In a season marked by injuries, inconsistent hitting, and disappointments, pitching stood out to be the only positive thing about the A’s in 2011. The season started with an optimistic view of the Athletics, who were looking to build upon their 81-81 record during the 2010 season. Many people around baseball pegged the green-and-gold to come out on top of the AL West, but looking back, that was a foolish projection.
The A’s not only missed the playoffs for the fifth-consecutive season, but they finished a whopping 22 games behind first place Texas. All the progress they made during the 2010 season seemingly vanished. Well, for the most part that’s true.
Oakland’s pitching continued to excel in 2011, despite the lack of production from the offense. The A’s had a stellar first-half this year, with the pitching staff compiling an AL-best 3.13 ERA. During the first-half, Oakland’s offense, which was supposed to be “beefed” up by the likes of Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui, scored just 315 runs.
Injuries hit the team hard, as usual, during the season, and the A’s were forced to make several adjustments with the starting rotation throughout the year. The A’s entered spring training with several qualified pitchers vying for a spot in the starting rotation, but free agent signing of the year Brandon McCarthy pulled out as the team’s No.5 starter.
The A’s also had Tyson Ross in the rotation at one point, where he did exceedingly well, but he fell victim to an injury in May. At that point in the season, the A’s were looking for healthy arms to help counter the team’s long list of injured pitchers.
It turned out that the A’s didn’t have to look very far for extra help. Despite losing Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson for the year, Oakland’s rotation got a great deal of help from McCarthy. Once Ross went down, the team received a heavy dose of surprise pitcher Guillermo Moscoso.
Like McCarthy, Moscoso showed the A’s that it never hurts to have too much starting pitching. Oakland’s duo of McCarthy and Moscoso combined to win 17 games this year for Oakland, and while that may not be that impressive, the A’s, for the money they dished out to McCarthy and Moscoso, got a lot in return from their investment.
Moscoso, 27, made 21 starts with Oakland this year, going 8-10 with a nifty 3.38 ERA over 128.0 innings. His record is a reflection of the A’s poor run support, as four of Moscoso’s losses came when Oakland was shutout by opposing teams.
While he had his share of struggles, like many of Oakland’s pitchers during the second half of the season, Moscosco bounced back in September. He closed out the final month of the season with a 2-2 record over 33.1 innings with a 2.16 ERA. He held opponents to a .150 batting average over the final month of the season as well.
Grading the acquisition of Moscoso is a no-brainer, and the A’s deserve an “A” for getting this guy in exchange for minor-leaguer Ryan Kelly. The A’s got a whole lot of production from a guy, who in my mind, at least, didn’t thrill a lot of people at first. He’s not perfect, but was everything he needed to be this year for Oakland. He provided the team with some much needed depth in the depleted rotation, and his solid ’11 outing should result in some serious recognition this spring.