Better Know A Rival: Oakland

Notice: I make no guarantees as to the accuracy of the names contained in this post. I'm working off best guesses and limited research, here, so I'll probably make a few mistakes. Those'll be dealt with in the comments.

Status: Rebuilding

Threat Level: Low

Projected Offense:

C: Suzuki
1B: Barton
2B: Ellis
SS: Crosby
3B: Chavez
LF: Buck
CF: Denorfia
RF: Brown
DH: Cust

I've been more intimidated. I don't necessarily think this group is as thoroughly atrocious as a lot of people do, but it's not real strong, and there are question marks all over the place. While ZiPS doesn't hate them, they badly need Cust to repeat and Barton to hit for some power if they want to hang around the average next season. There are just too many things that could go wrong, and not enough that could go right.

Working in their favor is that they do have a little depth - Dan Johnson's hanging around, Donnie Murphy and Jack Hannahan are injury insurance for the left side of the infield, and a good showing from Ryan Sweeney or Carlos Gonzalez could kick Brown out of his starting job in a flash. But as far as 2008's concerned, there's just so little total upside here that 730 runs would be a reasonable accomplishment, and <700 is a real possibility. If Cust doesn't keep things going, or if Barton needs a little more polishing, they're boned.

Projected Pitching:

uh

SP1: Blanton
SP2: Gaudin
SP3: Duchscherer
SP4 & 5: Two of Eveland, Meyer, Harden, Braden, DiNardo, Smith, Saarloos, Gonzalez, Simmons

Blanton's pretty good, albeit not an ace. Then the questions start. You can begin however many sentences with "If Rich Harden stays healthy" as you want, but as Chris Snelling proved to us beyond a reasonable doubt, God doesn't pay attention to your cute little hypotheticals. Gaudin's decent but frail. Duchscherer hasn't been a regular starter since 2003. The rest of the list is composed of no-name journeymen, future no-name journeymen, and prospects who're still too far away to make a major contribution next year. Blanton's the only guy keeping this from being a true rotation of replacements. It might not be the worst in the AL, but it isn't something to fear.

The bullpen's fine. I'm not going to go through the list of relief candidates for every team, because there are far too many, and the way the pen shakes out can often be unpredictable. It doesn't look to me like Oakland's in real bad shape here, although there's obviously room for improvement.

Defense:

By process of elimination, I guess we've found our team strength. While Hannahan isn't much, a healthy Eric Chavez prevents him from seeing too much time at third base, which would be a big positive. Mark Ellis is one of the best defensive second basemen on the planet. It wasn't too long ago that Emil Brown was a plus glove in a corner, so that'll be good for however long he lasts. While I'll admit to knowing little about Denorfia, everyone else looks to be at least ~average. I'm not going to throw any numbers out there, but from the looks of things Oakland doesn't have any glaring defensive flaws, so that should keep the pitching staff from completely falling apart. Some good health and a few favorable breaks could make this a pretty strong unit.

Overall:

Bad team. Not a horrible team, but a bad team that the Mariners ought to have behind them from the get-go. Some big prospect breakthroughs could make for a fun second half, but by that point it'll be far too late to make a run. Were I a fan, I'd set a goal of 73 wins.

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