Bleacherreport.com tasked me with ranking the top 10 pitchers in Athletics history. Considering the Athletics' considerable history, it was quite daunting. Who are my top 10? What order do I rank them?
There's the obvious inclusions of Hall-of-Famers Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, and Dennis Eckersley. Everyone else had success with the A's more recently or required research.
You're not a diehard fan unless you know ALL of your team's history. As an A's fan, you must culture yourself if you've never heard of Eddie Plank.
I'm sure my list will set off a floodgate of debate, so let's get started.
Zito was a tough choice to log at No. 10. I could have just as easily logged Mark Mulder here. Both were formidable parts of Oakland's famed "Big Three", which also included Tim Hudson. Zito edged out Mulder simply based on the merit of having an AL Cy Young in 2002 on his resume.
Zito's performance has fallen off a bit since, which makes me happy that he's now pitching with San Francisco instead.
Nonetheless, at the top of his game, Zito has had one of the most devastating curve balls in MLB history, which was good for racking up an average of 170 Ks through his six full seasons in an Oakland uniform.
I still remember attending an A's playoff game in which I saw people carrying around signs proclaiming "Zito for President", so there's no denying his impact on the early 2000s success of the Oakland A's
Between 1988 and 1992, Oakland was enjoying a great string of success. AL Championships. Oh yeah, they also won the World Series in 1989.
Bob Welch shouldn't be understated as an integral part of this great run in A's history. While not all his time in Oakland was memorable, he was good when it counted.
Like Zito, Welch also has an AL Cy Young Award to his credit. In 1990, he boasted a 27-6 record (that's no-decisions in only two starts) alongside an impressive 2.95 ERA. Make no mistake—Bob Welch was a man the A's wanted on the mound in a crucial game.
Of the "Big Three", Tim Hudson was always my favorite, and I was very disappointed to see the A's trade him away. His "bulldog" mentality was intimidating for opposing hitters. Just ask Nomar Garciaparra. In his first season in Oakland, Hudson struck out Nomar with his always-nasty split-fingered fastball, shot Nomar a death stare and casually walked back to the Oakland dugout.
For the A's, he was a pitcher they could consistently count on to give them a chance to win. And win Timmy did—to the tune of 92-39 record for the Green and Gold, good for a 70 percent win percentage.
Not bad for a scrawny 6'0'', 160lbs bulldog from Georgia.
I had a specific picture in mind for Stew, but for the life of me, I couldn't find it. The picture was the perfect example of the fear and intimidation caused simply by his eyes as he delivered a pitch.
There were plenty of good reasons to fear Stewart. More so than Hudson, you wanted Stewart on the mound every fifth day.
He's arguably one of the A's greatest pitchers never to win a Cy Young Award. To his credit though, he was the World Series MVP in 1989 and ALCS MVP in 1990 for the Green and Gold.
Not convinced? How about his no-hitter June 29, 1990? How about four consecutive 20-win seasons (1987-1990)? Not many pitchers in the modern era can boast that.
Stewart was the real deal, folks.
Ahh yes, the infamous mustache of Rollie Fingers. Who could ever forget that handle-bar mustache? What was that? Fingers didn't get into the Hall-of-Fame because of his mustache? Oh, got it.
While the A's established a small dynasty in World Series wins from 1972-74, they had an enviable relief pitcher in Rollie Fingers.
Rollie was one of the earliest closers and firmly established himself as one of the best, even though Rollie only sported 136 of his 341 career saves with Oakland. His career 2.90 ERA is nothing to sneeze at either.
No top A's pitcher list would be complete without Mr. Blue. Vida Blue. He was a remarkable pitcher and a big part of the A's World Series championships in 1972, 1973, and 1974.
Blue had his career season for Oakland in 1971: 24-8 record with a 1.82 ERA and 301 strikeouts. Those kind of stats were not only good for the AL Cy Young Award, but the AL MVP award as well. Sprinkle in six all-star selections and a no-hitter on Sep. 21, 1970. Here's to you, Blue.
Another notable of the 70s Swingin' A's Was Jim "Catfish" Hunter. As a youngster, he had a hunting accident that cost him a toe. That didn't stop the then-Kansas City A's from taking a flier on Hunter, which paid off in spades.
Like Stewart, he also boasts four consecutive 20-win seasons (1971-1974). Hunter posted 161 of his career 224 wins with the A's. A career ERA of 3.26 was nothing to sneeze at either.
The modern era of baseball has created a need for teams to have a dominant, shut-the-door closer in addition to the dominant starting pitcher. Dennis Eckersley is an example of such a dominant talent.
He wasn't always a closer, though. In fact, he tallied 100 complete games as a starting pitcher before the A's acquired him.
But Oakland had different plans for him. Eckersley resisted, but was groomed as a relief pitcher, and took off from there, compiling 320 of his career 390 saves in Green and Gold.
Eckersley was the definition of a dominant closer. In 1992, he won both the AL Cy Young Award AND the AL MVP award while posting a 1.91 ERA and 93 strikeouts over 80 innings with 51 saves. How many Hall-of-Famers can boast that? Just as impressive was his 1990 season, posting a minuscule 0.61 ERA over 73.1 innings.
Oh, and I still enjoy Eckersley's fist pump a lot more than Tiger Woods'.
While completing this list I realized I couldn't just make a list of the best OAKLAND A's pitchers. If I had, I'd of left out a remarkable Athletics pitcher from the days of Philadelphia. A 300 game winner deserves his due recognition, 195 of which were with the Philadelphia Athletics.
Dave Stewart's four consecutive 20-win seasons seem like nothing next to Lefty's seven consecutive 20-win seasons, including a 31-win season in 1931.
Two World Series championships and six all-star selections (none of which were with Philadelphia) say that Lefty deserves due credit at No. 2.
I now consider myself an educated and enlightened A's fan. When I began researching my top A's pitchers, I had no idea the resume that Plank has.
A career 2.35 ERA. 2.35!! Who cares if his career was over after the 1917 season? That's pretty darned impressive. And 326 career wins (284 with Philadelphia) is good for the 13th-highest total for a pitcher all time.
Bow down and kneel to the pitching gods, A's fans, and be proud of Plank as a pitcher of the franchise!
Might it be Brett Anderson? There's a lot of hope and promise surrounding that young man after an impressive rookie campaign at just 21 years old. It's much too early to tell, but here's hoping for a great 2010 year from him and the rest of the young A's pitchers.