Can Anyone Beat The Oakland Athletics?
The All-Star break is past us now. The Derek Jeter lovefest is winding down and the division races are heating up. One division in particular looks interesting: the AL West. As it stands now, the West would have three teams in the playoffs: the Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners, and Oakland Athletics. Yet, even with these tight battles for first, it seems the A’s are head and shoulders above everyone else.
Let’s take a look at where the A’s rank in the major categories among AL teams for hitting and pitching:
Batting Average- .251 (9th)
Home Runs- 98 (5th)
RBIs- 440 (2nd)
Runs- 466 (2nd)
On Base Percentage- .321 (3rd)
ERA- 3.09 (1st)
Innings Pitched (starters)- 575.1 (3rd)
Strikeouts- 728 (7th)
WHIP- 1.16 (2nd)
Batting Average Against- .231 (2nd)
Now it’s time for the analysis. Take a second look at the A’s batting average. They currently rank 9th in the AL with a .251 AVG. This would be a little concerning, except when you look at OBP, the worry washes away. Billy Beane built this team not just to hit home runs or hit for a high average, but to GET ON BASE (thank you Moneyball). As you can see, the A’s are doing just that. Also, these base runners aren’t getting stranded often either. The boys in green have scored 466 runs, which ranks second among AL teams. Add a little power to the mix and you find yourself with a pretty potent lineup.
Now who is it exactly that is leading the charge for the A’s? The short answer: almost everyone. Take a look at each position to see what I mean.
Derek Norris– 8 HR/37 RBI/.294 AVG/.402 OBP/.477 SLG
John Jaso– 7/28/.274/.353/.447
Brandon Moss– 21/66/.268/.349/.530
Eric Sogard– 0/9/.186/.256/.218
Josh Donaldson– 20/65/.238/.317/.449
Jed Lowrie– 4/34/.239/.321/.346
Yoenis Cespedes– 14/56/.246/.299/.442
Coco Crisp– 7/31/.291/.387/.449
Josh Reddick– 4/24/.229/.296/.358
Going through this lineup, it’s hard to find holes in the road (except for Sogard, but his fielding percentage is perfect, so give him a break.) All but three players have OBP over .300 and one of those three is .001 away. These aren’t big names necessarily, but they are getting the job done, which is all that matters
Now we move to the pitching. Before July 4th, it was already pretty good, with Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, and Jesse Chavez hitting their strides throughout the first half. After July 4th, it got a whole lot better with the addition of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. That is not a bad starting five if you ask me. Here’s how all five have performed in 2014:
Jeff Samardzija- 1-1, 2.40 ERA/10 Ks/0.67 WHIP/.180 AVG Against (2-7 with the Chicago Cubs)
Scott Kazmir- 11-3/2.38/108/0.98/.206
Sonny Gray- 10-3/2.79/108/1.19/.227
Jason Hammel- 0-1/3.60/3/1.80/.286 (8-5 with the Cubs)
Jesse Chavez– 7-6/3.14/107/1.30/.255
On top of these five guys, Drew Pomeranz and Tommy Milone also reside as long-relievers and spot starters. Plus, A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker have been sidelined after undergoing Tommy John surgery. There is a possibility that next year, the A’s have nine pitchers worthy of starting roles.
What about the other two AL West contenders?
To start off, the Mariners are playing good baseball and have a pretty solid rotation. However, they lack a good offense (besides Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager) and playoff experience, both of which are traits of the Oakland A’s.
The Angels put up a compelling argument. Mike Trout is nothing to scoff at and Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton have had nice seasons. Garrett Richards leads the Angels rotation with others falling into place. So what about the Angels? The Angels lack depth in their bullpen and positional role players to make big plays late in games. The A’s have Sean Doolittle and players like Nick Punto and Alberto Callaspo to bank on come October.
I would compare every team that could see the A’s in the playoffs, but with the races as tight as they are, that would be nearly every team (leave out the Houston Astros.) I will say though, no other team is as stacked and ready for the postseason as the A’s. Period. End of Story. If Oakland does in fact take home the World Series trophy, we may compare them with some of the greatest teams in history.