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Rethinking Oakland's 2nd "Big Three"

Heading into the season, many believed that Oakland’s pitching staff would be enough to keep the team in contention throughout most of the year.

Unfortunately for the Athletics, early injuries to starting pitchers Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson helped to derail the A’s hopes for playoff contention this year.

Earlier this year, I praised Oakland’s strong starting rotation, even dubbing them the “Fab Four.”

In retrospect, however, Oakland’s starting staff fails in comparison Oakland’s driving force during the early 2000′s: “The Big Three.” In comparison to the original “Big Three,” Oakland’s new “Big Three,” (forget about the Fab Four reference, for now) which consists of youngsters Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Anderson, hasn’t accomplished very much.

Cahill and Gonzalez both displayed remarkable growth last year, posting 18 and 15 wins respectively, but they haven’t been as sharp this season.

Cahill, who went 18-8 with a nifty 2.97 ERA last year, is just 9-13 with a 4.26 ERA in 29 starts this season. It’s been a huge regression for the young righty, who was considered the ace of the staff last year. 

Gonzalez, meanwhile, hasn’t had bad year, but still hasn’t enjoyed the type of success that helped him reach 15 wins last year. The young southpaw is 11-11 with a 3.35 ERA in 26 starts this year.

He’s managed to strike out 160 hitters in 161 innings this year, but he’s walked a staggering 76 as well. Those 76 free passes are second most in the majors.

As for Anderson, Oakland’s other young southpaw, he is out for the remainder of the season after receiving reconstructive surgery on his elbow. It was a disappointing season to say the least for Anderson, who entered the season with some lofty expectations.

In 13 starts this season, Anderson went 3-6 with a 4.00 ERA after going 7-6 with a 2.80 ERA in 19 starts last year.

Anderson has a lot of promise as a pitcher, and despite his recent injuries, he’s still young enough to comeback from those injuries.

At 23, Anderson remains, to me, Oakland’s best young pitcher. Compared to Cahill and Gonzalez, Anderson, when healthy, is the best pitcher of the three.

Compared to Oakland’s original “Big Three,” Cahill-Gonzalez-Anderson do not come close to the level of talent that Hudson-Mulder-Zito put together in the early 2000′s.

I guess the biggest difference would be the fact that Hudson, Mulder, and Zito had a  lot more offensive production around them than Cahill, Gonzalez, and Anderson are all accustomed to.

Oakland’s new “Big Three” does not have a supporting offensive cast consisting of silver sluggers and MVP candidates, but rather an offense that not only lacks power, but personality.

Remember the days when the A’s clubhouse featured quirky characters who fed off of each other? The A’s, at times this season, especially under Bob Geren, have seemed rather boring and dull.

Until Cahill, Gonzalez, and Anderson prove that they’re real winners, they really hold no comparison to the trio of Hudson-Mulder-Zito.

I guess it’s true. Sequels are never as good as the original.

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Tags: A's Starting Rotation Barry Zito Brett Anderson Dallas Braden Gio Gonzalez Mark Mulder Moneyball Oakland A's Oakland A's Baseball Promotions Starting Rotation The Big Three Three Aces Tim Hudson Trevor Cahill

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