Friday, September 3, 2010

Wait Til Next Year- Oakland A's

The Oakland Athletics are in a bit of a transitional period. After Billy Beane’s moneyball techniques allowed the A’s to get the best bang for their buck of nearly any team in the majors, many other franchises have now caught up to even the playing field. However, Beane does have one thing that all General Managers love to fall back on: effective young arms.

Brett Anderson, a 22 year old southpaw, has been fantastic. Though he missed time with a knee injury, Anderson has made the most of his 13 starts, putting up a 3.17 ERA to go with a 3.02 FIP that suggests Anderson’s year is anything but a fluke.

Anderson was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the second round of the 2006 MLB draft. Splitting time between low and high A, Anderson put up a fantastic campaign, compiling a 3.07 ERA as a 19 year old in his first taste of professional baseball. A valuable trade chip, The DBacks then flipped Anderson in a now infamous deal for Dan Haren, also giving up Carlos Gonzalez and A’s top prospect Chris Carter, among others. Anderson continued to provide strong returns in the A’s farm system, with a 3.69 ERA in a year in which he started in A+ and spent his last six starts in double-A.

In 2009, Anderson hit the majors, and did not disappoint. He was only able to muster a 4.06 ERA, but his 3.69 FIP suggests that he pitched better than his ERA. In 2010, Anderson has pitched fantastically, but unfortunately missed much of the season due to problems with his left elbow. Expect the A’s to treat their young horse with great care and ready him for a strong 2011 campaign.

Fittingly, the A’s took Trevor Cahill in the same draft and round that the DBacks selected Anderson. Cahill began his professional career by signing early enough to make four starts in Rookie ball, impressing with a 3.00 ERA. Continuing to move up the ladder, Cahill pitched fantastically in both 2007 and 2008, first amassing a 2.73 ERA in low-A, then accumulating a 2.61 between high-A and double-A. Cahill wasn’t as strong as Anderson in both of their 2009 rookie years, only able to manage a 4.63 that looks even worse when considered alongside his 5.33 FIP. Cahill’s 2010 has been slightly stronger, but his 2.82 ERA this year looks much better than the 4.22 ERA backing it. He did make the All-Star game on the strength of his traditional numbers, but Cahill hasn't been nearly as good as Anderson.

Cahill’s main issue in the majors has been his inability to translate his gaudy minor league punchout numbers to K’s in The Show. In his minor league career, Cahill’s compiled 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings. In the bigs, he’s mustered less than half that, with a career 4.8. If Cahill can pick his strikeout numbers back up, expect his FIP to drop like an Adam Wainwright curve.

So wait til next year, Oakland fans, but prepare to watch two potential Cy Young contenders anchor what should be a very underrated rotation. Check back tomorrow, when we’ll be looking at a Brewers’ pitching staff that has had an inordinate amount of balls fall in behind their defense in 2010.

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