2010 Record: 81-81
Run Scoring: 4.09 runs per game (11th out of 14)
Run Prevention: 3.86 runs per game (1st out of 14)
The A’s 2nd place finish in the AL West last season was a tad unexpected, as the team’s young pitching staff managed to dominate the American League. Under the tutelage of pitching coach Curt Young, the A’s rotation has seemingly perfected the art of inducing ground balls to a science, as they managed to prevent runs despite modest strikeout rates.
As most of their key pitchers are cost-controlled and will be returning in 2011, the A’s spent the offseason finding creative ways to improve their glaring weakness: offense. The team is finally rid of Eric Chavez after years of gauze-wrapped disappointment, and Rajai Davis will no longer be creating outs.
While the offense should be better, the biggest question facing this team will be whether or not the Oakland pitching staff can rediscover the magic they found in 2010 now that Curt Young has been ripped away by an evil big-market team.
Let’s look at the projected roster:
Suzuki and Kouzmanoff, both in their prime, should hit a little bit better than they did in 2010, while Ellis is a good bet to regress as he enters his mid-thirties. DeJesus and Willingham are both significant improvements to what was an anemic Oakland outfield last year, while Coco Crisp should be decent in centerfield as long as he remains healthy.
As much as I like Trevor Cahill, I can’t see him continuing to post an ERA under 3.00 with that strikeout rate of his. He’ll be decent, but expect a few more batted balls to sneak through in 2011. However, the rotation as a whole should perform reasonably well.
Best Case Scenario: Barton continues to add power and becomes Kevin Youkilis 2.0, Matsui rakes, the rotation pitches as well as they did last year, and the A’s win roughly 95 games and beat out Texas for the AL West title.
Worst Case Scenario: Willingham struggles against AL pitching, Matsui and Ellis decline drastically, and the rotation proves that 2010 was a fluke. A’s finish in 3rd place, a few games under .500.
Conclusion: This is a team whose Pythagorean record in 2010 was 85-77, and they appear to have addressed several weaknesses this offseason. With a slew of good, young pitchers under their control and an improving offense, we could be seeing the beginning of a steak of success similar to 2000-2003 (i.e. the “Moneyball” years).
Projected record: 91-71