Team: Oakland A's
Position: Relief pitcher
Stats: 1-0, 3 SV, 0.43 ERA, 20/13 K/BB, 42 IP
Measurements: 6' 4", 200 lbs.
Nicknames: Nothing official, but it has to be Ziggy or Ziggy Stardust, right?
Signature: Emerging from the depths of obscurity to baffle American League hitters with 39 straight scoreless frames.
Mysteries: Who is this guy? Where did he come from (other than the depths of obscurity)? What's up with him being a 28-year-old rookie? How much do I regret not highlighting him last week so I could take credit for the end of his scoreless streak? Was he predisposed to somehow actually liking the amazingly annoying Ziggy Sobotka from Season 2 of "The Wire?" Is there any chance that he understands a deeper meaning of David Bowie's 1972 concept album, "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars?" Yeah, probably not ...
If you had no idea who Brad Ziegler was prior to the 2008 season, you aren't alone.
The sidewinder was anything but a top prospect, as his name was omitted from each of Baseball America's last three rankings of Oakland's Top 30 prospects.
This means one of two things: Ziggy either is a late bloomer or he pulled an Edinson/Edison Volquez (uhhh Julio Reyes?) and changed his name from something else to Brad Ziegler due to some confusion in the immigration office.
After some extensive research (re: Wikipedia) that revealed Ziegler was actually born in Kansas, I'm going to guess he's just a late bloomer. But whatever the reason, the unheralded reliever started his career by tossing 39 consecutive scoreless innings, a Major League record.
So how did this transformation come about?
To the evidence!
Sidewinder sleeps tonight: It's clear that Ziegler has taken well to his new sidewinding delivery. This is only the second season in which he's been pitching sidearm, and after finishing last year with a 2.96 ERA in 54 2/3 innings at Triple-A Sacramento, a little more seasoning has already given him Eckerslian results.
Less is more: It's no secret that a boatload of innings logged can be quite taxing on a precious Minor League arm. The evidence suggests that this may have been the case with Ziegler. After finishing 2005 with a 4.94 ERA over 162 innings and a 3.70 ERA over 163 innings the following year as a starter down on the farm, the A's decided that Ziggy would be more effective as a reliever. Two years later, his workload has been halved, and the results speak for themselves.
Stay put: Want to know the secret behind Ziggy's stunning ERA? Look no further than his incredible 94.9 left-on-base percentage. Ziggy has done a superb job of keeping runners from advancing home, ranking second in the Majors in that category behind only some guy named Joe Nathan (99.1 percent).
Beginner's luck: Maybe this whole Ziggy Stardust fiesta should be tamed just a little bit. A close examination of Ziegler's stat sheet suggests that he's been a big beneficiary of beginner's luck. His .203 batting average against on balls in play makes him the third-luckiest reliever in baseball, behind only Carlos Marmol (.187) and Dan Wheeler (.192).
Of course, there are always alternative explanations.
At first, I was hoping there would be some clear hints of Ziegler's dominance from David Bowie's classic song, "Ziggy Stardust."
But a quick glance at the lyrics just turned out to be utterly confusing ("Like some cat from Japan/he could lick 'em by smiling"), completely nonsensical ("Ziggy played for time/jiving us that we were voodoo") and majorly headache inducing.
Speaking of headaches, Ziggy proved to be quite headstrong throughout his Minor League days. While pitching for Class A Modesto in 2004, a line drive off the bat of Fred Lewis tagged Ziegler in the head, resulting in a fractured skull.
But not even a fractured skull could deter Ziegler from reaching greatness, as he returned to the mound the very next season in 2005, earning a promotion to Double-A Midland.
Incredibly enough, Ziegler's flirtations with danger didn't end there. The submariner went on to suffer a second fracture of the skull last January while doing some practice work at a youth camp. Of course, Ziegler is no mere mortal, so this, too, proved to be just a chink in the armor for the talented hurler, who's been turning heads off the rubber ever since.
But perhaps these zany injuries should not be viewed as much of a surprise. Only someone with such fearlessness and determination could have the focus to start off a career with 39 straight scoreless innings.
Ziegler has more than proven that he isn't one to cave in the face of distractions.
And that, my friends, is how you get ahead in life.