Friday, March 04, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: Oakland Athletics

Oddly enough, the Athletics have not signed a single free agent to a major league contract. They have made multiple trades and let some people go though, like Jermaine Dye and his albatross of a contract. Many people expect the Athletics to fall on their face this season, since the "Big Three" has been dismantled. Did anyone notice that Mulder fell apart the second half of last season, and that he and Tim Hudson's peripherals have been slowly getting worse? It may have something to do with Oakland losing Rick Peterson as their pitching coach, but it could also just be regression by those two pitchers. If the new acquisitions are capable of performing at the same level that Mulder and Hudson did last year than the A's should be fine.

Jason Kendall and cash acquired for Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes. Rhodes was a burden on the bullpen last season, and his trade opens up some room for some of the new kids to pitch out of the pen. Mark Redman looked tired much of last season, and that was probably from Jack McKeon riding him hard in Florida all of 2003. Both were overpaid, so the swapping out of talent that the A's already improved upon for Kendall, an upgrade over Damian Miller at catcher, was excellent.

Acquired Keith Ginter for Justin Lehr and Nelson Cruz. Nelson Cruz is a toolsy outfielder who was coming along nicely in the A's system. Justin Lehr did not perform too well for Oakland out of the pen last season, and his peripherals are are icky to say the least. 16:14 K/BB ratio, 4.41 K/9. Ginter will be an upgrade over Marco Scutaro at second base, unless Mark Ellis rehabs completely back to health. It will be interesting to see which one of these players gets to start at second.

Acquired Dan Meyer, Charles Thomas, and Juan Cruz for Tim Hudson. This is a great deal for the A's in my mind, as they add Thomas to play the fourth outfielder role in the outfield (even though his OBP and walks were inflated by HBP last season) and Juan Cruz as a hard thrower out of the bullpen. Dan Meyer is the centerpiece of this trade though, with some sexy minor league numbers, including a 4.38 K:BB ratio. He should do at least as well as 04' Mulder this year, with higher upside overall.

Acquired Danny Haren, Kiko Calero, and Daric Barton for Mark Mulder. Danny Haren slots into the rotation after success in the bullpen in 04' for the Cardinals, and Kiko Calero adds to the power arms in the much improved Oakland bullpen. Daric Barton is one of the best hitting prospects in baseball, and will not stay at the catcher position for long. His 2004 minor league numbers (.313/.445/.511) translate into (thank you Clay Davenport) .262/.369/.425 at the major league level. Pretty impressive for a 19 year old. When the time comes he'll be a name you remember.

For a team that didn't sign any free agents, they sure changed a lot.

1) Jason Kendall
2) Eric Byrnes
3) Eric Chavez
4) Erubiel Durazo
5) Mark Kotsay
6) Bobby Crosby
7) Scott Hatteberg
8) Nick Swisher
9) Mark Ellis/Keith Ginter

Jason Kendall gives them a real leadoff hitter and OBP threat out of the leadoff spot, even if Oakland's park will dampen his numbers a tad. Eric Byrnes might be Mike Cameron in a month or by the trading deadline, but Byrnes is good as well. Eric Chavez just might win an MVP soon since he can finally hit lefties (Hovering near the Mendoza line against them the past few seasons, he hit over .300 against southpaws in 04'...oddly enough he hit worse against righties, but that is probably a neglible fluke). Durazo is still quietly extremely productive, and Kotsay's offense blossomed as well as his defense. Bobby Crosby will be better than last year, and Hatteberg will probably be worse. The difference between Mark Ellis and Marco Scutaro last season at second base probably cost the A's the division; nevermind the second half disaster that was Mulder or the injury to Eric Chavez, simply having Ellis there with those other occurences may have brought them a playoff berth. Maybe Charles Thomas isn't the greatest starting outfielder in baseball, but he still isn't Terrence Long (I don't care if he's now two years removed, it still hurts to think about the Neifi Perez of corner outfielders). As for Nick Swisher, in his official rookie campaign, I expect him to put up performance that should make up for Jermaine Dye's absence this season...as a rookie that is good...for $11 million when you've been in the league awhile, not so good.

I think this looks like a pretty good offense, but just for kicks I am going to figure their run total for the 05' season, just to see if my head is up my ass or not. I figure they score somewhere in the vicinity of 782 runs this season., but that could go as high as 800 if Crosby really improves and Chavez brings his numbers against righties up a tad.

1) Barry Zito
2) Rich Harden
3) Joe Blanton
4) Danny Haren
5) Dan Meyer

Zito is the ace in name only; Harden will perform basically as well if not better this year, and when I say better I mean Top 10 pitcher in the AL and bonified ace. Or he could stop where he is, I hate pitching prospects sometimes. This is the way we can put this I guess. I was thinking of testing out one of James' new formulas here, but I'll do it another time, maybe midseason to compare the 04' and 05' rotations.

Zito 05' = Zito 04'
Harden 05' > Harden 04'
Blanton/Haren/Meyer 05' = Mulder/Redman/Hudson/Saarloos 05

I don't expect any of the kids to be as good as Hudson was in 04', but they should outperform Mulder, Redman and Saarloos. Redman was beat up pretty bad a good portion of the season, and Mulder should be able to bring hitters up on charges of assault for what they did to his pitching in the second half. If I had to single out one of them to be worse than the others then I would choose Blanton. For some reason I am skeptical about Blanton, but I can't put my finger on why. So Oakland might lose a little in the rotation this year, but nowhere near as much as assumed by many.

Their bullpen is vastly improved. Dotel for a full season, no more Arthur Rhodes, the addition of Kiki Calero and Juan Cruz, Justin Duchscherer is a year older and more experienced, Chad Bradford is Chad Bradford, and Tim Harrikala, who followed up a good first half in Colorado with absolutely horrid performances in the second. I expect the bullpen to be much less of an issue than it was in 04'.

With a few extra wins from the lineup (improvement from Bobby Crosby, a full season of someone other than Scutaro at second (if only he could improve his plate discipline), and a full season of Chavez along with Nick Swisher) along with the extra production from the bullpen should make this A's team competitive and keep them in the race for the division. They do need a lucky break or two to win, and with the Angels injury history that is very likely. Of course, adding Mike Cameron would make this team even better defensively, which would make the young arms even better, and so on and so on. Rabble rabble, Billy Beane is as good as it gets as far as general managers go, opinions of those offended by his Red Sox plans aside. Who else trades 3/5 of one of the best rotations in baseball and ends up better all around for it? I'm pretty sure I'm going to get molested via comment for supporting Beane, so here I go bracing for impact...


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