Sunday, May 4, 2014

Are the A's One Team, or Two?

The Oakland Athletics are 19-12 after squeaking by the Boston Red Sox today at Fenway. That's really impressive, especially given that two pitchers in what the A's expected to be their starting rotation, Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, are out for the year following Tommy John surgery. Scott Kazmir, acquired by Oakland in the off-season to replace Bartolo Colon, has exceeded expectations: the 30-year-old left-hander is 4-0 with an ERA of 2.11. And Jesse Chavez, who became a starter only when Parker went down, has been even better; he's given up more than one earned run in only one of his six starts.

And I haven't even mentioned the A's young phenom Sonny Gray (4-1, 1.91).

But what about the other two-fifths of the A's rotation? There the situation is different, so much so that the A's are arguably two clubs -- one when Gray, Kazmir, or Chavez takes the hill, and a very different one when Tommy Milone or Dan Straily draws the start.

In games in which one of what might called the current Big Three takes the mound, the A's are an eye-popping 17-2. They're world-beaters. But in contests started by Straily or Milone, the team has gone a dismal 2-9. That's not so surprising; each pitcher has struggled with his command, and each has an ERA over 5. And while it's true that Milone hasn't gotten a lot of run support, the fact remains that the A's are winless in Milone's five starts.

So what we've got are three hurlers who are lights out and two who are scuffling. The drop-off in performance is dramatic. Will that situation change? Will Milone or Straily find his groove? Will the Athletics eventually demote one or both of them, and should GM Billy Beane pull off a trade for a proven starting pitcher? Questions to ponder as the season continues.


Posted by C.S. Soong

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