The Oakland Athletics are doing their best Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde impersonation so far this season. Admittedly, the A’s have only played 28 games and are 4 games over .500. The majority of those wins, eleven of them to be exact, have come against the Houston Astros, a team that they have swept in both series so far this year, and the A’s are 5-0 against their division rivals, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (dumbest team name in sports, by the way). On the flip side of things, the A’s struggled on their first East Coast trip of the year, going 1-5 against Boston and Tampa Bay, and start a 10 game road trip tomorrow that pits them against the Yankees, Indians, and Mariners. The A’s ability to put 94 notches in the W column last year was based on incredible pitching, great defense, and timely offense. This year, the A’s are in the bottom half of the league in ERA, WHIP, and opponents batting average while being in the top 1/3 of the league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage, and leading the league in runs scored.
When the teams main five starting pitchers have already given up a combined total of 84 earned runs in just 153.1 innings of work, one must take a look at facts.
The Athletics will undoubtedly get back to having one of the most feared starting rotations in all of baseball. Curt Young will iron out all the mechanical and psychological issues that the starters are dealing with. Jarrod Parker will be fine, especially if last night’s performance is any indication. Brett Anderson will heal from his sprained ankle, as long as the A’s don’t continue to scratch him from starts to give him a chance to heal and then use him out of the pen for 5 1/3 innings. A.J. Griffin will find a way to get people out again and stop throwing mistakes that Will Middlebrooks deposits 397 feet away from home plate. Tommy Milone will find a way to put up double digits in the win column for himself. My one question mark on the pitching staff is Bartolo Colon…but time will tell with Colon, I’ll reserve my thoughts for a later column.
Bob Melvin and Billy Beane proved last season that they can make magic out of canned goods (if you get that reference, good for you). The Athletics were able to rely on timely offensive production, a loose clubhouse, and going through plenty of shaving cream. This year, Jed Lowrie, a career .257 hitter, leads the Green and Gold with a .333 average. Josh Donaldson has 20 RBI’s in 27 games this season; he had 37 RBI’s in 89 games before this year. Josh Reddick has 1 homerun and is batting .139 after hitting a career-high 32 bombs last year and batting .242.
There is something to be said about the law of averages and normalization, but the A’s have always been a little bit of a rebellious group. If you project the rest of the season based on the number of wins the A’s have to this point, they should get to about 93 wins……but those wins will be a lot more exciting if they figure out how to continuously drop 5+ runs on teams. If the pitching gets back to where it was last season, 3.48 ERA as a team, then the A’s should be able to find a way to win 95+ games this season. Of course, adding the lowly Houston Astros to the division for a total of 19 games this season will help that quest quite a bit.
Win, lose, or draw, the A’s are an exciting team to watch and should continue to be so for the rest of the season. The question is, are we watching an A’s team that is going to win the majority of their games in convincing fashion or are they going to rely on Cespedes and Co. to come through in the late innings to send fans home with a smile on their face? Being that the Athletics have played in four extra innings games this season and are 4-0 in said games and have won 6 games by 3 runs or less….my money is on the latter.