Jarrod Parker’s second Tommy John surgery, and how it affects Oakland in 2014

Per reports, Athletics’ staff ace — Jarrod Parker — will miss all of 2014 after undergoing the 2nd Tommy John surgery of his career, the last one coming in 2009. This is a real bummer for A’s fans, as Parker is/was not only their best pitcher… but perhaps the only pitcher in their rotation they could bank on for consistent, quality innings this year. Christina Kahrl has a nice piece up over at ESPN.com outlining how Parker’s absence will hurt the A’s, as well as a a central point for any baseball fan to keep in mind:

[This] serves as an immediate reminder of how every team’s winter shopping list can’t stop at five or six pitchers for stocking their rotations. Every team needs to think in terms of going eight deep because the chances one guy could miss a month, another an entire year, and somebody else might simply pitch poorly is a real-world scenario all 30 clubs have to confront, not just mull as a contingency. 

That’s about as legit as statements come; there are no guarantees in baseball. The most important position is Starting Pitcher, and the tragic truth is — it’s also the most fragile, volatile role to forecast. Basically, there is no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to starting pitching.

Jarrod Parker’s injury is a foreboding sign for an A’s rotation that, before the injury, could already be considered as thin at worst, iffy at best. Along with Parker, A.J. Griffin is also expected to miss the first month (at least). That leaves only Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, and Dan Straily as rotation locks, with Tommy Milone and long-man Jesse Chavez to fill the remainder of the starting five.

That’s one rookie… Scott Kazmir, who was essentially out of baseball in 2011 and ’12… a low-#3/high-#4 starter… and two pitchers you would rather not have to see in your rotation.

For the record, I’m not an Oakland hater. And, yes, I do think it sucks that Jarrod Parker is going to miss the entire 2014 season. I mean, honestly… I’m not big on hating good teams or great players; Parker, although he plays for the Rangers’ toughest competition in the American League West, is a guy I would generously consider a top-20 pitcher in MLB. His change up is his best pitch, and it’s fun to see in action… only when it’s not against Texas, though.

The fact that the A’s play in an extreme pitcher’s park, the loss of their best pitcher will affect them less than say… cough… if the Rangers were to for some stupid improbable reason lose Yu Darvish for the year. Replacing 100.0 innings of Jarrod Parker pitching in Oakland isn’t as difficult as replacing 100.0 Darvish innings pitching in Arlington. But maybe that’s kinda beside the point.

The problem for Oakland is: What do they do if one or two of their starting pitchers don’t perform up to reasonable expectations? What happens if Scott Kazmir has a rough go in his second year back from hiatus/injury? (Kazmir has eclipsed 185.0 IP only twice in his 8-year career, and not since 2007). I’m anticipating a productive rookie season out of Sonny Gray, but I still need to see him do it.

Dan Straily? Meh.

Tommy Milone is OK, I guess, but realistically he’s more of a platoon pitcher. In his career his home ERA is 3.21; his road ERA is 4.55.

Jesse Chavez is cool, but, then again, he’s only made two starts in his career.

I guess what I’m saying is… I don’t know. I’ve been so disinterested in Oakland over the last couple years. You know, while they were busy winning the AL West. I just never really gave a fuck about ’em. I saw the Rangers as the superior squad in all three phases of the game, so while I was being an oblivious idiot, the supposed better team — Texas — was Oakland’s runner-up.

This year, I am paying attention to what the A’s are doing. Logic would suggest that the loss of Parker will either force Oakland to make a trade, or face the reality of a third place finish in the West in 2014. It’s a pretty substantial loss.

At the same time, the A’s have proven over the last couple seasons that the best team on paper is no lock to win a division. The West is going to be a challenging beast in 2014, so while Parker is a loss, I should be smart enough now to realize Oakland probably still has something up its sleeve.

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