Milwaukee Brewers star outfielder Ryan Braun has sore right thumb that has...
On the Oakland A’s
If the season ended today, the Oakland Athletics would play a playoff game. You know when you do something mostly to prove to others that you could and that you’re better than what they give you credit for? That is what the Oakland A’s and GM Billy Beane have been doing for about six months now. It’s really unbelievable how well they have played; their record of 76-60 is not the product of some flukey luck in close games (I’m looking at you Baltimore). Their +68 run differential is largely due to superb pitching which has allowed just 13 more runs than the much-talked-about Rays rotation and has allowed fewer runs than every team in the Majors except the Nationals and Tampa Bay.
I’m less concerned with talking about how well their doing, and more in awe of the position in which they have put themselves for success in the years to come. We wrote in our season preview that “this might very well be the worst team in the American League.” As we sometimes are in our season previews, we were wrong. The offseason trades of Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey were all supposedly made with an eye for 2014–or even 2015, when the small club will hopefully be in a new stadium.
The A’s have succeeded thanks to a huge year from Josh Reddick, who was acquired for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney, in what may have been the most lopsided deal of the offseason. Reddick has been unreal to this point, posting a 4.2 fangraph’s WAR (25th among position players) to go along with his 28 bombs. When he’s healthy, offseason signee Yoenis Cespedes has been quite good: .290 average with 16 homers and 14 steals. They have 8 guys with at least 10 homeruns. For some context, the Rangers have seven and the Braves have just five.
As was previously mentioned, it has been Oakland’s pitching that has set this team squarely in the playoff hunt. The trade “throw-in” of Ryan Cook has worked out well as he’s currently worked his way into the primary closer role with a 2.62 ERA (that has ballooned some since the All-Star break). Tommy Milone, acquired in the Gio Gonzalez trade, has looked great too and he’s currently listed as the A’s number two starter. Of the two more highly thought of prospects in the deal, AJ Cole is currently sporting a 2.07 ERA in A-ball though Brad Peacock has struggled in AAA. Jarrod Parker, acquired in the Trevor Cahill trade, is sporting a 3.67 ERA in the Majors. Billy Beane took some chances with these guys, but it has all worked out to this point. While the A’s certainly got younger and cheaper, but frankly, it seems they got more talented too.
Put it this way: Oakland, as currently constructed, is the prototype for how a small market team should look. They have great young pitching, all under team control for a few more years. They have an intensely athletic and talented outfielder in Yoenis Cespedes and a guy who keeps proving doubters wrong by continuing to sustain an All-Star level in Josh Reddick. They have a guy in the bullpen with the makings of a really good closer. And they have more arms in the minors which should help supplement the big league rotation, seemingly on a yearly basis. Even if they don’t make the playoffs this year, the Athletics will continue to be part of the reason why the AL West is the best division in baseball. Billy Beane knows what he’s doing after all.