To be perfectly honest, the Oakland Athletics lack one key component to be a perennial contending team: talent.
Through the first three weeks of the season, the A’s look better than the 100-loss team most experts predicted, but are still far from being relevant.
This becomes all the more evident while watching the Texas Rangers explode out of the gate to a 13-4 start with about a thousand home runs, but there have been some intriguing moments, at least, for the Green and Gold. Additionally, the longer this team can hang around .500 (9-10 right now) the better because as the year goes on, the A’s will improve. Young pitching is on the way, the A’s have depth for once (more on this in a bit) and you still never know what you are (or aren’t) going to get from Manny Ramirez.
Oakland’s pitching has been surprisingly solid. Led by “ace” Brandon McCarthy and the rejuvenated Bartolo Colon, the Oakland A’s have team ERA of 2.93, good for second in the American League. McCarthy hasn’t been as sharp but has had some bad luck and took a while to get going last year too. Colon at one point in his start against the Angels threw 38 consecutive strikes. 38 in a row. That’s a “wow” statistic.
Rookie Tom Milone continues to impress, pitching another eight scoreless innings on Tuesday night and Tyson Ross has also started well in his first two starts this year. Even the bullpen has some exciting, electric arms this year. The pitching staff seems to be much stronger than originally thought and it should only get better… starting now.
The A’s called up top prospect, Jarrod Parker, who will get his first start of the year against the White Sox on Wednesday. Graham Godfrey, who’s struggled a bit to start the year will be sent to AAA to make room for Parker, who has electric stuff. He’s struck out more than one batter per inning in the minors this year, which will be more than welcome in a starting staff that doesn’t miss all that many bats. I could also see a call up for Brad Peacock in the not-so-distant-future and, though they won’t rush him, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sonny Gray makes it to the bigs later this year too.
It’s not the Phillies’ staff, or even the 2011 A’s staff, but it’s not terrible. I think a lot of media pundits expected the A’s starting rotation to be atrocious because of all the talent they traded in the off-season. But, while it’s clearly worse, those same pundits fail to mention the talent they got back, and the talent they retained. Keep in mind, Brett Anderson is ahead of schedule and is expected to be back in July or August, and Dallas Braden hopefully can get healthy too, though no one has a timetable for him.
In essence, the real issue (shocker) is the lineup. At times, it looks like it might resemble something close to league average, but mostly they look out classed by the opposing pitching. Josh Reddick has shown a little pop, and certainly doesn’t get cheated, but he only has one walk in 17 games. Seth Smith grinds every time up with bad results, Kurt Suzuki can’t really be this bad, and Jemile Weeks hasn’t got himself going yet so I think things will get better. But probably not much. Really, the only consistent bright spot for the lineup has been the biggest question mark coming into the year, Yoenis Cespedes.
I’ve already talked about Cespedes’ tools quite a bit, but that really doesn’t do it justice. Besides the obvious power, which is ridiculous, he’s crazy fast for a guy his size. I figured he’d be fast going from first to third once he got going, but he’s much more explosive than I had originally thought. He leads the team in stolen bases, and he’s been safe by a wide margin each time. In fact, he leads the A’s in just about every offensive category.
Cespedes is going through a lot right now. He’s in a new country, speaking a new language, with more money than he’s ever had, playing against much stiffer competition… and he’s producing right out of the gate. Once Cespedes gets acclimated to the major league life-style, he could be one of the better outfielders in the league, maybe the majors. The A’s haven’t had a player with this kind of impact in a long time.
Unfortunately he isn’t getting much help, but as I said before, I believe the A’s will continue to get better as the year goes on. This team is young and inexperienced, but ideally the young players will show improvement by the end of 2012.
But it could be slim pickins’ until then. Even if the A’s pitchers continue their unlikely hot start, the offense will struggle all year. They’ve been able to scrape across just enough runs to get a few wins but how long will it last? Now, let’s not forget that it’s still very early but the A’s are lucky to have the record they do. If (and it’s a big “if”) they can just hang around .500, like I said before, it will make the second half of the season a whole lot more interesting. So far, so good… I guess.
About the Author
Written by Josh Muller
My name is Josh Muller. I was born and raised in Oakland, California and currently live in San Francisco. I watch sports religiously and organize my calender year to coincide with baseball season. I'm a diehard A's and Warriors fan, love talking sports all day and believe that the words "Opening Day" are the two greatest in the English language.