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Merry XMas -- And Many Happy Returns!

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Whether you're busy "regifting," or editing next year's XMas list before you forget how Aunt Bertha actually smells, or frantically searching the recycling bin for the receipt, or just screaming to no one in particular, "How can every relative get me a tie, and why can't the A's ever get me a win???" it's officially not {insert your holiday of choice} season any more. The days are getting longer -- and we haven't even seen Dana Eveland pitch yet!

Sorry, no real baseball talk until after the jump...

Technically, I didn't say there would be any real baseball talk after the jump, did I? Don't worry, though -- since you took the trouble to jump all the way to here (which is remarkably like there, only a bit lower), let's go ahead and mix in a little baseball chat on this baseball site.

The problem with Justin Duchscherer, Rich Harden, and Ben Sheets is that they tend to pitch great but can only be counted on for 20ish starts a season instead of 30ish, and that means that they are often only as good as "1/3 of a replacement starting pitcher." And on most teams, where the #5 starter is familiar because he installed your septic tank just last November, the #6 starter is even worse.

The beauty of the 2010 A's is that if Duchscherer's back, elbow, hip, or psyche betrays him after 20 starts, a likely "replacement starter" is Josh Outman, due to return from Tommy John surgery around the 2010 All-Star Break. That's a darn good complement to the Duke as a "30-start monster." And given that currently, Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Vin Mazzaro are fighting for 2 spots in the rotation (behind Duchscherer, Braden, and Anderson), it's conceivable that the loser of the "3 to make 2 sweepstakes" could get the call if Duke goes down but Outman is not ready to step in. It's a pretty darn good situation for the A's to be in.

Assuming, of course, that the others are not bad, and that they stay healthy, which are dangerous assumptions to make about young pitchers and...well....pitchers. My new mantra is "8 to make 5 for starting pitchers, 4 to make 3 in the outfield." If you have 8 decent pitchers, you will probably have a good rotation, and if you have 4 good outfielders you probably can present a decent outfield. Remember when Jay Payton was hired to be the team's 4th OFer in 2006 and wound up playing 292 games? Or has that been his OBP since leaving Oakland? Ha ha ha ha ha!!!!! It's funny cuz it's true.

I'm not sure if the magic number for infielders is 5 or 6, or whether you need to look at middle infielders and corner infielders separately anyway. I just figure if you go after Marco Scutaro and Aaron Miles and Jamey Carroll and Adam Kennedy and Gregorio Petit, you'll wake up at the end of the calendar year and your infield will still suck.

But man, I like the way the starting pitching is set and the A's may have the best, and deepest bullpen, in the game right now. The defense is going to be a real strength. Now...How to get batters so they're all the way back around to the five-pointed base a little more often?