Armed & Dangerous

Despite offensive upgrades, pitching will always remain A’s strong suit

This just in: if the A’s win the American League West next season, it’s not going to be fueled by the offensive exploits of Hideki Matsui, Josh Willingham, David DeJesus & company. Hitting upgrades and all, A’s hitters, in fact, probably won’t hit their way into some of the league’s top offensive categories.

But guess what? They don’t need to.

Pitching and defense run this team, and any production they can muster from their nine batters is a bonus. If the A’s surge into the playoffs, it’s not going to be because Daric Barton led the league in OPS, or Coco Crisp swiped 75 bases. It will be fueled by the A’s stingy starting rotation of Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden and a fifth-starter to be named later. And, of course, a dependable bullpen and a manager who knows how to get the most from his pitching staff are essential.

Last season, the A’s offense was historically awful and sat among the lowest in home runs (109); total bases (2,059); and slugging percentage (.378). Yet their pitching led the American League with a 3.56 ERA, and boasted three starters (Cahill, Gonzalez and Braden) who ranked among the top 13 in that category. That’s why A’s hurlers carried the team to 81 wins and their first .500 season since 2006 (93-69). The A’s lineup will never feature a Murderer’s Row; they probably haven’t had a top-tier hitter on their roster since Miguel Tejada or Jason Giambi. But their pitching has a chance to be among baseball’s best staffs. It also has a chance take them to the playoffs THIS season.

The big question is whether the offensive additions of Matsui, Willingham and DeJesus can help them win nine more games than they did last season. A 90-72 record next season would be a solid improvement, but will it be enough to get the A’s back into the postseason? It should be fun to find out.

1 Response, Leave a Reply

  1. - Jan 11th, 2011

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