit's value also lies in his versatility. The Venezuela native began his career as a starter, as most pitchers do. He can still make a spot start if needed or follow an opener for a handful of innings. He can even serve as a closer, having recorded four saves for the Angels in 2017.

To put it simply, whatever you need, Yusmeiro Petit will provide it.

A's Sean Manaea making strong case to start potential wild-card game

A's Sean Manaea making strong case to start potential wild-card game

Sean Manaea missed more than a year with an injury to his pitching shoulder. Somehow, he hasn't missed a beat.

The A's left-hander tossed six shutout innings Sunday, allowing just three hits and a walk with six strikeouts as Oakland beat Texas 6-1 for its sixth straight win.

"Every time out, it's borderline dominance," A's manager Bob Melvin told reporters. "As the game went along, he got better and better. Absolutely fantastic. He definitely set the tone."

In three starts since returning from the injured list earlier this month, Manaea has surrendered just one run and six hits in 18 innings, with 21 strikeouts. That translates to an ERA of 0.50.

"It's been fun to play behind Sean every start," A's third baseman Matt Chapman told reporters. "He's worked quick. It seems like not a lot of guys have been getting on base. He's thrown a lot of strikes and he seems super confident. It just goes to show how hard he worked to come back."

The A's have received strong production from their entire starting rotation for most of the season, but Manaea is starting to separate himself from the pack. If the 27-year-old continues to dominate his opposition at this level, he would seem to be the clear frontrunner to start a potential Wild Card Game.

"It's almost like we've got a fresh guy now too," Melvin said. "He's pitching like he's fresh. ... Unfortunately, he had to go through what he had to go through to get to this pace, but it's a fresh, live arm right now. Every time he goes out there, the team just feels better about themselves."

[RELATED: Powerful A's offense sets franchise record with 244th homer of season]

With 12 games remaining in the regular season, the A's sit at 90-60, the same exact record as last season through 150 games. Oakland leads Tampa Bay by 1 1/2 games for the first wild-card position and Cleveland by three games for the second spot.

The A's open their final homestand of the season on Monday against the Kansas City Royals.

Powerful A's offense sets franchise record with 244th homer of season

Powerful A's offense sets franchise record with 244th homer of season

Move over, Bash Brothers. There's a new king of the long ball in Oakland.

The 2019 Oakland A's set a franchise record with their 244th home run of the season on Sunday in a 6-1 win over the Texas Rangers.

Marcus Semien launched his 30th home run of the season in the third inning to match the record at 243. Then in the ninth, Matt Chapman blasted his 34th homer to set the new mark.

"I think it means a lot for our whole team, in general, to be able to take that record with an organization that's had a Mark McGwire and a Jose Canseco and guys like that," Chapman told reporters. "It just shows that we have a lot of good players on our team. I was the lucky one who got to break the record but I don't think I'd be here without Oly (Matt Olson) and Marcus (Semien) and a lot of those guys. It was definitely a team effort."

Semien's home run gives the A's three players with at least 30 long balls for the first time since 2001, when Jason Giambi, Eric Chavez, and Miguel Tejada accomplished the feat.

"30 home runs for Marcus Semien -- I don't even know what to say about that," A's manager Bob Melvin told reporters. "Leading off and what he does defensively, the numbers that he's putting up, his leadership."

Added Chapman: "Amazing. It just goes to show that hard work pays off and he just continually got better. He was able to make adjustments every year. He'd go home in the offseason and figure out what he wants to work on -- his weaknesses -- and he would go and get better and turn them into his strengths." 

[RELATED: Clean-shaven A's starter Mike Fiers reveals story behind strange beard]

Incredibly, the A's still have 12 games left to add to their new record. Chapman and Matt Olson currently lead the squad with 34 round-trippers and have a shot at reaching 40. Mark Canha, Ramon Laureano, Khris Davis, and Jurickson Profar give the A's an Oakland-record seven players with 20 or more home runs.