The A's just announced they are matching donations to Haiti. Please consider giving during this time of extreme need.
It's been fairly widely accepted that your 2010 Oakland Athletics will not be able to hit a baseball very far, or very often, for that matter. When your offense lines up like this: Rajai Davis, Coco Crisp, Kurt Suzuki, Jack Cust, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Ryan Sweeney, Mark Ellis, Daric Barton, and Cliff Pennington, you probably shouldn't expect a plethora of runs.
However--and it may be the difference between the season being over in April and enjoying a few months of competitive baseball--I'm willing to bet that the A's can pitch.
I recognize that Justin Duchscherer missed the entire 2009 season. I understand that he is a high-risk pitcher. But I also believe that players will go the extra mile in a contract year if it is at all humanly possible, and if he's healthy, Duchscherer will pitch well; he always has. Duchscherer at his best is an ace pitcher, and could provide much needed leadership on a very young staff.
Before suffering a mysterious foot injury at the tail-end of the 2009 season, Dallas Braden was on his way to a very solid season. Ignoring his sub-.500 record, Braden kept his ERA well under 4 in his 22 games, and he has brought his WHIP down to 1.36.
And then there is Brett Anderson; fantasy baseball's darling of the 2010 season. You can't open a magazine or click on any pitching projections online without running into Anderson as the sleeper pick. Take a look at the numbers from BaseballHQ.com:
Anderson's projections are sky-high for a 21 year old player in his second year in the league, but more importantly, I like the look of the first three spots in the A's rotation. If the A's could somehow get Duchscherer to stay healthy, Braden to pitch like he does on his good days, and Anderson to project exactly like shown, the A's could win some baseball games. Barring injury, I consider those three pitchers a lock for the rotation, which leaves two more slots to fill.
Personally, I think there are three pitchers competing for two spots; Gio Gonzalez, Vin Mazzaro, and Trevor Cahill, but as you can see from the numbers below, the 4th and 5th starting spots are projected to go to Gonzalez and Cahill, with Mazzaro and Clayton Mortensen making spot starts. (Josh Outman is not scheduled to return until mid-season.)
And if this speculation wasn't fun enough, Buster Olney has reported that the Mets and the A's are the teams most likely to sign Ben Sheets. And if his asking price is the rumored $7-8 million, I think the A's should.
I think every player in this rotation will have a legitimate shot to win any game in which he holds a lead because of two simple facts: 1) With plus-defenders all over the field, we could see some lower-than-expected ERA's and 2) The A's have an incredibly good, deep bullpen; one of the best in the whole league. Sure, the starting rotation will likely not pitch deep into games, with two of its members coming off injuries and then rest barely of legal age, but the A's have set up their 'pen to easily cover the seventh, eighth and ninth innings of games, with options for the fifth and sixth as well. The projections seem to agree; notice the low SP win total and the records that most middle relievers have, implying that they will factor into decisions. Between Bailey, Blevins, Breslow, Devine, Wuertz, and Ziegler, the A's might be able to hold a lead with just five innings of work from a starting pitcher. The A's aren't going to score a lot of runs, but they might be able to prevent runs against them.
From the projected numbers (and for what it's worth, I think Bailey will exceed his projected save total by quite a few):
So, who's your starting 5? Who do you think Beane/Geren's starting 5 are? Do you think Spring Training will sort out the last slots or are they already set? Are you going to Spring Training to find out? What are your pitching projections for the upcoming season?