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Oakland Athletics 2011 Preview: Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez Lead Dynamic Pitching Staff

The Oakland Athletics kick off their 2011 MLB season in a couple days against Felix Hernandex and the Seattle Mariners. The A’s will send out Trevor Cahill to start Opening Night, with Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez following him this weekend. The 2011 Oakland A’s will be looking to win the AL West primarily behind what could be a dominant starting rotation.

The A’s rotation this season will shape up as follows:

RHP Trevor Cahill
LHP Brett Anderson
RHP Gio Gonzalez
LHP Dallas Braden
RHP Brendan McCarthy

As is the case with most any emerging young staff, there are a few significant questions for the A’s staff. Trevor Cahill came out of nowhere last season to earn an All Star nod as the ace of the young rotation. Of course he had some luck on his side and one has to wonder how he’ll handle himself in 2011. In 2009, Cahill went 10-13 with the A’s with a BABIP of .272 and he gave up 3.63 walks per nine innings. In 2010, he finished 18-8 with a BABIP of .236 while walking 2.88 batters per nine innings. The folks at FanGraphs provided a look at various projections for 2011 and they all expect a fairly sizable regression.

If Cahill does regress, the A’s will need a healthy season from Brett Anderson. After making 30 starts in 2009, Anderson only started 19 times in 2010 due to elbow and knee problems. Anderson has as much natural talent as anybody on the A’s staff. If Anderson stays healthy in 2011, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him surpass Trevor Cahill in the depth chart of starting pitching.

Speaking of natural talent, Gio Gonzalez can rival Anderson for how filthy his “stuff” can be at times. He finally seemed to harness it in 2010 as he went 15-9 with a 3.23 ERA and a 171 strikeouts in a team-leading 33 starts. He led A’s starters in WAR and will look to show some consistency in 2011. Last season he was much stronger after the All Star Break than before it.

I would argue A’s fifth starter Brendan McCarthy could be one of the more intriguing fifth starters in the league. He dealt with a variety of stress fractures and general injury issues, so it’s entirely possible he’s on the DL before April is finished. However, if healthy he could be a strong fifth starter for the A’s. The A’s have Tyson Ross and Bobby Cramer waiting in the wings if needed, but if McCarthy can remain healthy I think he can run with the job.