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ESPN.com has been going gaga for the A's since win 18 in a row. It hasn't stopped. Anytime you have a media gush, there will be a media backlash.

David Schoenfield has an article about the A's being smart and lucky. Wow. He backs up his claim with a big list. Double wow. He proves that no organization has been able to get three ace pitchers out of their own farm system in a span of two years like the A's since 1980. Triple wow.

Monday, September 9
Updated: September 10, 3:31 PM ET
The A's are smart ... and lucky

By David Schoenfield

The small-market, revenue-impaired, quit-complaining-and-just-play-ball Oakland A's are screaming toward a third consecutive playoff trip ... and the congregation at the Church of Beane continues to grow larger by the day.

General manager Billy Beane, the director behind Oakland's spectacular show, is receiving much of the praise for the continued prosperity of the A's. Barring a late-season collapse, the team that began the year with the 28th-highest payroll will once again make the postseason. Beane's smarts and Oakland's record are being hailed as proof that a low-payroll team can compete on a yearly basis with the big boys.

That's true; Beane is smart, probably the best GM in the game. And they may finish with a better regular-season record than the Yankees for a third straight season. However, there is one significant portion of luck behind this success story: Barry ZitoMark Mulder and Tim Hudson.

Luck? The three pitchers, all drafted by the A's, are freaks. Not freaks because they're good, but freaks because they're good and young all at the same time. Because of this -- Hudson is the veteran of the group, debuting in 1999, a year before Mulder and Zito -- Beane is paying the threesome a combined $1.97 million this year (the Yankees are paying 10 different pitchers more than that sum). And because of that, Beane can spend his limited payroll in other directions.

How unusual is it for one team to produce three starting pitchers of this quality all at the same time? The results are so shocking that, while Beane and his scouts obviously deserve credit for drafting and developing the Big Three (Hudson was a sixth-round pick in 1997 from Auburn, Mulder a first-round pick in 1998 from Michigan State and Zito a first-rounder in '99 from USC), luck has to be considered a large part of the label behind Oakland's success.

Here's what I did:

1. For each team (excluding the four recent expansion franchises), I found all pitchers since 1980 who won at least 15 games and had an ERA under 4.00 in the same season.

This established a basic level of quality somewhat comparable to what Hudson, Mulder and Zito have accomplished the past couple of seasons. Most of the pitchers who met the standard are good pitchers, with a couple of one-year flukes (Jeff Ballard, Dave Fleming) mixed in. But you get three of these guys on one team and you can win a division title.

2. I then sorted out the pitchers who first appeared in the majors with the team on which they met the 15 wins/4.00 criteria. (In some cases, this meant I had to go back before 1980.)

This system isn't exactly perfect as some young pitchers -- like David Cone, Randy Johnson, Mike Hampton and Pedro Martinez -- obtained success after first appearing, sometimes briefly, for another team. Also, sometimes a player may have been drafted or developed by another team, such as Freddy Garcia, but never appeared in the majors with them. Seattle gets credit for Garcia, not Houston. The system may miss on a couple decent pitchers (Kerry Wood, for example, has never won 15 games) and doesn't include future pitchers who could do it, like Mark Prior or Josh Beckett.

Still, this provides an excellent list of true, "homegrown" talent. Here are the amazing results, broken down by each franchise, with total number of 15-win/4.00 ERA seasons since 1980 (not including 2002) and the last three "homegrown" pitchers to achieve those totals. The year listed for the pitchers is the year they first pitched a significant amount of innings in the majors, not the year they first achieved the 15/4.00 criteria.

Home cookin'
TeamNo.Last 3 homegrown pitchers
Anaheim Angels15Jarrod Washburn (1999), Jim Abbott (1989), Chuck Finley (1987); note: Ramon Ortiz is 12-9, 3.86 this year
Atlanta Braves34Kevin Millwood (1998), Steve Avery (1990), Tom Glavine/John Smoltz (1988)
Baltimore Orioles17Mike Mussina (1991), Jeff Ballard (1987), Mike Boddicker (1983)
Boston Red Sox17Roger Clemens (1984), Oil Can Boyd (1983), Bruce Hurst (1982)
Chicago Cubs12Greg Maddux (1987), Ray Burris (1974), Rick Reuschel (1972)
Chicago White Sox17Mark Buerhle (2001), Mike Sirotka (2000), Alex Fernandez (1990)
Cincinnati Reds13Tom Browning (1985), Mario Soto (1980), Don Gullett (1970)
Cleveland Indians10Bartolo Colon (1998), Charles Nagy (1991), Greg Swindell (1987)
Detroit Tigers14Justin Thompson (1997), Dan Petry (1979), Jack Morris (1978)
Houston Astros25Roy Oswalt (2001), Wade Miller (2000), Darryl Kile (1991)
Kansas City Royals16Kevin Appier (1990), Tom Gordon (1989), Bret Saberhagen/Mark Gubicza (1984)
Los Angeles Dodgers25Chan Ho Park (1996), Hideo Nomo (1995), Ramon Martinez (1989)
Milwaukee Brewers12Jaime Navarro (1989), Chris Bosio (1987), Teddy Higuera (1985)
Minnesota Twins15Joe Mays (1999), Brad Radke (1995), Scott Erickson (1990)
Montreal Expos17Javier Vazquez (1998), Jeff Fassero (1991), Bryn Smith (1982)
New York Mets18Bobby Jones (1994), Ron Darling (1984), Dwight Gooden (1984)
New York Yankees19Andy Pettitte (1995), Ron Guidry (1977), Doc Medich (1973)
Oakland A's19Barry Zito (2000), Mark Mulder (2000), Tim Hudson (1999)
Philadelphia Phillies11Kevin Gross (1983), Rick Wise (1966), Chris Short (1960); note: Dick Ruthven (1973) met the criteria but only after rejoining the Phillies after playing for the Braves
Pittsburgh Pirates11John Smiley (1987), John Candelaria (1975), Dock Ellis (1968)
San Diego Padres16Andy Benes (1989), Andy Hawkins (1982), Eric Show (1982)
San Francisco Giants9Russ Ortiz (1998), Shawn Estes (1996), John Burkett (1990)
Seattle Mariners15Freddy Garcia (1999), Dave Fleming (1992), Erik Hanson (1989); note: Joel Pineiro 13-5, 3.06 this year
St. Louis Cardinals15Matt Morris (1997), Joe Magrane (1987), Danny Cox (1983)
Texas Rangers14Kevin Brown (1989), Kenny Rogers (1989), Jose Guzman/Bobby Witt (1986)
Toronto Blue Jays21Roy Halladay (1999), Pat Hentgen (1993), Juan Guzman (1991); note: Halladay is 15-7, 3.21 this year

Wow. The A's produced three star starters in a two-year span; no other team has done that and only the Braves with John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Steve Avery did it in a three-year span. The Red Sox haven't produced a homegrown quality starter since Roger Clemens in 1984. And the Phillies, remarkably, are even worse: we have to go back 42 years to find three good homegrown starters.

What does all this mean? Quick generalizations:

1. Building your pitching staff around cheap homegrown starters is an extremely risky idea. As the Braves and A's have proven, it happens successfully about once a decade.

2. Teams like the Royals or Padres who are trying to duplicate the Oakland method aren't likely to achieve the same results. Some young pitchers don't pan out, they get hurt or they get traded and then develop.

3. Small-revenue teams are at a huge disadvantage since a team will have to eventually invest in some high-priced pitching (either their own or free agents) in order to win.

Billy Beane is a rare mastermind. He'd be the first GM I would hire to run a team.

But Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder -- a trio of freaks -- are even more rare.

David Schoenfield is the baseball editor at ESPN.com. Lee Sinins' baseball encyclopedia was helpful in finding the pitchers for this article.

Ugh, who cares?

We know this.

The reason most teams have never been able to do it, most likely, is they have tried. They haven't had to. They never thought about it being that important. Further, his research only goes back 20 years. If you can't understand why here's a few reasons:

  • Latin America influence and world player introduction to MLB 
  • Arrival of Free Agency 
  • Drop off in baseball "talent" to other sports 
  • "Baseball men" running baseball 
  • Lack of scouting resources 
  • Poor pitching instructors 
  • Philosophy of starting younger pitchers in bullpen and graduating them to the rotation 


There was this little scrawny kid spitting scrap iron last night in Anaheim. He has been under the radar screen most of the year.

Tim Hudson, forgotten Ace?

Hudson held Anaheim to one run over 7 plus innings. The first run to score in 22 plus innings.

The one run was a solo shot by Garret Anderson in the fifth. Anderson before had victimized Hudson in an eerily similar circumstance. Earlier this year Hudson pounded a fastball inside at the knees that forced Anderson to lurch over the plate as he threw back his legs to avoid the pitch. The next pitch was deposited over the right field wall.

Monday night, Hudson again pitched Anderson inside and forced a sprawling boo fest from the fans. Anderson dives out over the plate with his body and uses his tremendous hand and wrist power to drive the ball to the gaps and left field corner. If you were to throw a ball a half inch off the plate, Anderson would look like he was projectile vomiting, legs stiff, back arched and neck craning ever upward.

Anyway, Hudson gave up a homerun Anderson hit off his front foot, literally. Anderson?s back foot was not touching the ground when he made contact.

Whatever works.

The A's bullpen came in and provided two innings of relief work with Billy Koch notching the 39th save of his first season in green and gold.

Ricrado Rincon pitched Koch and it can only be hoped that Art Howe doesn't pitch Rincon on back to back nights. Just as Jim Mecir has trouble with pitching back to back innings, Rincon seems to have an aversion to pitching on consecutive nights.

The offense was limited to two solo homeruns by Jermaine Dye and Terrence Long. Long drove an inside pitch to right in the 5th.

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