As I watched Dan Haren get flipped to the Diamondbacks last winter, and suffered through every rumor that had Rich Harden going one way and Joe Blanton another, I thought back to the basic Moneyball rules of moving toward inequality in markets, effectively buying low and selling high. As we stockpiled a number of young players, including pitchers, I figured that maybe Billy Beane and team had determined what no other team had, that pitchers themselves could be swapped out more easily than thought, and for every lost Dan Haren, you would have a Greg Smith or Dana Eveland to take their spot, and if necessary, you could head to the bullpen and deliver a Chad Gaudin for a string of starts.
As we openly bubble about possibly getting the Big Hurt back again, or speculate on what the future holds for Jack Cust and Mike Sweeney, the pitching staff has very quietly rolled out the league's best ERA, (3.24 vs. Minnesota's 3.70), the league's second highest K/9, and the lowest opposing OPS (.645 vs. .674 for the White Sox), en route to a 13-9 record, good for a tie with the Angels at just over 1/8th through the season.
Maybe, unlike what 29 other ball clubs will tell you, pitching has actually become a commodity, as the A's institution and coaching can take otherwise raw talent and make them look as masterful as Gaudin, Embree and Street did yesterday, when they combined for a six-hit shutout of the Twins.
The success of the A's hurlers thus far hasn't been limited to the starting pitching staff either:
Andrew Brown: 12 scoreless frames, holding batters to a .128 average.
Joey Devine: 7 1/3 scoreless innings, keeping batters to a .154 mark.
Santiago Casilla: 11 innings, posted 14 K's, but zero runs.
(See: Yahoo! Sports)
That's 30 1/3 total scoreless innings from three guys out of the 200 innings the A's staff has posted so far this year. And none of those names will ever show up on SportsCenter.
Greg Smith, in his fourth career start, sporting a 1-0 record and a 3.00 ERA, will take the mound to try and extend the pitching prowess, at 12:35 this afternoon. With any luck, he'll turn over the game to some of the above names and watch them continue their streak.