Well, I wanted to step away from the NFL draft, which has dominated our focus here at the BASJ since it went down 2 weeks ago. So we shift focus across the Bay to the Oakland Athletics where Billy Beane is doing something right, because the A's just cannot stop producing quality pitching.
The newest, big-armed youngster to add to the mix is 6'6", 24 year-old righty Tyson Ross, who was the A's 2nd round pick in '08. What's surprising about Ross' incline, is that he barely spent any time in the minor leagues, throwing just 180 innings, and he wasn't particularly impressive, with an era over 4 and just a mediocre WHIP, BB and K numbers. He won a spot in the A's bullpen last spring, but had an era of 5.49 in about 40 innings of relief before going back down to Sacramento. It wasn't until being thrust back into the starting rotation for the injured Dallas Braden did the 2nd year pitcher out of Cal start putting it together. Since then, he's absolutely thrived in the starting role, really where he's been his whole baseball life (again, the A's had him in the pen last year). After his first start vs. the Mariners, where he didn't make it out of the fifth inning, the right-hander has been as solid as any starter in the bigs. He's had 4 starts spanned out over 26 2/3 innings (roughly 7 innings per start), going 2-0 with a 1.69 era and 18 strikeouts with just 5 walks. I thought that with Braden's season ending injury, Rich Harden's recent setback, and Brandon McCarthy's recent bad luck streak (4 straight L's), that the A's strong rotation, which is the strength of their team, was in trouble. Ross has alleviated any and all concerns and actually provided new optimism.
I don't want to go looking up every single rotation in the big leagues, but I'm fairly certain that with Ross out there now, with Brandon McCarhty (27), Trevor Cahill (23), Brett Anderson (22), Gio Gonzalez (25) and now Ross (24), I'd go out on a limb and say the A's have the youngest rotation in all of baseball. I know Baltimore is pretty young, but they have Guthrie in there who's over 30. The great part about it, is that these guys already know how to pitch, they're not learning on the go like a lot of the younger staffs in the big leagues are. These guys are polished big league pitchers who have some years under their belts, outside of Ross who barely misses qualifying for the Rookie of the Year award because of last years 1/2 season spent rotting in the bullpen when he should have been in the the Sacramento rotation all year.
It's amazing the rate at which the A's are producing these pitchers, but I can't seem to figure out what happen to all the hitting the A's were developing a few years back. It seems like after ever since Carlos Gonzalez (who Beane ended up trading for Matt Holliday in possibly his worst move ever) and Kurt Suzuki, the A's haven't really brought up any big league worthy hitters. I know he's just 25 and I don't want to write the book on him yet, but Daric Barton has been a bust so far. Maybe Jemile Weeks (Rickie's little brother) or Michael Taylor come up and turn that around. Weeks is hitting .333 with 2 homers in Sac. and Taylor, the team's top OF prospect, is finally healthy. I thought Chris Carter would be the guy, but stikes out too much and hasn't hit for enough average to support that ridiculous power (hitting .173 in AAA right now after hitting .186 in 70 AB's for the A's in '10). Should be interesting to see what the A's decide to do and who they decide to move around in order to jump-start a broken offense which is keeping them from taking command of this division.