Even though the Oakland Athletics won their game against the Seattle Mariners last night, 11-5, they fell behind early when reliever Evan Scribner coughed up two more home runs and five runs overall in the third inning of the game in relief of injured starter Felix Doubront. Perhaps Scribner wasn’t warmed up enough for this outing; however, the A’s righty has experienced issues all season long with his inability to keep the ball in the park, and any observer has to wonder why Scribner and his coaches can’t figure out the problem.
Some of Scribner’s other numbers are just stellar and mind-boggling good: He has issued just four walks in 59 innings, while registering 63 strikeouts. That kind of control in a late-inning reliever is highly valued. However, Scribner has given up a whopping 14 home runs now in those 59 innings, leading to a 4.42 ERA on the year. The long ball has been his—and the A’s bullpen’s, overall—undoing in 2015.
It’s been a year of strange reversals for Scribner: Prior to this season, he never posted anything resembling the stellar walk-to-strikeout ratio above, and prior to this year, Scribner didn’t really have that much of a problem with surrendering HRs, either. In 87 2/3 innings from 2011 to 2014, the righty posted 23 walks and 70 Ks while giving up just 10 HRs. So while he’s gotten very good with his control, Scribner’s also gotten very lazy with leaving the ball out over the plate—which makes no sense.
He has good enough stuff to get a lot of strikeouts, but his stuff is hittable enough that opposing players have feasted on it. Perhaps therein lies the issue: His control is too good, and perhaps Scribner would be better off throwing more balls out of the strike zone or even walking a few extra batters if it meant cutting down on the long balls surrendered; he can certainly spare some walks with his current 15.75 SO/W ratio.
Why hasn’t the A’s staff worked with him on this? Or helped him change his approach? All season, Scribner has been coughing up painful homers in key situations: In April, he gave up two HRs in just 13 innings, and it just kept going from there. May was Scribner’s best month, when he gave up just one HR in 15 2/3 innings, while July was a nightmare—opposing batters hit four HRs off him in just 8 1/3 innings.
Scribner has such potential, so it’s puzzling why he hasn’t been able to improve this year at all with the guidance of an experienced coaching staff like the one Manager Bob Melvin has in place. It’s one of the many puzzling questions that remain in a season where all has been lost—so much potential wasted by so many in dozens of games.