Mailbag: Is Ziegler set for a letdown?
Beat reporter Mychael Urban answers A's fans' questions
Now that Brad Ziegler's incredible career-opening run of scoreless innings is over, do you expect there to be something of a comedown for him, or might he actually stick as our closer and be a great one?
--Kayla P., Singapore
I don't expect much of a comedown at all. Ziegler isn't going to forget how to keep the ball down all of a sudden, so he's always going to get a ton of ground balls, and that's a key ingredient for a successful reliever.
I'm not sold on him as a long-term closer, though, and based on what Ziegler has said in the past week or so, neither is he. If I'm a manager with a ground-ball machine of a bullpen guy, I'd use him more frequently in ground-ball-specific situations. I see Ziegler as more of a setup man.
With Ziggy now closing, what does that mean for the future of Huston Street? He's pretty much said all the right things since being demoted, but he has to be pretty sour on the A's right about now. Do you think he'll be traded over the winter, and if not, do you think a multiyear deal is out of the question now?
--Jeremy V., Lincoln, Calif.
Street is a pro's pro, so he's not going to publicly complain about his reduced role. He's definitely not thrilled with the situation, though. Who would be? Being removed from the closer's role not only hurts your ego, but it also hurts your bank account. Street is eligible for arbitration this winter, and if he isn't traded or signed before the case goes to the independent arbiter, his number of saves will come into play.
I'd be very surprised if the A's didn't shop him this winter, and I'd be just as surprised if they shopped him and couldn't move him. He's had a tough year, but he's only 25, and there are plenty of teams out there who could use a good young arm. As for a multiyear deal, I'd say that's a huge long shot. Oakland obviously has other options at closer, and I doubt if Street would even want a multiyear deal to be someone's setup man.
Kurt Suzuki has never been touted as much of a power hitter, but he's hit some big home runs in his short time with the A's. Might he be the kind of hitter who grows into more power as his career progresses?
--Tim W., Pleasanton, Calif.
I posed this question to a scout, and he thinks Suzuki will top out at between 15-18 homers a year once he's fully developed. There's certainly some power potential there, the scout said, and Suzuki probably could pop 20 or so in a good year, but his swing is "built for gaps."
The scout added that he thinks Suzuki is far from fully developed offensively and projected him to be a .300 hitter on a regular basis once he gets another year or two under his belt. "Just don't look for a ton of homers from the guy," said the scout. "He's not that kind of hitter, and he shouldn't try to be."
I was all fired up about Sean Gallagher after his A's debut, but I've become increasingly less impressed. I know he's young, but looking forward, should we expect to see more of what we saw in his debut than what we've seen lately?
--John N., San Francisco
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Give the kid some time. He doesn't turn 23 until December, and his most recent start was his 16th in the big leagues. I wouldn't even think to try judging him until about midseason 2009, and the same goes for Gio Gonzalez.
Both of them have a load of talent, and pitching coach Curt Young has an excellent track record of developing young arms. Give Young a full Spring Training -- or two -- with this promising duo and you'll probably see some great things sooner rather than later.
If you had to make an educated guess, what would your 2009 A's starting rotation be?
--Tommy D., Oakland
Making the dicey assumption that none of the following pitchers will be dealt in the offseason, I'll go with Justin Duchscherer, Gonzalez, Gallagher, Greg Smith and, after a spirited Spring Training battle and much front-office debate, Trevor Cahill. Nice right-left mix, with an All-Star ace leading the way.
Cahill will be only 21 years old when next season opens, so there could very well be some concerns about rushing him to the big leagues, but he's dominated since being promoted to Double-A Midland (6-1, 2.19 ERA), and I think his experience on the Olympic stage will serve him well next spring. That's not to say I'm down on Dana Eveland, but Smith is more consistent, and Gonzalez, Gallagher and Cahill have more upside.
Why don't the A's send Daric Barton back to Triple-A for the rest of the year? I'm tired of watching him struggle.
--Benjamin R., Temecula, Calif.
What if he struggles at Sacramento, though? Then he might head into Spring Training next year with even more doubt about his ability to hit big league pitching than he'd have if he continues to struggle with Oakland. On the flip side of that, what if he starts to figure some things out in the final five or six weeks? Then he heads for Arizona next February with some confidence.
I understand your frustration, but I see a lot of logic in keeping him in the lineup. The A's aren't going anywhere this year, and the only way to solve big league pitching is to face big league pitching.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.