Here's a Thought: Grading the Oakland Athletics' Starting Rotation
My last article looked at the Los Angeles Angels' rotation. I gave their group a B overall.
Next up is the Oakland Athletics' rotation, which has the potential to fall anywhere from worst to best in the division
At the end of this article, I'll compare the A's to the Angels and Rangers, and see who has the best rotation.
Who Will Start?
The A's rotation is pretty much set, just like LA's. Also like the Angels, the only question is the pitching order. I'll go with this:
Sheets hasn't pitched since 2008 due to arm trouble, but he's said to still have the electric stuff that led to incredible campaigns in 2004 and 2006.
Sheets tosses a 93 mph fastball and a hammer 80 mph curve. His fastball was at its best in 2007 and 2008 while his curve peaked in value in 2003-2005,then declined in 2006-2008.
Sheets has impeccable control, with a career walk rate below 2 BB/9. His flyball tendencies (career 41.8 percent GB) will play well in Oakland.
Sheets is a bit of a question mark, but he's got ace potential and has never been below a B-level pitcher.
Duchscherer, like Sheets, missed all of 2009 after establishing himself as an A-grade starter in 2008 2.54 ERA).
Granted Duchscherer was a bit lucky that year (3.69 FIP), he was still a very solid pitcher.
Unlike Sheets, Duchscherer's stuff isn't electric. He relies on a mid-80's cutter and a curve ball that comes in around 69 mph.
Both pitches have been excellent over the course of his career. The cutter has been 2.08 runs above average per 100 pitches, with the curve at 1.25.
Duchscherer succeeds with pinpoint control (2.30 BB/9 career) and inducing weak contact (career .272 BABIP). Another flyballer (41.7% career GB), he's in the right park to succeed.
Duchscherer comes with similar risks as Sheets, and was slightly worse than Sheets pre-2009, so...
I've already written about Anderson's greatness of 2009 and potential for 2010...http://bleacherreport.com/articles/326547-heres-a-thought-could-brett-anderson-be-2010s-best-starting-pitcher
I'll leave it at that.
Braden's got an incredible changeup, one of the best in the majors. It helps offset his 85-91 mph fastball, and he added a solid cutter in 2009.
Another flyballer, Braden was the Opening Day starter in 2009, and posted a 3.73 FIP for the season. He doesn't have the surgical precision of Sheets or Duchscherer, but his career walk rate is below 3 BB/9.
At 26, he's close to peaking, but Braden is a very valuable pitcher.
Gonzalez has electric stuff, with a 88-95 mph fastball and bendy curve in the high 70's.
His command has long been an issue, but he took a big step toward resolving it in 2009, cutting his walk rate from 6.62 BB/9 to 5.11. His career HR/FB rate (16.4 percent) indicates some of his command problems, but it is also probably tinged by a bit of bad luck. His xFIP for 2009 was 4.02, and he has a tendency to dominate a level the second year there.
I've said for years that Gonzalez will be an A-grade pitcher in 2011, and I believe he'll be a solid No.3 or No.4 type pitcher this season, improving as he gains experience during the year. Watch out for him in the second half.
Ben Sheets B+
Justin Duchscherer B
Brett Anderson A
Dallas Braden B
Gio Gonzalez B+
That's a B+ rotation.
Quick comparison to LA and Texas:
1: Sheets B+...Weaver B+...Harden B-
2: Duchscherer B...Santana B-...Feldman B-
3: Anderson A...Saunders C+...Hunter B-
4: Braden B...Kazmir B...Lewis D
5: Gonzalez B+...Pineiro A-...Holland B
Total Grade Points: Oakland 45, LA 40, Texas 31