Additions: Matt Holliday, Jason Giambi, Orlando Cabrera, Russ Springer, Mike Wuertz, Nomar Garciaparra, Edgar Gonzalez, Jerome Williams, Corey Wimberly, Chris Schroder, Ben Copeland, Kevin Cameron. Midseason: Eric Patterson, Sean Gallagher, Adrian Cardenas, Josh Outman
Subtractions: Greg Smith, Emil Brown, Alan Embree, Carlos Gonzalez, Huston Street, Frank Thomas, Mike Sweeney, Donnie Murphy, Keith Foulke, Dan Meyer, Kirk Saarloos. Midseason: Joe Blanton, Rich Harden, Chad Gaudin.
The A’s had the worst offense in baseball in 2008, so GM Billy Beane added sluggers Holliday and Giambi. They also upgraded at shortstop with Cabrera. Last year the A’s gave over 2,100 at-bats to Bobby Crosby, Daric Barton, Jack Hannahan, Emil Brown, and Carlos Gonzalez. Brown’s .682 OPS led the group, so subtracting or reducing the playing time of these guys will make a huge difference.
Last year the A’s scored just 4.01 runs per game, worst in the league. I plugged CHONE projections into David Pinto’s lineup analysis tool, and their 2009 estimate is about 5.04 runs per game. Such production would’ve ranked fifth in the AL in 2008.
Last year Oakland’s starters posted a 4.29 ERA, 7th in the AL. From that they subtracted 204 innings of 3.97 ball provided by Joe Blanton and Rich Harden (Blanton was actually at 4.96 though). Oakland starters have typically fared better; here’s how their ERA ranked in the AL in years past: 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 3rd. So this was actually the A’s worst rotation this decade and it was still middle of the pack. Even though the ’09 rotation lacks household names, Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill may emerge and Beane may again find a way to get by.
The bullpen should be solid, with Joey Devine and Brad Ziegler flanked by new additions Springer and Wuertz. The team’s defense was very strong overall last year, and that should be the case again in ’09.
Bottom line: The remade Oakland team now has at least an average offense, and if the pitching and defense hold steady this team should win more than 90 games.