Our little West Coast swing continues as we hit Oakland now. We think we like so many West Coast teams because we never get to see them; we're just sort of sick of the Eastern teams that the media...ESPN...force feeds to us. Anyway, the A's. They weren't very good or exciting last year, going 75-86 in a weak AL West. They scored a meager 4.01 runs per game (27th) but allowed just 4.29 per game, 8th best in MLB. They took steps to address their mediocre offense, trading for LF Matt Holliday and signing SS Orlando Cabrera, former SS Nomar Garciaparra, and former A Jason Giambi. Plus, the remains of 3B Eric Chavez are "healthy", and 2B Mark Ellis is ready to man the keystone again, so that should provide a boost. Assuming either one can even hold a bat or glove without his arms falling off, that is.
Offensively, the upgrades should help a lot - plus backup C Rob Bowen was one of the instructors at a baseball camp we attended, so that's a plus. They could host the division's second best squad in that regard. If the pitching stays true to form - hardly a lock, given that their ace, Justin Duchscherer, is struggling with health issues (again), and the rest of the guys that performed for them last year are gone and/or overachievers. This year, there doesn't appear to be a lot of promise from top to bottom, unless they can capture the same magic they had last year. However, they do boast a very solid bullpen.
PECOTA projected record: 84-78, 2nd in AL West
KCSD projected record: 82-80, 2nd in AL West
We're less confident than PECOTA because we think the pitching is going to be too much of an issue for the retooled offense to fully overcome. Still a nice improvement overall, though.
Around the Horn
C Kurt Suzuki: .275/.340/.400, 10 HR. The Asian Sensation is not really sensational, but he's also not actually nicknamed that, so it's ok. Anyway, he's a solid, young backstop with potential for growth. Nothin wrong with that.
1B Daric Barton: .265/.360/.430, 20 HR. Barton was a huge disappointment last year, but he's still just 23. And we tend to think that highly regarded A's prospects are highly regarded for a reason.
2B Mark Ellis: .275/.330/.430, 15 HR, 10 SB. Last year was basically a lost season for Ellis due to injuries; if he can show that he's fully overcome them, he should be able to rebound.
3B Eric Chavez: .240/.345/.410, 15 HR. Chavez has had serious, serious injury issues the last few seasons, basically destroying what was a high-potential career. But his bat isn't useless yet, and if he can stay healthy, something resembling a return to form could be in the offing.
SS Orlando Cabrera: .275/.330/.380, 5 HR, 15 SB. Cabrera is mostly known for his defense and being a tremendous teammate, by which we mean people in the clubhouse hate him. He's got a solid contact bat for a shortstop, but no patience or power means a 1-year deal was a good decision.
LF Matt Holliday: .290/.380/.500, 25 HR, 20 SB. Moving from the homer haven of Coors Field to the homer-depressing McAfee Coliseum can't mean good things for the bald basher. He should still have a good year, but don't be surprised to see less power.
CF Ryan Sweeney: .280/.340/.400, 10 HR. Sweeney developed this annoying habit of posting great minor league numbers and then getting called up only to fall flat on his face. Well, last year, he broke that habit. Turning 25, don't be surprised to see him improve on last year's solid .286/.350/.383 showing.
RF Travis Buck: .260/.340/.400, 10 HR. Buck, too, showed promise in the minors, but had trouble adapting to the majors. Hopefully, turning 26, he can prove that his strong showing in the past wasn't a fluke.
DH Jack Cust: .250/.400/.500, 30 HR. A classic three true outcome slugger (everything's a walk, strikeout, or bomb), Cust finally got his chance in Oakland a couple years ago after bopping in the minors for several years. Their patience has paid off, and his bat should only get better as a full-time DH.
From the Bump: Starters
RHP Justin Duchscherer: 140 IP, 4.00 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 100 K, 40 BB. Duchscherer was a surprise showing on the ERA leaderboards all season, but that was due in large part to a ridiculously low .238 BABIP. Expect some regression, and more missed starts from the fragile Duchscherer.
LHP Dana Eveland: 180 IP, 4.50 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 130 K, 75 BB. Eveland was solid last year, and there's nothing wrong with a lefty who can put up these numbers. You'd just rather they came from a lower slot in the rotation.
RHP Sean Gallagher: 160 IP, 4.80 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 120 K, 70 BB. Gallagher was less-than-solid last year, but if he can improve, there's nothing wrong with a guy who can put up these numbers. You'd just rather they came from a lower slot in the rotation.
LHP Josh Outman: 150 IP, 4.75 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 100 K, 70 BB. Gonzalez was less-than-solid last year, but if he can improve, there's nothing wrong with a lefty who can put up these numbers. You'd just rather they came from a lower slot in the rotation.
Sensing a trend here?
LHP Gio Gonzalez: 150 IP, 5.20 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 100 K, 75 BB. Gonzalez was less-than-solid last year, but if he can improve, there's nothing wrong with a lefty who can put up these numbers. You'd just rather they came from a lower slot in the rotation.
Our goodness, this is a vanilla group. At least Outman has a good name for a pitcher, even if it is something of a misnomer.
From the Bump: Relievers
Closer RHP Joey Devine: 60 IP, 2.20 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 70 K, 25 BB, 15 SV. Devine has nasty stuff, and the Braves, quite simply, gave up on him too fast. Only 25, Devine should be an excellent closer for years to come.
Setup man RHP Brad Ziegler: 60 IP, 3.00 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 35 K, 20 BB, 10 SV. Ziegler set a record in his rookie year for the most consecutive innings pitched without allowing an earned run (one of the less catchy records), but he did it on the strength of a low BABIP, so you can expect some regresssion here, too. But he should still be a solid arm, and can get some saves since he figures to open the season in the closer role.