Assuming all our players on the DL won't be beyond 60 days, are the A's better in the long run for it?
You don't learn alot about a team without adversity. For instance, how good are the guys in the minor leagues? Do they need another year? Do they have the moxie to play in front of large crowds and larger expectations? Which diamonds in the rough turn heads who never would have got the chance?
Another thing a team finds out, is who's ready for a role they were not intended for. And what team strength that turns out to be a weakness.
Let's start with Starting Pitching. To start the year, Estiban Loaiza was on the DL. This opened up opportunites for 2 people. One starter and one reliever. Chad Gudin or Joe Kennedy would have been in the bullpen. Instead, they were both givin starting roles and both have done well with ERA's under 3.00. Looking at Loaiza's numbers at the start of last year, 0-3 8.35 ERA, and two years ago 0-2 4+ ERA, one could make the argument the team is not just better but much better off. We also opened up a spot in the bullpen that Jay Marshall stepped into and who has turned out to be an interesting find(more on him later).
Next Harden went down. Now no one can make the argument that Braden is better than Harden. But we are closer to knowing that Harden may not ever have the body to be a starter. Braden has also been giving a taste of the majors and hopefully can learn from his experince's here (I predict he won't get his next turn in the rotation). Did this ultimatly help us? Well we did find out that Braden's not the answer now, instead of in August.
What was suppost to be the team's strength, the bullpen,has been exposed with our closer going down. Now alot of teams would have problems if that happened, but again, I would rather know Duch, Kiko, and Embree are not the answer if our closer goes down now, rather than later. Mabey Robertson will show he can help. As it stands, Dinardo is the only bullpen pitcher doing better than expected with all the rest having questionable results. Jay Marshall has pitched effectivly considering where he came from (single A, rule 5 draft pick). He's blown up once or twice but has managed not to give up any runs in 12 other games. He was going to be used in situational spots(still a good idea) and brought along slowly but has been asked to do much more lately. Who knows, with the way the rest of the staff looks he might be our best closer by next week.
With all our outfeild injuries, it seemed like a good idea to pick some up. But I think having an effective bullpen is a bigger priortiy now and always. We can win 2-1 games with a AAA outfield. We can't lose games in the 8th and 9th after our starters give up 0 or 1 run. We just can't. It's better to learn now not to trade away a Marcus Mcbeth (25 saves, 2.48 ERA in the hitters friendly Texas league '06; 9saves, 1.40ERA this year between Sac and the Red's AAA clubs). It's better to learn now we need to be looking for some bullpen talent,than to think it's the strength of the team when it clearly is not.
Perhaps our biggest find happened when DH Mike Piazza went down. This opened the way for the Jack Cust trade and Oakland A's history hasn't been the same ever since. Regardless of whether Cust keeps it up or not, he's hit 7HR/15RBI's in 10 games compared to Piazza's 1HR/8RBI's in 26 games. We have certainly found a cheap DH for next year and at the very least a great PH anytime.
And finally the outfield. Travis Buck's average has been weak but he has shown power numbers comparitable to Nick Swisher,s first 30 games, and Nick wasn't playing with sore wrists.
Which outfielders between Buck, Putnum, Bocachica, or Snelling turn out to be good dosen't matter as long as one of them do, and we know which one it is. If more than one does, great. If one does, we would not have known without injures. Mabey we would have called someone up in Sept. that showed promise for next year. But we are going to know this year. Before August. Anyone wonder what "nuggets" we might find if Kendall and Melhuse were injured?
All this "premature scouting" should let the team save money next year and beyond. We should have more known depth and options for the rest of this year and the future. We have already upgraded two postions (SP and DH), discovered an unknown weakness and givin six or seven minor leaguers a real taste of the big show they might not have received this year or ever.
Do I wish we had been 100% healthy and won 10 more games? Sure, but injuries early in a season may not be the worst thing to happen to a team. They might be the best.