Oakland Plans Contigencies for Rich Harden's Next Injury

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If the season ended today, the Oakland A's would be the Wild Card representative for the American League, and if the season ended today, hundreds of thousands of season ticket holders across baseball would be pretty pissed off. So those A's have succeeded because of three things: starting pitching, Jack Cust overcoming polio, and more starting pitching. In fact, once ace Rich Harden returns from injury, manager Bob Geren may institute the six-man rotation.

Here's the current rotation in Oakland:

  Joe Blanton, 3.88 ERA, 1.35 WHIP
  Dana Eveland, 3.67, 1.28
  Chad Gaudin, 3.75, 1.19
  Greg Smith, 2.54, 1.03
  Justin Duchscherer, 2.40, 1.27

Add in Harden and you've got six guys with sub-4.00 ERA's. Perhaps the biggest surprise here is Greg Smith, who, before the season started, was expected to be a mediocre spot starter when someone (read: Rich Harden) got hurt. Smith came to Oakland from Arizona in the Danny Haren trade; five of his six starts have been quality starts and he's struck out 31 batters over 39 innings. It would be hard to bump him from the rotation, as it would be hard to bump any of the four others.

Thing is, the six-man rotation is a red herring. Teams have been talking about using it for years and yet it's never really happened. Why? Rany Jazayerli, in his 2002 article decrying the five-man rotation, used this quote from the great Earl Weaver:

"It is easier to find four starting pitchers than five."

Just like it's easier to find five starting pitchers than six. Starting pitchers are a finicky type. They get hurt, they break down, they lose focus. It's easy to move Justin Duchscherer to the bullpen when Rich Harden comes back. That's what baseball folks call a 'spot starter'. If anything happens in Oakland, it will be closer to a five-man rotation where Smith, Gaudin, and Eveland share the 4 and 5 positions in the rotation, thus keeping their young arms healthy.

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Let me just say this about Rich Harden: His dad isn't exactly an Indian truck driver.

Rich Harden wears pooka shells constantly. That's all I have to say about the subject.

If Tony LaRussa decided to use a 6 man rotation it would be genius.

The Indians already use a six man rotation, but three of them are C.C. Sabathia.

My last girlfriend had a six man rotation the entire time we were dating.

In a Q&A with BP in 2005, I asked Rany to name the biggest change in conventional wisdom he expected over the next 5 years. He named the four-man rotation again. I bet he'd say the same thing again today.

It's always fun to see a dermatologist chafe about silly decisions. Use more lotion!

I pick my nose using a five-finger rotation.

The four man rotation will never come back. You'd have one guy on the mound during game days and it's just too hard to play Hearts with only three guys.

Hardin just injured himself reading this post.

The A's also have a very attractive bullpen catcher who gave me a ball that Chad Gaudin had been warming up with. In summary, the AL West is fun.

I don't know how I feel about references to both Air Bud and The 6th Man in the same day.

Warm and fuzzy? Nurtured? Frightened?

not good

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