On May 24, the Oakland Athletics gave the final inning of a 5-2 loss in Toronto to Jeff Francis, a 33-year-old veteran of 10 big league seasons who had been claimed off of waivers from the Cincinnati Reds six days earlier.
That lone inning was just one of thousands in a major league season, one that no one other than Francis himself likely remembers anything about. It’s less notable for the impact it had on the game than for what it says about the structure of the Athletics, the American League’s best team: It’s the only inning pitched all season by an Oakland pitcher beyond his age-31 season. (And, since 30-year-old Jim Johnson‘s June 27 birthday falls just before the traditional July 1 cutoff for what defines a player’s seasonal age, Francis is, for the moment, the only Oakland pitcher to have seen his 31st birthday.)
The A’s don’t have the youngest pitching staff in baseball — their average of 27.8 years is older than that of Miami, St. Louis and Atlanta, and is essentially even with those in Cleveland, Anaheim and Houston — but they do have one of the best. Oakland has the lowest ERA in the game and the seventh-best fielding independent pitching (FIP). And, as usual, the A’s are doing things their own way.
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