The A’s were eliminated from the playoffs last night. Unfortunate, though a third (or a half?) of the way through the season most people would have considered it a miracle that they’d come this close. A bit of a let-down after the amazing tear that they went on, though.

All things considered, I’m quite happy with the season. Their preseason nominee for Rookie of the Year turned in a credible but not stunning rookie season (no surprise; I didn’t think he had RoY material myself); what I was not expecting was for him to be the fourth best rookie on the team. I’d never heard of Dan Johnson before; I had heard of Joe Blanton and Huston Street, but I was not expecting them to be quite possibly the two best rookies in the league. (Hmm; hometown bias showing. According to Baseball Prospectus, though, Blanton leads the majors in VORP among rookies (edging out Joe Mauer; does he really qualify as a rookie?). Street is third in rookie pitcher VORP (behind Blanton and Toronto’s Gustavo Chacin), and among all rookies, he’s also behind Tampa Bay’s Jonny Gomes and Detroit’s Chris Shelton. Personally, I’d give him several bonus points for being a closer, though: that gives him fewer opportunities to accumulate VORP, and he was one of the best relievers in the league, rookie or not. I don’t care that he didn’t pitch as many innings as a starting pitcher: a rookie closer with a 1.63 ERA is stunning.) (Hmm: judging from that list, it looks like a bad year for NL rookies…)

And Bobby Crosby and Rich Harden both had excellent sophomore seasons; I was expecting that from Harden (though he surpassed my expectations somewhat), but I was not expecting that from Crosby. Also, Mark Ellis came out of nowhere and had a great season, and the Mark Mulder trade already looks like a steal (Danny Haren pitched just as well as Mulder this year, is younger and has more upside, and apparently one of the position prospects we got in the deal is really good). I’m still not thrilled with the Hudson trade, but he didn’t pitch as well as I was expecting this year (all the more surprising because he was in Atlanta), and Zito put in quite a nice season. The relief corps is in much better shape than last year (Justin Duchscherer was also excellent, with a 2.26 ERA). I have a hard time imagining a more solid starting rotation (Kirk Saarloos, our fifth starter both conceptually and statistically, had a 4.10 ERA), but it actually could get better: all five are young, all five will be around next year, and we have at least one more prospect waiting in the wings. And the Jay Payton deal turned out nicely.

Downsides: Eric Chavez continues to obstinately refuse to step up his hitting to the next level, and in fact rather regressed. I thought the Jason Kendall deal was a good one, but he sucked. (He hasn’t hit a home run in his last 800 at-bats.) More key injuries than I was happy with. Our outfield can’t hit. Too bad that Durazo was out all season, but that made an opening for Mark Johnson to come up, so I won’t complain about that too much. And, as good as they were in the second half of the season, they were awful awful awful for a while there.

So I’m looking forward to next year, and for years to come after that. I’m worried about the hitting; I’m worried that some of the pitchers won’t be able to match their numbers this year. But with so much young talent, with a well-stocked minor league system, and with Billy Beane, they’ll be contending for the indefinite future.

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