Am I a jinx or something? Just hours after I had written that the A's bench is not a bottomless pit, my statement gets tested. Mark Ellis is out 6-8 weeks after dislocating his shoulder in a collision with Bobby Crosby.
We'll soon find out how valuable Ellis' defense really is. If Hudson and Mulder start giving up a lot more hits than usual this April, we'll know why.
Although Frank Menechino is also hurt, the A's shouldn't miss much offensively. And this illustrates what I enjoy most about watching Billy Beane work. You can talk all you want about Hudson, Mulder, Zito and Chavez, but Beane's real genius shows up in the 35th-40th men on the roster. He creates depth at every position. When Ellis gets hurt, he not only has one competent backup, he has three (with Baseball Prospectus projections):
Now compare those numbers to the projected numbers of the other middle infield backups in the AL West:
Willie Bloomquist, Sea
Ramon Santiago, Sea
Chone Figgins, Ana
Adam Riggs, Ana
Alfredo Amezaga, Ana
Jason Bourgeois, Tex
Eric Young, Tex
The entire division has only one middle infield backup, Eric Young, who is a better hitter than the A's fourth-string second baseman. That's why Billy Beane is so good. And that's why I said the A's can win a war of attrition.