Bay Area Sports Fan!

A blog for a Bay Area Sports Fan

It’s All About Pitching In Oakland (My A’s Preview)

Posted by davefowkes on 04/04/2009

It is pretty easy to figure the Oakland A’s out this season. If their young pitching staff comes through, their 21-year olds turn into phenoms, the A’s will shock the world and run away with the west! But if the young guns need seasoning, if nobody in the rotation steps up to realize the hype, then this season could go down as one of total disappointment that finds the A’s near the bottom of the league!

Yes, there is a huge range for what could lie ahead for Oakland. That range will be narrowed by the greatness or not so greatness of guys named Dallas Braden, Dana Eveland, Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Josh Outman, Sean Gallagher and Gio Gonzalez. A’s fans hope they have a big three of the future, but the reality could be they just have young pitchers.

The irony of the A’s is that they spent money this off season, and they have brought in many veteran players to score some runs. But on the mound they are goig to be as young as they ever have been. Braden and Eveland are both 24, Anderson and Cahill both 21. The starting rotation has 16 career wins combined. If this was Kansas City we would be scared! But in Oakland, there is a lot of faith in their young pitching and in their potential. Sky is certainly the limit for guys like Anderson and Cahill. Gio was the top prospect last year and when he fully recovers from injury I am guessing he will be in line for another shot at the rotation should one of the top five guys go down.

Sean Gallagher has been a disappointment since coming over from Chicago in the Rich Harden trade. But he will start in the bullpen in long relief and if he can get his control back will also push for starts if any of the other starters fail.

Josh Outman arrived in the Joe Blanton trade and has surprised many by earning the fifth starters spot. Is he ready for the big leagues?

Dana Eveland was hit and miss last year. He certainly can hurl the ball but can he control where he throws it? He looks like he maxes out about a #3 type pitcher. Dallas Braden stuns all by getting the opening day nod. He has bounced up and down from the minors, to the A’s, and from the bullpen to the starter’s mound. Can he find consistency?

Then of course there are the potential phenoms. Cahill and Anderson are the real deal! But taking that step from prospect to real deal is a huge step. There will be a lot of pressure on these kids and the A’s need them to respond.

And of course I have not even mentioned the “ace” of the squad, Justin Duchsherer who will be out until May. At that point the A’s I am sure will look at their successes. If anyone is struggling, Duke goes back into the rotation, but if everyone is doing well, look for the A’s to try to save his arm by returning him to the bullpen.

The bullpen should be a strength, but the closer position is hardly a guaranty. Brad Ziegler will get the first shot to defend the position he finished the year at last year. Ziegler was great in his rookie season but his style is probably better served in the set up role. That said, nobody could score on Ziegler last year, so until they do, why mess with success? Joey Devine starts on the disabled list and I am worried if they will really get much from him this year. His arm does not sound in the best of shape. I love Santiago Casilla in a set up role. If Ziegler can close the door, the A’s bullpen should be good.

This is the best offense we have seen in Oakland in years. Everyone talks about the infield but I love the outfield. Matt Holiday was of course a great pick up. I look for great things from Ryan Sweeney in center field though. He showed flashes last year but had trouble staying healthy. If he can do that, and avoid a sophomore slump, I think he could be a key to the A’s offense this year. Jack Cust will DH and play right field with help from Travis Buck. Cust so frustrates me with his strikeouts, but his power can not be overlooked.

The infield is as deep as ever. Jason Giambi, Mark Ellis, Orlando Cabrera and (a healthy?) Eric Chavez with Bobby Crosby and Nomar Garciaparra ready to go when needed. I am not a believer in Chavez anymore but when he does go down to injury I do expect a big year from Crosby. A contract year, his benching, good off season training, I think Crosby could surprise a lot of folk if he can get on the field. The DH rotation of Cust, Giambi, Garciaparra should keep a quality bat in the lineup every day and provide ample rest for the older folks.

In conclusion, I like the A’s to score a lot more runs this year! But the reality of the season still comes back to their starting pitching! Statistics would indicate they can not get lucky with all 5 young pitchers being great. The odds say if 2 of them are great, that would be a wonderful find.

When you balance out this, that and the other, I will say the A’s are competitive this season even with a young staff. I will go with 84 wins and second place behind an Angels team that eventually gets healthy and buys themselves another division crown.

I could be right, I could be very wrong, but the reasoning will be clear: As the A’s starting pitching goes, so goes the A’s successes or failures! It is quite cut and dry!

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