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Let's Talk about Starting Pitching

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BBG Note: If you have any interest in being a part of any or all of the California Dreamin’ road trip posted last week, email me at baseballgirl1976 at hotmail, so I can keep you updated on any plans.

With all of the talk of our offense on AN (and for good reason; it was abysmal last year, to put it kindly), I feel like some sort of discussion on the starting rotation is in order. What is our starting rotation going to look like this season, and is it going to be any good?

I think the A’s need to pick up another pitcher--maybe even two--to start the season, and every day, I check the latest hot stove reports, hoping something will come across the wire. So far, the A’s have stayed silent on the pitching front, but I wonder if that will change.

Right now, we have the following:

Justin Duchscherer:

Duke was excellent last year, posting a 2.54 ERA with a 1.00 WHIP in route to a pedestrian 10-8 record; the eight losses a direct result of the A's craptastic 2008 offense. Despite an incredible season, the oft-injured reliever-turned-starter once again found himself on the DL for a chunk of time. Duchscherer is a legitimate ace, but has not proved that he can stay healthy day in and day out during the demands of an entire season. The A's are in BIG trouble if he goes down.

Sean Gallagher:

Despite pitching a great game his first time in an A's uniform after the mid-season trade, Gallagher struggled mightily during the summer, finishing the season for the A's with a 5.88 ERA and a 1.69 WHIP. The A's expected more; and you can blame a lot of 2008 on the offense, but not Gallagher's numbers. The A's are looking for a rebound season from a very new pitcher.

Dana Eveland:

On Eveland's first year on the A's, after a roller-coaster of a season, he finished at 9-9, with a 4.34 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP. He started the year in impressive fashion, but as the summer wore on, his pitching became less and less consistent. The A's are looking for him to even out his season, but I doubt that anyone expects Eveland to be more than a 4/5 starter for the team, even if he ends up pitching in a higher slot.

Gio Gonzalez:

I think it goes without saying that the A's organization expected better than Gio's 2008 season; 1-4, with a 7.68 ERA and a 1.68 WHIP, but take what you can from the small sample size. He looked very much like the rookie he is on the mound, and the A's badly need him to turn it around, but the team is still very high on this young pitcher. And assuming they have reason to be, will Gonzalez be ready for the 2009 season, or are we looking at 2010?

Josh Outman:

In his brief A's stint, Outman went 1-2 with a 4.56 ERA, and a 1.64 WHIP. Adding rookies to the rotation is a gamble; you never know what you're going to get. Pitching the rookies will likely result in many up-and-down starts, and it's very hard to predict any sort of season outcome without a pitching history. The same caution applys to Outman as Gonzalez; assuming they will be proficient MLB pitchers, the question is when?

Dallas Braden:

Once a lost cause to the starting rotation, Braden (do we have a nickname yet?) put together a couple of decent starts late in the 2008 season, and finished with a 4.14 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP, going 5-4 as he was bounced between AAA and the big leagues. Braden, a 'veteran' by the A's pitching rotation standards, may pitch himself into the starting rotation.

According to salb918:

This guy should have the inside track for the fifth starter job. Here’s what I had to say about him in the THT 2009 Season Preview (buy it today!):

Braden’s major league FIP is 4.70. He’s projected for a 4.50 ERA next year. He’s dominated the minors for the past few years. He’s going to be 25 in 2009. He may not be much to look at – his fastball sits at 87-89 mph and he really only has two secondary pitches – but he at least deserves a shot.

Not to depress anyone, but, wow. It's not that there isn't potential and talent there, but will that show up in 2009? Can the A's pitchers stay healthy? Can Duchscherer repeat last year's success? Can the others keep their ERA's under 4 and the balls in the park? Who else can crack the 40-man roster for a chance at a big league rotation spot? How much better exactly, does the offense have to be to win?

What about Ben Sheets? Can the A's take another injury risk for another legitimate good starting pitcher? Do they have much of a choice? Is there anyone else out there? Are we going to cry when we see the Yankees lineup and pitching rotation vs. ours?

I thought so.