Thursday, March 20, 2008

Oakland A's Preview

2007 Record: 76-86
The NCAA tourney is about to start, but I've still got baseball on the mind. There's just one week until the season officially gets underway in Japan and it will be the Athletics and Red Sox getting the party started. It will be a battle of teams going in opposite directions though. While the World Champs continue to be among the elite baseball teams in the country, the A's are in complete rebuilding mode. 2 years ago, Oakland was in the ALCS, but last year they took a tumble back to earth. The Home-grown talent that all seemed to click over the past decade didn't come together like it used to and the A's finished in uncharted territory, 3rd in the NL West. This season, could be even more depressing in Northern California as the Athletics don't even have their Ace Dan Haren to lean on. He was traded to Arizona in the off-season.
Key Additions
Emil Brown OF
Joey Devine RP
Dana Eveland SP
Carlos Gonzalez OF
Gio Gonzalez SP
Mike Sweeney 1B/DH
Key Losses
Dan Haren SP
Mark Kotsay OF
Mike Piazza DH
Shannon Stewart OF
Nick Swisher OF/1B

Projected Lineup
1) Travis Buck RF
2) Daric Barton 1B
3) Eric Chavez 3B
4) Jack Cust DH
5) Mark Ellis 2B
6) Emil Brown LF
7) Bobby Crosby SS
8) Chris Denorfia CF
9) Kurt Suzuki C

Offensive Grade: D...This lineup is thinner than the Olson Twins. I'm failing to see how they are going to generate any run support this year. Dare I say, they'll miss Nick Swisher? They have Young Bucks all over the place and none of these guys will be on the all-star team. Oh wait, you're saying they have to have an all-star? Damn. Ok, let's wait till the pitching staff to see about that. Besides the young'ns, they've got injury prone Chavez and Booby Crosby. Chavez used to be a baller, but he's not longer a good option. Suzuki is an up-an-comer behind the plate. He could develop into an above-average catcher someday, but this year he still has work to do. Jack Cust had an amazing month run last year where he hit Home runs at a ridiculous clip. Then he ran into a brick wall, and went into a massive slump. Could it have been the juice? We'll see how his performance plays out this year. Overall though, this team is going to have to rely on winning close games, because this offense isn't going to blow anyone out.

Projected Rotation
1) Joe Blanton
2) Rich Harden
3) Chad Gaudin
4) Lenny DiNardo
5) Justin Duchscherer
CL) Huston Street

Pitching Grade: C-...What happened to the days of dominant A's pitching staffs? It seems like forever ago that Oakland was trotting out Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, and Mark Mulder. All of those guys are gone now, and just when it looked like they had another pitcher in that mold named Dan Haren, he dissapears as well. Losing Haren really hurt this rotation. He was the best pitcher in baseball for the first half of last year, before falling off a bit. Still, he would have clearly been the ace of a staff that now lacks one. Blanton is serviceable and would be a good #3 on most rosters, but I dont know how thrilled A's fans are about having him start on opening day. Rich Harden is always on everyone's sleeper list, the only problem is that he can never stay healthy long enough to show off his scorching stuff. Until he proves he can stay healthy, I can't take him seriously. If he is able to put it all together for a year, he could be a monster, but until then, he means nothing to me. He's basically the Ben Sheets of the AL. Chad Gaudin started the year great, going undefeated over the first month and a half of the season. Then he came back to earth. Once you show a skillset, though, you own it and that could bode well for this staff. After Gaudin, there are a whole lot of question marks. We'll have to see how that plays out when the season begins. Street is an above average closer, but he also has health issues. Rumor is that he'll be traded by the deadline.

Projected Outlook
With those two grades combined, you can't expect this team to win a whole lot. They will contend with the Rangers for the basement of the AL West no doubt. There is such a huge gap in this division between the top 2 and the bottom 2 teams, it's not even funny. When at home, the A's will play plenty of 2-1, 3-2, 1-0 games. The Collisseum is a pitcher's park and the A's offense can't hit. The home fans aren't going to have that much fun this season. I hope Billy Beane has something up his sleeve for the future, because right now, the present isn't too bright. Projected 2008 Record: 70-82

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