This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in baseball. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.
Today we look at those scrappy Oakland A’s, who year after year continue to defy all logic and on-paper projections by completely exceeding everyone’s expectations. The A’s are why the championship isn’t won on paper; they are why we play the games.
Projected Lineup: CF Coco Crisp, 3B Josh Donaldson, SS Jed Lowrie, DH Brandon Moss, LF Yoenis Cespedes, RF Josh Reddick, C John Jaso, 2B Eric Sogard, 1B Daric Barton
The past 30 days have not been good for elbows, and Jarrod Parker’s right one in particular is causing problems for the A’s, having rendered one of the team’s best pitchers out of commission for the entire season.
To make up for the loss of Parker, the A’s are counting on a full season from the young Sonny Gray. Not only does Gray have amazing stuff, but he’s the perfect pitcher for the A’s because his name is the perpetual answer to “What’s the weather like in the Bay Area?”. This guy faced off against Justin Verlander in one of the more epic pitchers’ duels of the postseason, and is more than capable of handling the spotlight.
So before you write the A’s off this year, consider that they’ve won the AL West in each of the last two seasons. And the primary reason for that is depth. The A’s refuse to let the injury bug affect them, because they keep multiple starting options available at nearly every position. So just as Derek Norris would spell John Jaso, or Alberto Callaspo would step in if Eric Sogard’s newfound Twitter fame went to his head, Gray and the rest of the A’s young starters will easily make up for the loss of Parker.
Another guy providing depth this year for the A’s will be new outfielder Craig Gentry. A career .288/.376/.399 hitter against lefties, he’ll sub for Brandon Moss when the team is facing a southpaw, and provide an added speed threat as well.
Also under the radar this winter (as is everything the A’s do) was the team’s total revamp of the bullpen. A bit uncharacteristically, the A’s went out and paid top dollar for a closer, bringing in Jim Johnson from the Orioles to fill the vacancy left by Grant Balfour. I’m a big believer in Johnson, and though he may have slightly underperformed last year, stat guys will all tell you his inflated numbers were due to a high BABIP (.330) and high HR/FB rate (11.4%).
(I love that I always have the hypothetical “stat guys” to fall back on. It makes me feel like far less of a nerd for having looked up those stats myself.)
The A’s didn’t stop there with their bullpen revamp—they also added set-up man Luke Gregerson, lefty reliever Fernando Abad, and injured lefty specialist Eric O’Flaherty (so like the A’s to sign an injured pitcher), who is expected to return from Tommy John Surgery later in the year.
The point is, the A’s will be alright. Year after year, everybody keeps writing them off, but they keep winning. You all should know better by now. These guys can make it as far as they want to, provided they don’t have to face Justin Verlander in an elimination game.
Projected Finish: 89-73, 2nd place in AL West; Wildcard berth