And then figure out how likely they are to be solved:
1. the Rotation-- 3/5 are hurt or ineffective. We have to assume Harden comes back relatively soon and is effective again. We have little or no guarantee he won't go down again. If he ain't right come fall, this team's ability to go deep into the playoffs is severely hampered.
We can be hopeful for Blanton but realistic that he probably won;t put a stretch together like June-September of last year. But OTOH it is entirely possible that both Zito and Haren will exceed last year's performance.
That said, the real key is Loaiza. Saarloos is increasingly showing his limitations. the A's have gotten as much out of the Admiral as we could have expected. We need the innings eater who keeps us in most games that Beane thought he was acquiring for 7 mill a year. To be honest, I'm skeptical that we'll get it;
- Bullpen. In part a problem of the missing rotation parts. in part a plague of locusts with 3 of our top 5 out all at once. I'll isolate the big problem: Street. Whether it's the WBC or not, he hasn't been right from the get-go. This is starting to seem a lot like 2004 with all the late inning uncertainty than any other year in the Beane era. We need last year's Street. I am cautiously optimistic that we'll get him-- and by mid June we should have Jay, Duke and the Patriarch all back in the saddle;
- The 1B/OF/DH shuffle-- remember all the depth we thought we had? 6 players for 5 spots? Would Payton get enough at bats? Well, 3 of the 6 have been busts so far. bradley due to injury, payton a slow start, and DJ in an awful slump. Thomas has come around some and his health is surprising.
DJ is the key here-- and I am decidely pessimistic. It's now 3 months and counting that he has basically failed to hit major league pitching.
4. Middle Infield Woes: all 4 are failing in one form or another, with only Ellis' recent resurgence giving some ray of hope, yet of course it was cut short by injury. Perez is Ginter squared; Scoot has struck midnight; and of course the real key here is Boppin' bobby. I' ambivalent about whether he will reach his enormour promise, and probably pessimistic that it will happen this year.
but if I had to name the keys of a potential turnaround, they are basically four players:
If all four turn it around, this is still a 95+ win team and they should win the division decisively.
If we get two or three back, we're a playoff team and then Harden becomes the real key to the season;
if we get one or fewer, look out below-- we'll be extremely fortunate to even have a postseason.