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“Oakland is Stocked with Good, Young Starting Pitching”

October 21, 2013

The Oakland A’s are far from media darlings. Hell, even me, a fan of the team, doesn’t pick them to win the division figuring that 2012 was a fluke. Yet here they are back-to-back division champs. No one really talks about the A’s. Our “stars” (are there any really?) are unknown to others. How many back-to-back division champions see only three combined All Star appearances featuring Bartolo Colon, Grant Balfour (a last minute sub!) and Ryan Cook? Not too many. But one enduring myth about the A’s persists and I see it everywhere and that is the myth of Oakland being able to generate young pitching talent as if it is an effortless endeavor. The origins of this myth likely are from the early 2000s when the A’s put together Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito, followed up with the likes of Joe Blanton, Rich Harden and Dan Haren, who in turn were followed by the likes of Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez and now onto Sonny Gray, A.J. Griffin, Jarrod Parker and Dan Straily. This never ending fountain of young pitching. Today that myth persisted in this piece by Drew Silva of HardballTalkWriting about the somewhat old (three days or so is old in internet land) news that the Toronto Blue Jays have interest in Anderson he wrote,

“Oakland is stocked with good, young starting pitching. Which makesBrett Anderson — who finished the year in the bullpen — a potential trade candidate this winter. Anderson carries an $8 million club option for 2014”

To be fair, I feel there are many reasons to trade Anderson. Despite being heralded an ace and named this year’s Opening Day starter, Anderson really hasn’t shown his stuff at the MLB level that has people in Oakland singing his praises. His career has spanned five seasons during which he has made just 73 starts and pitched just 450 2/3 innings. During that time he has put up a respectable but hardly ace-like 3.81 ERA with a slightly better 3.56 FIP. He has an alright 7.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and 0.8 HR/9. The biggest problem of course is that he has pitched just 450 2/3 innings in these five seasons for an average of 90 1/3 a season. That is because he is brittle, finding himself on the disabled list time after time. In fact one must go back to his first season (2009) to find a season in which he made 30 starts. His next best total came from 2010 (19) and next best after that 2011 (13) and well you get the drift as he sunk to six starts in 2012 and just five this past season. Since his debut season of 2009, 138 other pitchers have thrown more innings than Anderson. Not a sparkling statistic and nothing he has done has proven him to be an ace. This past season was his worst as a pro as he pitched just 44 2/3 innings across 16 appearances and just five starts sporting an awful 6.04 ERA (though FIP liked him much more at 3.85 the victim of an irregularly high .359 BABIP and absymal 61.5% strand rate) with 9.3 K/9 and a career worst 4.2 BB/9 and 1.0 HR/9. Is this a guy to pay $8M for next year? Might not be the wisest of investments.

That said, the premise of the post was that the A’s can do it because of their deep pitching staff, not necessarily because the pieces that Anderson could net may be worth more than the uncertainty that is Anderson. This myth is just so deep. Let’s look at the A’s starting pitching depth for just one second. First, Colon is not assured to re-sign so as it stands the A’s have Parker, Griffin, Straily, Gray and Tommy Milone. Who is next? Andrew Werner who is not what I’d call stocked with “good, young starting pitching” as he had a 5.78 ERA and nearly as ugly 4.28 FIP in 165 innings with the River Cats, furthermore he will be 27 next year? Arnold Leon and his underwhelming strikeout totals in AA and AAA who just turned 25? On the 40-man roster you have Michael Ynoa who has 21 innings to his name at High-A Stockton and with a 7.71 ERA and 7.3 BB/9 there to boot! The idea that the A’s have a lot of pitching depth is pure crap. Yet it persists. Foul ground and a never ending turnstile with good live arms, that is what Oakland is apparently known for. Just wish the latter were true.

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