After many comments, thoughts and consideration, I've decided to take a closer look on the A's in 2009.
Back in November when the A's added the powerful Matt Holliday, I was definitely shocked and excited. For one, the A's were coming off there second-straight third place finish in the American League West, and were a team with major health concerns. By adding Holliday, they instantly upgraded their offense, which was one of the worst in the league.
It only got better though. The A's added Jason Giambi in January, who was one of the most marketable and well-known player in A's history. The acquisition of the popular and powerful Giambi added to the A's offense. At this point in time as a fan, I was very, very excited. The A's were beginning to look like a serious contender—especially in the AL West, where the vulnerable Angels lost key, productive players to free agency.
While counting down the days to spring training, I previewed the Oakland A's and gave grades to the team's efforts. It was then, when I realized I was a bit too optimistic, and that I overlooked so many things.
Pitching is critical for any team, just ask the Yankees. For years they've had some of the best offensive players, yet struggle in post-season because of their weak rotation. However, they addressed that this offseason with the acquisitions of C.C Sabathia and AJ Burnett. Bottom line is that the A's feature a very young staff, with a lot of upside. Will they be able to mature and grow into the next "Big Three"? Maybe. But that will depend on the A's offensive performance. If the A's struggle to score 3 runs per game, then look for another 70 win season. But, if Holliday sticks around all season (which I think he will) and if Giambi pounds the ball then the A's will be a mid-80's win team.
The Rotation features a list "nobodies," with the exception of two-time All-Star, Justin Duchscherer. The 2009 Projected Rotation is as follows:
1. Justin Duchscherer, 10-8, 2.54 ERA in 2008
2. Dana Eveland, 9-9, 4.34 ERA in 2008
3. Sean Gallagher, 5-7, 5.15 ERA in 2008
4. Dallas Braden, 5-4, 4.14 ERA in 2008
5. Gio Gonzalez, 1-4, 7.68 ERA in 2008
Duchscherer is obviously the staff's ace, but whether or not he can pitch 200 innings this year will be a key question to the A's success in 09. Eveland has great upside, and Gio Gonzalez has the "stuff" to be a good pitcher in the big leagues. If the offense supports the staff, then the A's have a serious shot at winning the west.
The Bullpen will also be critical for the A's. The Bullpen was outstanding last year, and features some very young, talented arms:
Co-closer: Joey Devine, 6-1, 0.59 ERA, 1-for-2 in save chances in 2008
C0-closer: Brad Ziegler, 3-0, 1.06 ERA, 11-for-13 in save chances in 2008
RH setup man: Russ Springer, 2-1, 2.32 ERA, 15 holds in 2008
LH setup man: Jerry Blevins, 1-3, 3.11 ERA, 5 holds in 2008
Joey Devine and Brad Ziegler will share the closer role for awhile, but my guess is that Devine will be the teams closer by the end of the season. Russ Springer, acquired this offseason is a veteran players who has had some recent success—he posted a 2.32 ERA for the Cards last season.
If the A's are to reach post-season, then the offense will have to provide some support for the young staff:
1. CF Ryan Sweeney:
.286 BA, .350 OBP, .383 SLG, 5 HR, 45 RBIs in 2008
2. DH Jack Cust:
.231 BA, .375 OBP, .486 SLG, 33 HR, 77 RBIs in 2008
3. LF Matt Holliday:
.321 BA, .409 OBP, .538 SLG, 25 HR, 88 RBIs in 2008
4. 1B Jason Giambi:
.247 BA, .373 OBP, .502 SLG, 32 HR, 96 RBIs in 2008
5. 3B Eric Chavez:
.247 BA, .295 OBP, .393 SLG, 2 HR, 14 RBIs in 2008
6. C Kurt Suzuki:
.279 BA, .346 OBP, .370 SLG, 7 HR, 42 RBIs in 2008
7. SS Bobby Crosby:
.237 BA, .296 OBP, .349 SLG, 7 HR, 61 RBIs in 2008
8. RF Travis Buck:
.226 BA, .291 OBP, .432 SLG, 7 HR, 25 RBIs in 2008
9. 2B Mark Ellis:
.233 BA, .321 OBP, .373 SLG, 12 HR, 41 RBIs in 2008
Jack Cust, Matt Holliday, Jason Giambi and Eric Chavez are all players who can hit for 30 homeruns and knock in at least 80 runs. If they can produce to their potential, especially Chavez, then the A's have a very, very dangerous lineup. Ryan Sweeney and Kurt Suzuki are also very talented players who hit for decent power and high average. Look for the A's to put up a lot more runs this year, with Holliday and Giambi leading the way.
Now, after seriously re-considering my previous opinion, I have given more realistic grades to the A's. Please feel free to comment and express your own views and ideas—they always help!
Offense—B: The Offense was seriously upgraded this offseason, and with the teams' interest in free-agent SS Orlando Cabrera, the A's could possibly feature one of the best offenses in the American League.
Defense—B: The A's have always been a defensive team, and will be a very solid defensive team this year as well. Ryan Sweeney is a very talented outfielder, and Kurt Suzuki is proving to be the back-bone of the team.
Pitching—B-/C+: The Starting Rotation has many question-marks, but the talent is certainly there. If the offense provides some room for error, then the young staff should be able to produce some quality starts. The Bullpen is simply fantastic, and should be extremely entertaining to watch this season.
Overall—B: The A's added power to the line-up this offseason. Billy Beane made some great moves this offseason, and made it known to the Angels that he intends to contend this season. Obviously, Holliday won't be in green-and-gold after 2009, but hopefully he provides enough offense to help the young staff compete for the division crown.