Let's start with the rotation:
People are going to look at this and wonder what the heck is going on. Now I kept this to the current rotation but obviously Wade Davis' sample size is A) way too small and B) way too skewed to really tell us anything about him. That will be the case throughout the rest of the season.
FIP and tRA paint similar pictures (remember that tRA is on a run average scale, not earned run average like FIP, so if you want equal ground, either add 0.35 to FIP or subtract 0.35 from tRA) when it comes to performances. Price is the one they disagree on the most and that has to do with some oddly high line drive rates. Niemann appears on his way to avoiding the homer bug entirely this year, doubt that happens next year. Garza is what he is. Shields is underappreciated. He's not a "true ace" or anything like that, but he's an extremely solid front-end starter being paid unlike one.
Heading into next year you have to hope Wade Davis can pull a Brett Anderson and that David Price can pull a Scott Kazmir (of 2005, sillies).
We all know how the Kazmir and Sonnanstine starts went this year. Gah.
The staff lacks an ace and people will to point to this as a weakness. Those people are completely ignoring that the 2008 staff lacked an ace as well, but had a number of above average starters. This rotation got off on a bad foot and had some sour apples. I doubt Jim Hickey gets fired - I would love Rick Peterson though - and I have no idea what an extra few weeks of rest will do for their start next year, but where the 2009 rotation felt stale and full of assumed performances, the 2010 rotation is going to be fresh and incredibly fun to watch.
Or at least it should be.
As for the pen:
Balfour gets a ton of hate, but he's been solid. Choate has outpitched Brian Shouse. Lance Cormier started off fantastically and has since slowed down a bit. I'm not going to hate on the guy or anything, he's fine as a long reliever, but maybe that's where he should stay heading forward. J.P. Howell is awesome. Dan Wheeler was also pretty solid.
I suppose some will look at this recent stretch and ‘remember' the entire season as being like this. That's unfair and quite untrue. They were shaky in the beginning thanks to Employee #40 and shaky in the end, but in between there were some fun, reliable times to be had.
Much with the rotation, you lack a truly dominant pitcher. I think J.P. Howell can be that, and he was that until the second half. Expect some movement in the pen.