Oakland A's 2013 Statistical Preview: Pitching

The A's finished 2012 with one of the best rotations in the majors. But with their youth, they are also one of the most uncertain for 2013.

No 2012 division winner is entering 2013 flying as far under the radar as the Oakland A’s. That is small wonder when you consider that the last time Oakland made the playoffs in 2006, the club spiraled into mediocrity, winning just 47 percent of its games over the next five years. The fact that the high-paying superstar laden Angels and Rangers are in the division also does little to engender confidence in Oakland.

But there is another reason to avoid making any bold predictions about the A’s one way or another – uncertainty. There are so many unknowns surrounding this team that it is easier and safer to just ignore this roster than speculate about what it might do this season.

While the starting rotation was one of the brightest spots in a great season, even it is not exempt from these uncertainties.

The Upside

Take a look at the 2012 numbers of the six starters in contention to wind up in the rotation.

Tommy Milone190.03.741.283.812.00.4
Jarrod Parker181.13.471.
Bartolo Colon152.13.431.213.962.61.4
A.J. Griffin82.
Dan Straily39.13.891.322.000.10.4
Brett Anderson35.02.571.033.570.90.7

These numbers are terrific. Last year, AL starting pitchers finished the season with an average ERA of 4.39 and a 1.34 WHIP. Every single projected starter for the A’s and the first guy out (likely Colon or Straily) had an ERA and a WHIP lower than those marks. Sure, it helps to pitch in a park with foul territory so big that it could have its own zip code. But it hurt pitching in a division with two of the top four run scorers in the game. And the worst ERA of the group (Straily’s 3.89) was still a full 0.5 lower than the AL average.

The Risk

So, you ask, what could possibly be the drawback here? Well, for Griffin and Straily, the above numbers are not just their 2012 stat lines. They are their career stat lines. Plus, Parker only had 5.2 innings in his young career entering 2012 and Milone had chalked up just 26. All four were rookies last year and yet all four may begin the season in the starting rotation. Though they all turned in phenomenal rookie efforts, the sample size at the major league level is awfully small, especially for Straily and Griffin.

While the young guns fight to live up to last year’s hype, Anderson, only 25 himself, must shake off the injuries that have limited him to 230.2 total innings over the last three seasons.

Lastly, Colon is almost 40 and (hopefully) off of the performance enhancers that (presumably) helped him last year. He has also been routinely shelled in Spring Training (6.75 ERA). Duplicating his 2012 season seems unlikely, but strange things happen in baseball. Things like Bartolo Colon experiencing a rebirth at age 39 and it taking everybody four months to figure out he was on PEDs.

This A’s rotation has a ton of potential. After the performances the young starters turned in last year, there is more than a little reason to believe that Billy Beane might have put together the next Big Three or something close to it. But without a lengthy track record to back that belief up, there is also the chance that the rookie seasons turn out to be aberrations, not the norms for some or all of these young guys.