No one really knew about Ryan Cook entering the season. Most didn't even know about him out of Spring Training. And with pretty standard stuff on the mound and a career debut to forget about, he isn't exactly the kind of pitcher you peg to set a team record out of the bullpen.
That is exactly what Cook has done with the Oakland Athletics this year. What has he done and what's the secret to his success? We examine the situation after the jump.
Cook was thrown 22 2/3 scoreless innings out of the 'pen to begin the year, which is one inning more than the previous record set in 1918. While he may lack dominating stuff on the mound, Cook knows exactly what he wants to do when called upon and locates his pitches with the best of them.
Jerry Crasnick of ESPN has a great story on him. Here are a few snippets.
Cook's numbers aren't as gaudy as those of Cincinnati's Aroldis Chapman, who has allowed one unearned run this season and has a 43-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a WHIP of 0.58 in 24 1/3 innings. But Cook's early statistical achievements are nevertheless stunning:
• Cook has allowed four hits in 22 2/3 innings. Righties are batting .079 against him (3-for-38) and lefties are hitting .031 (1-for-32). The only hit by a left-hander was a double by Boston's David Ortiz on May 2.
• According to ESPN Stats & Information, Cook has been a master at inducing weak contact. Of the balls put in play against him, only 6 percent have been line drives. That's miniscule. And the percentage of plate appearances that end with a well-hit ball in play against him (yes, the number-crunchers diligently track this category) is sixth-best in the majors.
• Cook's slider was particularly formidable the night of April 27, when he struck out four Baltimore Orioles in an inning of work. Of the 19 sliders put in play against him this season, 15 have been ground balls. The pitch is virtually lift-proof.
"His stuff is disgusting, with angry movement,'' Oakland starter Brandon McCarthy said in an email. "It just gets to a point and goes violently in another direction.''
Pretty impressive for a kid not a whole lot of people were counting on to play a big role on the A's in 2012. Ryan Cook has been one of the best stories in baseball this season, and folks are finally starting to realize just how good he is.
For those of you who play Fantasy Baseball, Cook is definitely an option for you. He is owned in less than 20% of most leagues, and his low ERA and WHIP numbers should be very helpful for any pitching staff regardless of the league settings.
For more on the A's and Cook, be sure to check out Athletics Nation.