The Oakland A's entered the 2008 season with a rotation that was hardly baseball's most experienced. Oft-injured staff ace Rich Harden had made only 13 starts the past two seasons; Joe Blanton had been a starter for just three years; Chad Gaudin had only 10 starts under his belt prior to last season; and Dana Eveland was the veteran of just six career starts; Justin Duchscherer had made five career starts, and none since 2003. The club's first alternate was no veteran, either. Harden managed only two outings before heading for the familiar ground of the disabled list on April 3, and his replacement was rookie Greg Smith.
None of the aforementioned group is older than 27, except Duchscherer, but despite the lack of experience, the Oakland starters lead the major leagues in ERA this season. Harden will take the mound whenever he's able, however, and with the fragile right-hander set to return Sunday after a dominating rehab start, it will be Gaudin heading to the bullpen despite solid numbers on the year. With everyone pitching so well, it was a tough decision for the Athletics' brass. Did the team make the right call? How do the A's hurlers stack up, and which are likely to maintain their value all season?
Justin Duchscherer (2.45 ERA, 1.14 WHIP): A hip injury cost him nearly all of 2007, but as a reliever in 2005 and 2006, Duchscherer was nothing short of Mariano Rivera-caliber, posting exceptional strikeout and walk rates. He's the team's best starter, Harden included.