a 2009 Athletics Preview: 2009 Oakland Athletics Baseball Preview
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The Oakland Athletics suffered through another losing campaign last fall thanks to injury and a lack of offense. The Athletics were one of the hardest hit teams in baseball by injuries and ended up going full ahead with a youth movement in the offseason.

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However, that youth movement doesn’t mean that the A’s are going to completely write off this season. In fact, the Athletics made one of the biggest offseason splashes, trading star closer Huston Street and promising young starter Greg Smith to Colorado for slugger Matt Holiday, one of the best hitters in all of baseball. The A’s also jettisoned Frank Thomas and replaced him with former Yankee Jason Giambi. While their moves didn’t extend to their pitching staff, the A’s certainly will be a factor in the AL West this year.


The Oakland pitching staff features one of the league’s most effective starters in Jim Duscherer (10-8, 2.54 ERA last year). Unfortunately, Duscherer is also one of the league’s most brittle starters, having never started 30 games in a season, and is coming off a season cut short by a hip injury. That doesn’t bode well. Behind Duscherer is a cornucopia of young starters, all of whom are 25 or younger. Lefty Dana Eveland (9-9, 4.34) is the most experienced, having started 29 games last fall. The leaders for the final three spots are right Sean Gallagher (5-7, 5.15) and lefties Dallas Braden (5-4, 4.14) and Gio Gonzalez (1-4, 7.68). Expect rookie Vin Mazzaro to get a long look in Spring Training and non-roster invitee Jerome Williams could make the team as well. Overall though, the A’s are an injury away to one of the league’s most injury-prone starters from having the most inexperienced rotation in baseball.


The A’s usually have a solid bullpen, thanks to GM Billy Beane’s deft wheeling and dealing. Despite losing closer Huston Street this offseason, the A’s should also be more than solid on the back end this season because they return Brad Zeigler, whose 1.06 ERA in 47 games last season placed him among baseball’s elite. Ziegler also registered 11 saves and all signs indicate that he should be a very solid closer. The biggest question is whether the Athletics’ bullpen can nurse the lead to the 9 th inning for him. With a rather young bullpen, that remains up in the air.


The only returning starter in the infield whose batting average broke the .250 mark last season is catcher Kurt Suzuki (.279 AVG, 7 HR, 42 RBI, .346 OBP). That is a pretty ugly statistic. However, the A’s are one of baseball’s most patient teams and they draw a lot of walks, which slightly offsets the poor averages. Still, 3 rd baseman Eric Chavez (.247, 2 HR, 14 RBI, .295 OBP) is one of the more talented at his position in baseball and should put up better numbers. Chavez has missed significant time the past two seasons due to injury and needs a healthy season to prove that his lack of durability isn’t a liability. Up the middle, shortstop Bobby Crosby (.237, 7 HR, 61 RBI, .296 OBP) and second baseman Mark Ellis (.233, 12 HR, 41 RBI, .321 OBP) need to have much better years at the plate if they want their team to improve this season. 23 year old first baseman Daric Barton (.226, 9 HR, 47 RBI, .327 OBP) had a decent rookie season and is expected to take a big step forward this year. Backing him up (though primarily DHing) will be Jason Giambi (.247, 32 HR, 96 RBI, .373 OBP), who returns after a long absence in the Bronx. Expect Giambi to help boost the A’s offense.


The outfield should be a strength for the A’s this season. Newcomer Matt Holiday (.321, 25 HR, 88 RBI, .409 OBP, 28 steals last year in Colorado) fits the moneyball mode of patience at the plate and is an excellent hitter. He’ll be the big bat that the A’s so desperately needed last fall. Centerfielder Ryan Sweeney (.286, 4 HR, 45 RBI, .350 OBP) is coming off an excellent season and should be a solid presence both defensively and at the top of the lineup. The other outfield position belongs to Jack Cust (.231, 33 HR, 77 RBI, .375 OBP), who will provide protection for Holiday in the lineup. Travis Buck should provide good depth at all positions as well. Oakland’s outfield might be the best in the American League West this season.


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The A’s definitely upgraded their lineup with the additions of Holiday and Giambi. Both should add some serious firepower to the offense. A healthy Eric Chavez could also do wonders for the A’s. However, the fact remains that only three projected starters hit over .250 last season so Oakland needs a lot of players to have bounce back years. Even if the offense improves, Oakland’s starting pitching is very short on experience. Outside of their ace, only Dana Eveland has gone through a full year starting in the big leagues.

The A’s have a very good collection of talent on hand and have taken significant steps to improve their offense. However, their pitching staff is one big question mark and doesn’t inspire confidence in even the most ardent of A’s supporters. Simply put, their pitching staff is too young and thin to merit serious consideration as a contender in the division. The A’s shouldn’t expect much more than a repeat of last year’s 75-87 record and a third place finish in the AL West.



By Matt Baxendell
MLBcenter.com Guest Writer

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