Oakland's in trouble

By Jason Wojciechowski on August 23, 2003 at 4:03 PM

Mark Mulder is out for the year. What was thought to be tendinitis in his hip turned out to be a stress fracture. I wonder if, after he's healed, Rick Peterson will take a look at video and computer simulations and whatever else he has at hand and figure out a tweak Mulder can make to his delivery that will take strain off of that hip. On the other hand, I don't really have any idea what I'm talking about and I'm waiting anxiously to read what Will Carroll has to say about long-term effects, possible causes, etc.

A short term effect of the problem is, of course, that the A's are probably not going to make the playoffs. After last night's loss to the Blue Jays, their odds of making the playoffs are 42.8%. That's the lowest of the four "real" AL contenders (i.e. outside of the Central). Now, with basically two reliable pitchers instead of three, Oakland looks a lot more vulnerable. If Ted Lilly wants to step up and earn himself some bucks over the next few years, this is the time to do it. We can't really expect much out of John Halama (.373 Support-neutral winning percentage this year) and, while Rich Harden is pretty good, Boston game notwithstanding, he's a rookie, and if he has a season like Mulder's rookie year from here on out, it wouldn't really be unexpected.

On the other hand, Tim Hudson is killer right now. He leads the majors in SNWAR, with 6.1, and in the American League, he's second in innings and ERA, ninth in strikeouts, and first in WHIP and batting average allowed. Right now, there's no other pitcher in either league I'd want on the mound for my team. As an aside, he may have a fair shot at the Cy Young now, since he's actually getting a little bit of offensive support, so he's won five of his last six starts (with a no-decision), and only has four losses all year. If the voters look at the A's record when Hudson pitches (22-5 so far), he might well win the hardware.

Anyway, what we're left with is a bad offense and two fifths of a starting rotation. That's not enough to make up three games on Seattle, and it's not enough to hold off Boston, especially given the Red Sox Baltimore-Tampa Bay schedule at the end of the season.

A win last night might have given everyone some hope, but instead, Oakland lost its second in a row. Roy Halladay shut the offense down, as you'd expect him to, and Barry Zito pitched a very mediocre game (five runs on six hits and four walks in five and a third innings, throwing 118 pitches). Mediocre pitching performances generally don't result in wins for this team.

Here's a quirk: every A's pitcher last night finished the game with an ERA 3.43 or less. That's a pretty good looking staff. Zito finished at 3.37, Chad Bradford at 3.23, Ricardo Rincon at 3.43, and Chad Harville at 3.37.

Two words to explain away all the troubles of this season: Terrence Long.

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