I see a lot of debate on whether Chad Gaudin, or Lenny DiNardo, or whomever, is a worthy pitcher for the A’s rotation. I look at starting pitchers a bit differently, and so today I thought I’d share this alternative perspective on how “worthy” a given pitcher is.
Many, if not most, starting pitchers fall in between the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 slots. You may feel, for example, that Gaudin is not good enough to be considered a solid #3 but that he has proven himself well enough to be considered a solid #4. Call him a “#3.5”. Similarly, DiNardo may prove to be a luxury #5 but a shaky bet at #4; call him a “#4.5”.
So when Chad Gaudin pitches as a #3 with DiNardo at #4, their performances cause us to roll our eyes and declare them unworthy. But when Gaudin is your #4 and DiNardo your #5, their performances cause us to appreciate them for being the solution, not the problem. Same pitcher, same performance, different expectations.
The goal, then, is to keep guys pitching a 1/2 level down from where they should be, not a 1/2 level up—this is especially critical for a team, like the A’s, that relies heavily on its starting pitching to carry a mediocre offense. The beauty of the “Big 3” is that Hudson and Mulder were legitimate #1s and Zito was a solid #2, which meant that both Mulder (#2) and Zito (#3) were pitching a full slot below their actual performance. Lilly became a #3 pitching in the #4 slot, and that’s how you make the playoffs.
So where do the 2008 A’s fall, on paper? Harden is a legitimate ace, and Haren becomes a #2 pitching in a slot below his actual performance ability; so far so good. Blanton, as your #3 is also pitching in a slot below his actual performance ability (which is at least a #2.5 if not a #2); so far so great. Gaudin and DiNardo, in the #4 and #5 slots, are also pitching in slots below their actual performance abilities. All is well in Oaktown.
Until Harden goes down. At which point, in order to be ok I figure the A’s need a solid #3 guy so that Gaudin and DiNardo can stay at the back of the rotation and continue to be luxuries instead of liabilities. Conclusion: The A’s have until Harden goes down to get a solid #3 starter into the A’s organization. The clock is ticking…
The A’s are in the Land of Cleve today, first pitch 4:05pm. See you then…