Jarrod Parker pitches against the Angels.
With a team batting average of .238, the A's relied heavily on pitching all season.
The Angels finished just four games behind Oakland for the division title. Separate arguments can be made that it was either the slow start by the offense or an inconsistent pitching staff that ultimately clipped the Angels' wings.
This offseason, the Athletics made few moves to better themselves, while the Angels signed the marquee free agent of the 2012 class, Josh Hamilton. In addition, they signed Joe Blanton, traded for Jason Vargas and will have Mike Trout for an entire year. The southern California team did, however, lose Torii Hunter and sacrificed Kendrys Morales for Vargas.
Still, the 2013 AL West crown should come down to pitching.
One notion is hard to argue with: On paper, the Angels have a superior lineup; hence the A's rotation becomes that much more important to them to repeat as AL West champions.
But the question is, which idea is better: building on young talent, hoping for continued development and a repeat performance or acquiring slightly above-average yet reliable veterans with experience?
Here is the tale of the tape when it comes to the starting rotations.
Writing based off of the current A's depth chart, Oakland will utilize Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin and either Dan Straily or Bartolo Colon.
Let's start with the cons.
Assuming it's Straily, which it should be—for age, ceiling, etc.—Oakland would still lack experience.
Parker and Milone have pitched just one year in the big leagues. Griffin has half of a season under his belt. Straily pitched in just seven games. Anderson is the "veteran" on the team, but he only averages 17 games per season (30, 19, 13, 6).
Because each of them are very young, there's a lack of data to prove their consistency.
Many will answer the last sentence written with, "But their potential is so high."
That's, without a doubt, true. The response to a lack of data might very well be: If these guys pitched their way to the playoffs as rookies, imagine how awesome they will be as they mature.
So what do we know?
When Anderson is healthy, he has shown flashes of dominance. Over four years, he averages two walks and seven strikeouts per nine innings. He has also maintained a sub-3.00 ERA twice, though both years were in injury-shortened seasons.
Parker and Milone were very efficient in their first year and remained consistent throughout the entire season. They both have plenty of room to grow, as well. Milone is crafty, walking very few; Parker goes right after hitters, striking out many while keeping the number of hits and home runs allowed down.
Griffin has been up and down, though his stats say he has been fantastic.
In his first seven games, he lasted six innings or more, never giving up more than three runs.
But it was his final four appearances of the season that are cause for concern. Griffin began to level off a bit, getting knocked out of three of the games by the fifth inning after allowing over a half dozen hits and four or more runs in each.
With few appearances, Straily is a flat-out question mark.
Los Angeles Angels
The cons for the Angels revolve around questions regarding Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton's consistency.
Blanton hovers around a .500 win percentage, and his career ERA is 4.37—not awful, but not great.
Vargas has a similar ERA and a worse win percentage, but he has gotten better in the last three years.
Though Hanson's WHIP has gone done every year of his career, his ERA has increased each year. He strikes out eight per nine innings, but in 2012 allowed 27 home runs and walked 71.
Luckily for LA, the pros heavily outweigh any cons.
Jered Weaver is a perennial Cy Young contender, having placed in the Top Five for three consecutive years. Last season, he won a whopping 20 games, and there is little reason to doubt Weaver will show any regression in 2013.
For those thinking C.J. Wilson had a down year, the former Texas Ranger still earned 13 wins. He maintained a 3.83 ERA and a 1.344 WHIP—neither overwhelming, but both respectable. Wilson has proven to be a valuable pitcher in the last few years, so there's plenty of reason to believe he can rebound.
This may be an over simplification, but let's go down the line, no. 1 to no. 5.
Who has the better rotation?
Jered Weaver trumps Brett Anderson in the long-term (in the short term, it's a lot closer).
Jarrod Parker and C.J. Wilson are a squash (for now), as are Tommy Milone and Jason Vargas (again, for now).
If A.J. Griffin doesn't level off, he has a slight advantage over Tommy Hanson, only because what you see with Hanson is what you're going to get after four years.
For Blanton versus Straily, Blanton has been very average the last three years. By default, Straily might have a slight edge if he keeps his form.
It's experience and above-average consistency up against youth with potential.
On paper, this one is a lot closer than it looks.
I'll leave you with this question: Do the Angels hitters perform better against the A's pitchers, or does Oakland's lineup best the Los Angeles rotation?
It's going to be very difficult to retain the AL West division title in 2013. If the Oakland Athletics intend to do so, they not only have to outdo themselves, they especially have to pitch better than the Angels.
Doable, but challenging.
The beauty of it all is that at the end of the day, while Los Angeles may look better on paper and have more experience, matched up any given day of the season, it wouldn't be hard to take an Athletic starter over an Angel not named Weaver.