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California is Sinking, It Won't be Long Now: an Oakland A's Preview

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A brief look at an opponent we play this week.

Dates we play them: 6/1-6/4 at home, 8/14-8/16 @ OAK, 9/8-9/9 at home

Offense: A potential lineup: Orlando Cabrera-SS, Adam Kennedy-2B, Matt Holliday-LF, Jason Giambi-DH, Kurt Suzuki-C, Ryan Sweeney-CF, Aaron Cunningham-RF, Bobby Crosby-1B, Jack Hannahan-3B  Bench: Jack Cust-DH/OF

Coming up with a lineup for the A's was a little frustrating.  It's like they go with a pattern for three days, and then switch.  The main reason for all this switching is due to amount of injuries Oakland's roster has had so far this season.  On offense, they are currently missing Nomar Garciaparra, Mark Ellis, Travis Buck, and Eric "Elijah Price" Chavez.   Since their own writers will have more to say about injuries, you can visit the always solid Athletics Nation after you finish the article (or before if you want to be an ass).

Leading off for Oakland lately is easily the least well-liked former White Sox player since Magglio Ordoñez, Orlando Cabrera.  The press box darling is off to a terrible start (.236/.280/.296) and hasn't even been good in the field.  His luck should start improving, as his BABIP is more than a bit under his career norm, but he had been hitting over his head the past few seasons so maybe this is what we should expect out of him from now on.  This probably isn't what he was hoping for while playing for what may be the final contract of his career (especially in this market).  One half of what used to be the scrappiest, grindiest double play combo in baseball, Adam Kennedy has been a godsend for the A's so far this year.  Picked up off the scrap-heap from Tampa for a PTBNL, Kennedy was brought in on a minor league contract.  That didn't last long, as Mark Ellis quickly got hurt and the A's needed a new second baseman.  Kennedy has been a machine so far (.390/.462/.622) and is fourth on the team in homeruns (with 4, which says something about Oakland's offense).  Yes, this is completely unsustainable (.424 BABIP) but it is nice to see Kennedy get to have a good season again.  He always seemed like a nice guy.  Matt Holliday has not been having nearly as rough a start to this season as most media would have you believe.  Yes, his April numbers were terrible, but he has been mashing the ball since.  There could be mutiple reasons for his shaky start (new league, bigger stadium), but the most likely was just some more terrible luck.  His BABIP was .078 below his career norm, which will cripple any hitters numbers.  The fact that he still has a 111 OPS+ after that first awful month is a testament to how good of a hitter he really is.  If he continues to heat up and the A's continue to falter, expect Holliday to be trading in his green and gold before August.

Oh, Jason Giambi, you never-ending source of entertainment.  Giambi is yet another slumping hitter by the bay.  Unfortunately for him and his team, his slump might be harder to break than that of his teammates.  Giambi turned 38 this year, and I'm not really sure how much more baseball his body can take.  The roids did a number on him and old age is not being kind to the slugger.  Kurt Suzuki is quietly becoming one of the best catchers in baseball.  While he'll probably never reach the tier of guys like Mauer, McCann, and Martin (I just noticed that the three best catchers in baseball all have surnames starting with M), already is second tier and should be one of the top ten catchers in the game for at least a few years.  He doesn't have much power (16 career homeruns), but he hits for average, seems durable, and plays solid defense.  He's also under team control for quite some time, so Oakland will get his prime years dirt cheap.  And now we come to Ryan Sweeney, former White Sock of the future.  Sweeney was part of the Swisher trade from last year.  His bat isn't all that great and his defense in center is pretty shoddy, but he's young and quick and will be a good enough stop-gap until Oakland finds someone better to replace him.  He's probably going to be a fourth outfielder fairly soon.  Aaron Cunningham is yet another former White Sox prospect playing for the A's.  The better half of the Danny Richar trade, Cunningham came into this season as the fourth best prospect in the vaunted Oakland farm system.  He's off to a rough start, but it's only been seven games and he's only 23.  His track record says expect the bat to come around, but his fielding will likely remain an issue.  Bobby Crosby won the RotY award in 2004 as a shortstop and hasn't done much since.  Both his bat and his glove abandoned him, and when OrCa came on board this winter he was forced to become a utility guy or learn some new tricks.  Crosby went from being a crappy-hitting shortstop to a crappy-hitting first baseman.  Jack Hannahan is awful, and the poor guy doesn't even get to have the distinction of being the best baseball player in the history of his high school.  Joe Mauer quickly ended his reign a mere two years later.  If Oakland's offense were a rap video, it would be about this bad of one.

Pitching: A potential rotation plus closer: Dallas Braden-LHP, Trevor Cahill-RHP, Dana Eveland-LHP, Brett Anderson-LHP, Josh Outman-LHP and Brad Ziegler/Andrew Bailey-RHPs

This is probably the youngest rotation in baseball, as no starter is older than 25.  Braden seems to be the default ace of the group, by having the best combination of experience and talent.  His fastball doesn't crack 90 mph and his K:BB ratio is pretty poor.  He's done decent this season by limiting homeruns, but a guy who gives up a flyball percentage of 44.2 won't have much luck not giving up homers in a park like USCF.  Trevor Cahill, the sole righty of the rotation, came into this season as the number two prospect in the organization.  He's doing about as well as you would think a 21 year old pitcher who never pitched above AA would, having a 96 ERA+ so far.  His K/9 has dropped dramatically since the call-up, but he has been making up for it by inducing a solid number of groundballs.  Dana Eveland came over in the Dan Haren trade and looks to be nothing more than back of the rotation fodder.  He's a left-handed innings-eater at best.  Brett Anderson is the team's number one prospect.  He's struggled so far, but is essentially in the same boat as Cahill, having never pitched above AA.  He should improve as the season goes on.  Josh Outman has one of the best last names a pitcher could have.  He also has a low to mid-90s fastball and at least decent control.  He may have pitched a little over his true ability so far, but that could just be him turning the corner as he is only 24 years old.  I have both Ziegler and Bailey listed as the closer, because I'm not certain which one will actually be closing.  The A's have split their nine team saves among three pitchers, so it's really anyone's guess.  Bailey is a young, hard-throwing righty with typical closer stuff (good fastball and slider).  Ziegler is the more interesting of the two.  Ziggy has an awesome sidearm/submariner style pitching motion which makes his fairly slow pitches much harder to hit.  My favorite thing about the guy is that he is just like us, and by that I mean he is a member of SBN and has written blog entries over on Athletics Nation in the past.

Outlook:  The A's are a team in transition.  Billy Beane seemed to be going into rebuild mode, but then saw how weak his division might be this season and figured why not go for it.  So far it hasn't been working too well.  The team was denied their new stadium in Fremont (so I guess this really worked) and this season doesn't look like it will end well for the team with my favorite throwback jerseys.  That all being said, we play the A's nine times this season.  Me picking against us has been working so far, so I say we go 4-5 against them this season with a guarenteed win this Thursday (the Sox are 12-6 with three DNPs over the past 20 years on June 4th).  At least the A's can hang their hat on having an awesome mascot.