After years of poor pitching punctuated by a slew of injuries, Brandon McCarthy finally looks like he's put everything together with the Athletics.
The best thing McCarthy ever did for the White Sox was bring John Danks to the team. Second on the list would be the stretch McCarthy had from Aug. 30 through the end of the 2005 regular season, in which McCarthy threw 42.2 innings with a 1.69 ERA and a 31/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Interestingly enough, that was the last really good stretch of McCarthy's career. That is, before 2011.
Through seven starts, McCarthy has a 3.26 ERA with a 2.49 FIP over 49.2 innings of work for Oakland. His 30/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio is nearly identical to that stretch in 2005, but the big difference is that McCarthy's success in 2011 looks far more sustainable.
When McCarthy put together his success in 2005, opponents had a BABIP of .218. While opponents also had a pretty low line drive rate, a .218 BABIP was never going to sustain itself. In 2011, though, opponents have a BABIP of .321 against McCarthy—a much more normal number.
The big key for McCarthy appears to be the addition of a cutter. McCarthy has effectively ditched his changeup—his most effective pitch with the White Sox—in favor of throwing a cutter on 15.6 percent of his pitches. Fangraphs rates it as a slightly above-average pitch, but the key is that it's been consistent. McCarthy rarely was able to throw his fastball, curveball and changeup with combined effectiveness, limiting him to being a two-pitch pitcher in most of his outings.
But getting the cutter has allowed McCarthy to consistently be a three-pitch pitcher this season. He rarely throws a slider and his changeup is used even less—he's a fastball, curveball, cutter guy.
That's what the White Sox can expect tonight, along with few walks and lot of ground balls—and a completely different McCarthy than the one who left Chicago four and a half years ago.