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This could be the year that Brett Anderson breaks out for Oakland
1.) Trevor Cahill
2.) Brett Anderson
3.) Gio Gonzalez
4.) Dallas Braden
5.) Rich Harden
Other Possibilities: Brandon McCarthy, Fautino De Los Santos, Bobby Cramer
Many are labeling the A's as their surprise team of 2011 and the pitching is a big reason.
Cahill was terrific last season, only his second in the bigs, and, at age 23, figures to have many more good seasons ahead. One concern is his lack of an ability to miss bats, which could make it difficult for him to sustain his 139 ERA+ and 1.1 WHIP, but until we see it, it'll be difficult to count against him.
His H/9 rate was one of the lowest in the league (7.1), which is a very promising sign.
Anderson, much like Cahill, was very impressive in his second season, at age 22. While his K/9 was also relatively low in 2010, he still managed to post a 148 ERA+, which bested even Cahill.
Anderson's issue was his inability to stay healthy, as he dealt with forearm issues all season. If he can stay healthy for 2011, this could very well be the year that he serves notice to the rest of the league that he's arrived.
Beside Cahill and Anderson, Oakland has another terrific, young top of the rotation starter in Gonzalez. Pitching in Oakland, he went largely unnoticed, but he posted a 128 ERA+ and struck out almost eight per nine innings.
While he misses the most bats of the three, his walk rate still remains perilously high. If he can cut that down to even league average levels, Gonzalez could be one of the biggest surprises of 2011 (as if he wasn't in 2010).
Braden got a lot of notoriety for the perfect game he pitched on Mother's Day, but he quietly enjoyed a very effective season, as well. His 118 ERA+ wasn't quite on the level of his other peers, but he only allowed 8.4 H/9 over 192 innings.
When you have a guy like this as your No. 4, that shows just how deep the rotation is.
As of now, it appears the last spot in the rotation will go to former A's prospect Harden, who the team brought back this offseason. Harden has frustrated many a pitching coach and manager because, when he's on, few are capable of matching his talent.
Of course, like with every enigmatic pitcher, how often he's actually on is the big question. Harden still throws entirely too many pitches at times, which limits his ability to go deep into games.
This, plus a high BB rate, offsets his usually double digit K/9 rate, although he slumped to 7.3 K/9 in Texas last season. Perhaps a return to Oakland will do Harden good.
If he returns back to the pitcher everyone knows he can be, this rotation could very well challenge for the best in the league.