In a world where even the most dedicated baseball fan can probably only name three players on the Oakland Athletics and a casual baseball might tell you that all they know is that the team had something to do with Brad Pitt, it’s no wonder that not everyone believes that the A’s are for real, that they are really THAT good.
Lately, they have been getting some national recognition. Some of it was unfortunate, having to do with Baltimore Orioles’ third baseman Manny Machado‘s out of control behavior during the Orioles series with the A’s last weekend. Yet, much of it has been positive. The team’s unbelievable run differential (now at a staggering plus-130), their closer’s insane 44:1 strikeout to walk ratio and the powerfully accurate arm of their left fielder have been garnering acclaim amongst baseball analysts, sports writers and fans alike.
Some of those writers, fans and analysts, including Bleacher Reports’ Scott Miller, have even called the A’s the best team in baseball, at least up until this point and the consensus seems to be that they will remain in that position throughout the remainder of the season. It is still too early to even start talking about possible postseason results. I’m not even going there, yet.
What I will tell you are five reasons why you should keep an eye on those no-name Oakland Athletics and a few names to remember. This may or may not be especially helpful if the A’s are headed to your town to play a series with your favorite team. It’s always helpful to know about your competitors even though, in this case, it probably won’t help you stop them.
1. The A’s can hit, hard.
The A’s have three legitimate power hitters in the one-two-three punch of Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Yoenis Cespedes, known to the Oakland fans as “Run DMC.” Together on most days they combine to make up the 3-4-5 hitters in the A’s lineup. Donaldson (17) and Moss (16) are both on the top ten home run leaders board while Cespedes’ isn’t far behind having hit his 12th homer of the season Wednesday night against the Angels. According to Bleacher Report the three players account for more run production than any other 3-4-5 tandem in the league.
2. Pitching is NOT a problem.
Even though Oakland lost two of their starting pitchers, Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, to Tommy John surgery prior to the season they’ve had players step up to rank among the best starting pitchers in the league. Three members of the A’s five-man rotation are among the top ten in ERA. Left-hander Scott Kazmir (2.20) leads the way at number four snd rightys Sonny Gray (2.83) and Jesse Chavez (3.04) take up the seventh and eighth spots on the A.L.’s top ten list. Chavez who was a mediocre middle reliever developed a cutter over the off season and basically reinvented himself while Drew Pomeranz, who started the year in the bullpen, and Tommy Milone have stepped up to perform flawlessly in the fouth and fifth spots in the rotation. Not a week link among them which is rare especially in 2014 with the flush of Tommy John surgeries that have hit almost every team in the league.
Although the A’s have had their bullpen woes with their $10 million man (yes, that salary is remarkably high for the A’s to pay), former closer Jim Johnson, basically having a complete and total meltdown since the start of the season, then having to work with a “closer by committee” situation for another month, their bullpen is still one of baseball’s best. Southpaw Sean Doolittle has taken over the closer role, right-hander Dan Otero has become a workhorse just racking up inning after inning of quality pitching and set-up man Ryan Cook is now off the disabled list to round out the most important parts of a good bullpen. The A’s are solid with plenty of depth to pick up the slack if needed in the later innings.
Just one look at pitching statistics from MLB.com prove that no other pitching staff in baseball can come close to the A’s staff. A’s lead the majors combined ERA (7.03), opponents’ batting average (.225), on-base percentage (.288), slugging percentage (.339) and opponents’ batting average with runners in scoring position (.194).
3. The A’s like to walk A LOT.
The A’s, not surprisingly (remember you have heard of that movie with Brad Pitt, right?) lead the major league in walks with 277 as of June 11. Again, not surprisingly, that is a huge part of why the A’s are also tied with the Colorado Rockies for first in MLB in on-base percentage.
4. They are speedy.
The A’s are fast and seem to like to run more often than not. Guys like Coco Crisp and Craig Gentry can haul between first and second base or between second and third. Their stolen base percentage rate (82.2) ranks first in the American League and second overall with just the Washington Nationals ahead of them.
5. The A’s have depth and versatility.
It’s incredibly noteworthy that they have three legitimate power hitters, three talented catchers who can play multiple positions, for example catcher Stephen Vogt can play catcher or in the outfield and he has, even though the A’s have four very strong outfielders. There are three guys who can play all over the infield and their third baseman, a should’ve been All-Star and Gold Glove winner in 2013, finished fourth in the MVP voting last season. They even have multiple options at first base. The A’s do not have a shortage of solid players. You may not know them by name now but you should be on the lookout for anyone I have named in this article and quite a few more.
The A’s have depth and a collection of players who contribute day to day. Even if one player is having an off-day there is always another one talented enough and ready to pick up the slack.
“It’s crazy. Everything has its place. It’s like good housekeeping. If something is not quite right one day, then there’s something else in the pantry to use.”
So remember that the fact that you may not know who these no-name guys are doesn’t mean they aren’t going to come in and cause you trouble because the way it appears right now the Oakland A’s really are THAT good.