2009 OAKLAND ATHLETICS PREVIEW
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.
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 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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