|A's aren't exactly Juggernauts||| Print ||
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on September 14, 2012
In fact you could say that both teams are doing exactly what nobody thought they could do, compete in divisions which boast more proven, star laden teams who were designed for this year. In saying so you’d be wrong, but you’d also be right.
Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A’s, has certainly done this before, defying odds, defying expert opinion and slapping together a winning team that doesn’t seem like it should be a winning team. Certainly, in looking at what he’s done you can see a blueprint there, but it seems like a blueprint for the future, not one that should have worked this season.
Photo by Dinur Blum, used under creative commons license.
Even Beane is probably surprised by just how quickly the young pitching that provides the backbone of this team came together and matured, or at least has seemingly grown up for the moment. It’s not a common occurrence when a young staff all puts it together at the same time, but when it happens it’s one of those magics of the game. It’s happened for the A’s before with Hudson, Zito and Mulder -- all seemingly members of the where are they now files today.
With the exception of Tyson Ross, no A’s starter has an ERA of over 3.90. Their team ERA stands at 3.40, second best in the AL, behind only Tampa Bay. That certainly makes up for a multitude of offensive woes. And it needs to, as the A’s have a team average of .236, better only than the Mariners, and rank 11th in terms of the 14 teams of the AL in runs scored.
The A’s, simply put, can go as far as their pitching can take them. That’s a concern for what is largely a young unproven staff which features only one pitcher (Tommy Milone) in danger of reaching 200 Major League innings.
However that number is deceiving. Almost all of their starting (and occasionally starting) pitchers have thrown plenty of minor league innings this year and almost all have already thrown more combined innings this year than they’ve ever done before. A.J Griffin has thrown 175 innings (previous high 165 2/3), Tommy Milone 168 1/3 (previous high 158), Jarrod Parker 175 innings (previous high 136 1/3), Dan Straily 175 2/3 (previous high 160 2/3) and even occasional starter Tyson Ross has crossed that threshold throwing 149 1/3 innings (previous high 136 1/3).
This wasn’t supposed to happen. Yes the A’s had planned on stretching a few of these guys by maybe 20 or so innings, but they counted on getting a lot more innings out of the veterans who were key to this staff late in the season. However a positive PED test took Bartolo Colon off the roster, and Brandon McCarthy was lucky to survive a line drive off his skull just a few weeks back and won’t be returning anytime soon.
That’s forcing the A’s deep into uncharted waters as the season continues to progress and the team is not just leading the Wild Card charge, but finds itself just three games out of the division lead.
No doubt they’d like to rest their young pitchers, to protect their arms and plan for next year and the year after, when they’d hopefully be in the far more lucrative San Jose market, but conceding this season and what looks to be at least a Wild Card berth runs against the grain for this team.
So they’ll walk the tightrope, try to stretch their rotation as they need to, try to get veteran Brett Anderson to eat a few more innings and cross their fingers about avoiding injuries.