Tuesday, January 20, 2009

And THAT is why you don't mess with the A's

I feel better than ever!

There's a commonly understood fact about baseball, and that is that the Oakland A's know when to hold em and when to fold em. This ability is magnified by 1,000 when dealing with pitchers, and also enables them to extract prospects from nothingness. Case in point: Rich Harden's torn rotator cuff.

Let's look at the facts: Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, Dan Haren, and Rich Harden were all once considered aces in any pitching staff. As Oakland moved pitchers, there was an interesting trend. Let's follow down the line here, shall we?

Mark Mulder: After the 2004 season, Mulder goes to St. Louis for Dan Haren, Daric Barton and Kiko Calero. He has one good year in 2005, and then in 2006 had what appeared to be minor rotator cuff problems. Mulder took a quick trip to the DL, and has since pitched a combined 104 innings in three years with his BEST ERA being 7.14. The Cardinals recently announced that they're buying out his contract.

Barry Zito: Zito was an absolute machine for the A's through 2006, when there were concerns that his curveball was losing its bite. Billy Beane probably should have traded Zito at the deadline (there were rumors that the A's would have gotten Lastings Milledge), but whatever. Zito signs with the Giants for a then-record $126-million contract...and sucks. His first season going from the AL to NL (normally a way to make a pitcher BETTER), Zito's ERA shot up from 3.83 to 4.53. In 2008, it ballooned to 5.15. The Giants probably wish they could get this one back.

Tim Hudson: If there's a way to reverse the Oakland curse, Hudson serves to be the example of the antidote. After five dominating years in Oakland, Hudson was sent to the Braves for Charles Thomas, Dan Meyer, and Juan Cruz. Hudson had a great first year, and then started the slide with a 4.86 ERA in 2006. Somehow, some way, the Braves recognized and fixed the problem, and Hudson rebounded in 2007. Unfortunately, as with the A's, if the pitcher just doesn't "lose his stuff", he gets hurt. Case in point, Hudson got Tommy John Surgery towards the end of last season, missed the rest of 2008, and will likely miss most of 2009.

Dan Haren: A much shorter story on this one, but Haren - who was acquired for Mulder back in the day - was sent to the Diamondbacks for Carlos Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, Aaron Cunningham, Greg Smith, Dana Eveland, and Chris Carter. Rest assured, at least one of those guys will turn out to be something useful. As for Haren, he pitched well last season, his first season with the new team. Then, strangely, towards the end of the season, Haren seemed to be fatigued...or even - gasp - HURT. Jury is still out on this one, but expect a dip in the stats this season.

Finally, that brings us full circle to Harden. Thus far, 3/4 ain't bad for Billy Beane, especially when they crash and burn like Mulder. Tell me if this sounds familiar - Harden pitches well for the Cubs in his first year with a new team. Then, at the start of year two, has a rotator cuff injury. Couple this with the Cubs' propensity to destroy pitchers by grinding them into dust. Glimpse into the future: Harden's recovery is rushed, Mark Prior part deux.

Oh, and Sean Gallagher becomes an All-Star pitcher who is then traded just a year before he craps out...yadda yadda yadda and the cycle goes on.

Moral of the story? Stay the hell away from the A's.


El Lizardo said...

As an A's fan for many years I too have come to the realization that Billy Beane is some sort of witchdoctor when it comes to dealing pitchers. You notice how he always deals them to the National League too to limit the potential for a deal to bite him in the ass as well.

Ah sabermetrics is good times. Now if only we could use Beane's black magic to get that ballpark in Fremont built.

- paul


Michael said...

Aaron Harang turned out nicely for the Reds, I guess Beane didn't think he'd pan out.

Gepetto said...

I forgot about Koch, too! Dang!

Skye said...

Except Harden was almost constantly hurt with the A's. It's not like we got 4 good seasons out of the guy. In Rich's case, it's more like Billy finally let go and faced the facts: Rich Harden is delicate, despite his assertations that he played hockey as a kid.

Myself, I don't trust Canadians.

SJG$ said...

Just like tires on your car and running backs in the NFL, there is only so much mileage you can get out of them. Beane gets rid of them before the tread is completely worn out and the car won't pass inspection.

Gepetto said...

Beane is just that good. I don't know what it is.

Strangely, he seems to be able to do the same trick with hitters sometimes, too, except that it's the reverse where he temporarily turns shit into gold (Giambi, Thomas, and most recently, Swisher)