Actually, it's more of the fall of the Big Two. Tim Hudson is perfectly fine in Atlanta, thank you. Well, mostly. He has never come close to how he pitched in 2002 and 2003 in Atlanta, but he's still been damn good, outside of 2006.
But the unbelievable fall of Mark Mulder and the now bullpen-bound Barry Zito has been something that I could have never predicted. It seems so long ago that Mychael Urban was holding a party celebrating the release of his book called "Aces" and two of the three have been anything but since leaving the green and gold.
Something tells me that Billy Beane has learned when to cut and run with these pitchers. You could see that Zito was hurting in his last year with the A's. Granted he got along with what he still had at the time but he was losing velocity as the season progressed and he's never been one to have the best control. I mean, how many times did we have to hear him talk about being Fearless in the Zone while he was driving A's fans to fitz?
As for Mulder, he's obviously had injury issues and maybe his recent time on the DL will get him back to the pitcher he once was. It's funny because I always thought that Mulder was the most talented of the three pitchers. He had the body frame, the mechanics and the variety of pitches which made me think he was going to be the best long-term bet. Yet he was the one who broke down first. Course we could all see something was happening with him at the end of 2004 when the A's probably should've started a green Joe Blanton instead of a suddenly fragile-psyche Mulder in a crucial game.
Now the A's have rebuilt their pitching staff with pretty young pitchers in the Greg Smith's and Dana Eveland's of the world and a ton more young starting pitching coming up. I often wonder what would've happen to our green and gold had Beane not made the decision to trade away Mulder and Hudson and let Zito walk as most GMs probably would not have done. Perhaps Beane is stating that pitching is inherently a younger man's game and guys who haven't pitched tons of innings. The A's are still the top team in the AL in terms of starting pitching ERA and are second in all of baseball.
The thing is, they wouldn't be there if they still had the Big Three. Not even close.