Gary Huckaby did a recent chat on BP that had a couple A's-related questions. Huckaby is a smart guy and I think you'll find his answers most interesting. He is identified as "a Consultant to the Oakland Athletics and Founder of Baseball Prospectus." I don't think his consultant role was public knowledge until recently; at least, I didn't learn of it until the recent Baseball America scouts vs. stats debate. I'm delighted he has a role with the A's and the bigger that role is the better, in my opinion. (Think of him as a very good free agent signing.)
Anyway, here are the two A's-related questions along with his answers:
Estoppel (Fresno): I was a bit shocked at the conservative PECOTA forecast for Harden. 148 innings and a 4.46 ERA seems outrageously pessimistic for a pitcher of his talent. Notwithstanding PECOTA's prediction, is this the year Harden takes over the mantle as staff ace for the A's?
Gary Huckabay: I certainly think so. Rich Harden's a tremendous pitcher playing in a good pitcher's park, with an absolutely tremendous defense playing behind him. I believe he'd take over the mantle of staff ace even if Hudson and Mulder were still here. I hope he'll be healthy all year, and if he is, I expect his ERA will be closer to 2.46 than 4.46.
Darius (Bellevue, WA): Can the A's really contend this year? Seattle's gotten Beltre and Sexson, and are better than they showed last year. Anaheim's turning into a West Coast version of the Yankees, and you all lost two great starting pitchers for minor leaguers. Are you just admitting that you can't compete, and are living just to make money and keep costs down?
Gary Huckabay: Hell yes, we can contend. Yes, Hudson and Mulder are gone, but there's a great deal of talent on this team, and it's not as if we didn't receive outstanding players in return. The A's organization is not filled with wallflowers. Losing sucks, and everyone in the organization shares that view. Baseball operations is focused on winning, this year and every year. Are there decisions to make and tradeoffs to evaluate? Sure.
I don't know how you can get by in this industry, or really any industry, if you don't physically feel that "crazed mule kick to the stomach" when you lose. I really don't. We absolutely can compete, we absolutely can win, and all we really want out of the season is two things -- (1) To make the postseason, and (2) To win the last game we play.