Friday, March 4, 2011

MLB Preview, Key to success: Oakland Athletics

My complete preview for the MLB season is here, today I will continue my team by team analysis of the player that is the most important to watch in the upcoming season. This isn't necessarily the best player, rather someone who's season is important for the team, or their growth as a player.

Oakland Athletics: Brett Anderson
In 2010, the A's were a .500 baseball team, but that was without their best pitcher for a third of the season. The 23 year old Anderson joined the team in 2009, and was brilliant, he posted a 4.06 era and struck out 150 batters in 175.1 innings. That was as a 21 year old too, which made the A's very excited to see what he could do in his sophomore season.

He was even better during his second season, posting a 2.80 era and a 1.19 whip. The only downside for Anderson, was he suffered two different elbow injuries that forced him to miss almost the entirety of May, June and July.

The A's have said the problem with Anderson is he throws his slider too much, which caused the injury. The slider is his best pitch, but he threw it more than 31% of the time last season. While he dominated opposing batters with it, the A's would rather he threw it less in order to pitch more innings.

The A's want to see him throw his change up more often, which he threw just 8.5% of the time last season. They hope that the less violent arm motion will preserve his arm. He is just 23 and the A's don't want to force him into an early injury like has been done to other young stars like Mark Prior or Stephen Strasburg.

Even though the Texas Rangers ran away with the AL West last season, that doesn't mean they are assured to repeat in 2011. They no longer have Cliff Lee who helped them down the stretch, they also are relying on some questionable pitchers of their own such as Brandon Webb. So why can't the A's make a run this year?

If they want to, it all starts at the top of their rotation with Anderson. He has shown that he has the stuff to dominate the league. He is a big strong power pitcher who is young and improving. If he stays healthy all season long, I would expect him to be one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Pitching will have to be the way the A's win this season. They have a very light hitting team, which may have Hideki Matsui as their biggest power hitter. I wouldn't be surprised if no one hit 20 home runs for the A's in 2011. Maybe someone steps up, but for them to win, they need to out pitch the rest of the weak AL West.

Others considered: Rich Harden: When healthy he is one of the best, but that is very rare. He is already hurt and won't start the season in the rotation. If he can get healthy and give the A's even a few starts, it would be a boost to their rotation...Entire lineup: As I mentioned, the A's have a bad lineup. They need someone to step up, but looking through I don't see anyone who looks primed for a big year. It could be Deric Barton, or maybe Josh Willingham, but someone needs to hit for them to win games.

Quick side note: I'm going to go one team at a time, but still put two up per day. This gives more space for each team, and easier for sort-ability.


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