This Staturday piece will differ from previous articles in two ways. For starters, I went to bed at a reasonable hour last night and slept in this morning so this article won't appear at 3:30 AM. If that bothers you, get help.
Secondly, this Staturday article doesn't have any advance formulas or computations to figure out. I'm sure we're not far from the day when one of the Staturday crew goes all Oliver Wendell Jones on everyone and produces an epic five page computation that conclusively proves the world truely revolves around them. I promise I won't be that guy because I already know the world revolves around me and when you have that kind of confidence you don't need to flaunt it. It's obvious.
You're just wrapped in blue furry goodness.
So what is today's Staturday story going to be about if it's not centering around my own gynormous ego?
The future of the Oakland A's of course!
Specifically, how the wonder rotation in Stockton is the keystone for any future championship dynasty. When you look at Oakland's 2008 rotation (and we'll include the broken bodies for a moment) it's obvious that a mojor overhaul is coming. Harden and Duke will taste free agency in no more then 2 years, with Blanton, Gaudin and DiNardo currently scheduled to follow the year after that. Eveland and Smith have shown early promise but it would be premature to ink their names in the rotation for the next 5 years. I'm not bad mouthing the newbies, but they just got here, they ain't done that and they most certainly don't have the T-shirts.
Looking at Sacramento's roster, Meyer is done. Braden is going to end up in the bullpen. Gio Gonzalez is a legit prospect but then again so was Dan Meyer.
Midland has Bailey and Simmons. Maybe Ryan Webb will show something this year to put him back on the map.
Stockton is the gold mine. Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Fautino De Los Santos and Henry Rodriguez. DLS is the old man of the group at 22, Rodriguez is 21 while Anderson and Cahill are both 20. All precocious, all highly touted prospects who've enjoyed success in the early going.
So what's got me worried?
Short version... I don't think the Modesto Nuts are very good. The Golden Quartet have combined to make 8 starts, 6 of those starts have come against Modesto. If I don't think Modesto has a very good team, if I think they suck, then doesn't that at least imply the early successes could be "soft" numbers? When a big league pitcher goes on the DL he often makes an appearance or two in the minors as a tune-up before heading back to the Show. If that pitcher goes and strikes out 8 guys in 3 innings, well... he's kinda supposed to do that! He's a big league caliber pitcher facing AA batters, he's supposed to dominate if healthy.
Let's apply the same theory to Stockton's young arms. All are among Oakland's Top 10 prospects according to Baseball America and the lowest grade John Sickels gives any of 'em is a "B". If Modesto is a weak team then our guys should put up dominate numbers. But how do we judge the relative strength of Modesto's line-up, especially this early in the season?
The Modesto Nuts are Colorado's High-A affiliate. BA ranked the Rockies as having the 7th best farm system in all of baseball. (The A's were ranked 9th after all the trades were finished, BTW.) The problem with the Nuts line-up is, when looking at the roster only 3 of the hitters appear in Colorado's Top 30 list. Even that's a little deceptive, because the highest ranked prospect in that group (Hector Gomez, #4/B) is currently on the reserve list and was limited to 3 plate appearances through the 6 games the teams have played. The other two hitters are Michael McKerny (#16) and Daniel Mayora (#20) Trying to expand that list even more, there were two more players who managed to receive mention in BA's depth chart, OF Cole Garner and 1B Mike Paulk.
This led me to ask the following question: Do you get a better gauge of a young pitcher's abilities/potential when you look at his performance against other highly rated prospects vs. viewing his overall body of work in league play? With Gomez on the Modesto's reserve list, there is only one regular in the Nuts' line-up that us under the age of 23, Dan Mayora. That leads to my follow up question: Do older but less naturally talented hitters provide a realistic challenge to a younger but more naturally talented pitcher? Your 24 year old hitter is typically more physically developed then a 20 year old pitcher, does that physicality and maturity help compensate for a difference in talent?
I don't know.
So in an attempt to answer my questions, I've decided to go through the Cal League and try to seperate the wheat from the chaff. I'm going to identify the high rated prospects in each line-up and chart the performance of our young arms against these equally talented hitters. I'm then going to compare those results as a group with the pitcher's performance vs. the rest of the league. Maybe there'll be a difference, maybe not. It's going to be a bit of work but after getting things set up it should just be a matter of dilligence to keep up with the game results.
Which reminds me, the Staturday crew is looking for an intern to do data entry grunt work... anyone interested?
Back to the point, I'm hoping to see if I can spot a supposed hot prospect who excells at getting out the Craig Brazell's of the world out but struggles against future big league hitters. That's a guy to sell high before the other team figures out he's a flop waiting to happen. None of this leg work would be necessary if there was a website that did pitcher vs. hitter match-ups for the minor leagues but alas, 'tis not the case at present. I'll let AN know how things progress over the course of the season.
On a different note, I think there might be other AN members who'd like a shot at writing a front page stats oriented article. So I'm offering up my turn in the rotation to anyone interested in submitting a piece. This will be good for the length of the 2008 season so there's no need to rush in submissions. I'll be serving as editor for this and you'll submit your article to me, I'll then cut-and-paste the work (and give appropriate credit, of course) under my byline. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested. And you should definetly mention Staturday in the subject section, that way if you end up in the garbage bin I'll be able to save your article.