A's Analysis: Starting Rotation

With less than 25 days until Opening Day, here’s an in-depth analysis on the Oakland A’s starting rotation.

The A’s will be a pitching oriented team in 2010, and in order to find success, the A’s will have to see significant strides in their young pitching as well as bounce-back seasons from key veterans. Barring any injuries or set-backs, the A’s will most likely open with this starting rotation: Ben Sheets, Justin Duchscherer, Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill. Despite being mentioned in the rotation, Cahill isn’t exactly a lock as of now—Gio Gonzalez and Vin Mazzaro are both currently vying for the fifth spot.

Ben Sheets (31-yr.old)

Sheets signed with the A’s earlier this year for a one-year, $10 million contract. Although the deal was criticized by some, Sheets brings much more to the A’s young rotation than just his name. Sheets will serve as a mentor to young stars like Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Vin Mazzaro. Coming off an inactive 2009 season (because of surgery), Sheets hopes to regain some of the success that he had in his Milwaukee days. In his career, Sheets has won 86 games and has thrown a total 18 complete games. Below are some his key stats from his last active season (2008):

2008 Season Stats: 13-9, 31 GS, 5 GC, 3 Shutouts, 198.1 IP, 158K/47BB, 3.09 ERA

As for this season, the A’s hope that their $10 million gamble pays off. If the A’s are in contention come the All-Star Break, look for them to hold onto Sheets in case they end up in a heated playoff run. However, if the A’s stumble out of the gates and fall behind in the competitive AL West, Billy Beane & Co. will look to deal Sheets at the deadline. Many writers, bloggers and analysts are expecting Sheets to be this year’s version of Matt Holliday. If Sheets performs well enough during the first half, Beane could potentially flip him for three quality prospects. Personally, I see the A’s placing third this year in the West, so I don’t expect Sheets to stick around too long—but you never know with Billy Beane.

2010 Projected Stats: 11-9, 171.2 IP, 126K/49BB, 3.64 ERA (Note: I tweaked the numbers from my previous projection)

Justin Duchscherer (31-yr.old)

Like Sheets, Duchscherer is coming off an injury plagued 2009 season. However, the A’s decided to resign “Duke” to a one-year deal. Duchscherer, who experienced success in 2008, looks to contribute to the young rotation in 2010. Earlier today, Duchscherer threw off a mound and for the most part looked solid. The A’s will rely heavily on Sheets and Duchscherer to provide much needed veteran leadership. Part of the A’s failures last year can be attributed to the pressure some of the younger Athletics experienced during the course of the season. So, a healthy Duchscherer could do wonders for the A’s pitching staff, who finished 2009 with a total ERA of 4.26 (3rd in AL).

2008 Season Stats: 10-8, 22 GS, 1 CG, 1 Shutout, 141.2 IP, 95K/34BB, 2.54 ERA

With a healthy Sheets and a healthy Duchscherer, the A’s have a fighting chance in the very competitive AL West. The West is stacked with young talent and figures to be an excited division to watch.

2010 Projected Stats: 9-6, 155 IP, 111K/40BB, 3.43 ERA

Dallas Braden (26-yr.old)

Braden, last year’s Opening Day starter, did not have too bad a season in 2009. In fact, for the most part, Braden was the A’s unofficial “ace.” Braden, however, suffered a foot injury that plagued him in the second half of the season. As a result, Braden missed most of the second half. During the first half, however, Braden was just as good as the next guy. In April, Braden went 3-2 with a 2.10 ERA in 30 IP. And in June, Braden pitched 32.1 IP with a 21K/7BB ratio and a 2.51 ERA. Braden for the most part experienced a very productive season in 2009. Here’s another look at his 2009 numbers:

2009 Season Stats: 8-9, 22 GS, 136.2 IP, 81K/42BB, 3.89 ERA

If the 26-year old southpaw can pitch well for the A’s, younger guys like Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill should have no problem continuing their maturing process. Again, if guys like Sheets, Duchscherer and Braden (who’s still young at 26) can take some of the pressure off Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill, then the A’s will be a much more successful club.

2010 Projected Stats: 8-11, 164 IP, 128K/92BB, 4.16 ERA

Brett Anderson (22-yr.old)

Brett Anderson was quite the surprise in the second half of 2009. Anderson opened up the month of July with a complete game shutout in Boston against the Red Sox. In that game, Anderson showed flashes of his potential as a big-league starter. So without question, Anderson was the A’s most intriguing rookie-starter. Despite stumbling out of the gates (5.46 ERA in first 3-months), Anderson rebounded and pitched dominantly in the second half (2.93 ERA). Anderson’s most impressive month was in fact July when he went 2-1 in five starts. He raked up the K’s with a 33K/9BB ratio, and had an ERA of 1.87 in July. Anderson’s strong second half is clearly an indication of his big-league potential. Anderson’s K/BB ratio during the season was an impressive 150/45. Despite all of his success, Anderson only wound up with 11 wins—thanks to his anemic offensive cast. In 2010, however, Anderson should build upon his strong rookie campaign and emerge as a top-10 pitcher in the MLB.

2009 Season Stats: 11-11, 30 GS, 1 CG, 1 Shutout, 175.1 IP, 150K/45BB, 4.06 ERA

2010 Projected Stats: 15-11, 188 IP, 174 K/52BB, 3.86 ERA

Trevor Cahill (22-yr.old)

Keep the ball down. That should be Trevor Cahill’s mentality as he enters his sophomore season with the A’s. Last season, Cahill surrendered an A’s rookie record, 27 homers. Cahill’s success in 2010 will depend on whether or not he can keep his stuff down in the strike zone. If he fails to keep the ball down, he’ll get crushed by opposing offenses. Although he’s susceptible to the long-ball, Cahill had a decent rookie-campaign. Unlike Anderson, who came out stumbling, Cahill came out firing in 2009. He finished the month of May with a 2-3 record with a 3.89 ERA in 34.2 IP (compared to Anderson’s 2-3 record and 6.38 ERA in May). Cahill’s performance from there on took a steady dip. However, he did finish September on a strong note, with a 3-1 record.

2009 Season Stats: 10-13, 32 GS 178.2 IP, 90K/72BB, 4.63 ERA

Again, both Cahill and Anderson had strong rookie campaigns, and should be able to build upon them. Both rookies managed to post wins in the double digits, and both flashed their potential throughout the season. If Cahill can improve on his command (which is crucial since he relies on his sinker to get outs), it’s not totally out of the question that Anderson and Cahill could combine to win 25 games or more in 2010.

2010 Season Stats: 11-10, 182 IP, 112K/71BB, 4.34 ERA

**Up Next: A’s Previews on the following players: Rajai Davis, Jack Cust, Michael Taylor and Chris Carter

Tags: 2010 Baseball Ben Sheets Billy Beane Brett Anderson Dallas Braden Fantasy Gio Gonzalez Justin Duchscherer MLB Oakland Athletics Predictions Projections Promotions Trevor Cahill Vin Mazzaro

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