With around six weeks of the regular season left, the ever amazing American League West has started to take shape. With a loss yesterday, the Oakland Athletics, for the first time this season, have to share top-spot with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who are playing some terrific baseball. If having two brilliant teams scrapping for a division title doesn’t get you salivating, maybe the fact there are three teams, will. That’s right, the Seattle Mariners can’t be ruled out either, and like the Angels, are playing some terrific baseball.
To put the power shift in the West into perspective, in the last seven days, the Mariners and Angels rank fourth and fifth, respectively, in team wRC+, the most important offensive metric. On the other hand, the A’s rank 24th in the same category. Likewise, in offensive WAR, Seattle and Los Angeles rank sixth and seventh, whereas Oakland ranks 25th.
Despite moving for three aces in the trade market, the A’s sit 17th in baseball in team FIP, just ahead of the Mariners and Angels. However, Seattle have the lowest team ERA among the three challenging franchises. So, naturally, that begs the question; are the Oakland Athletics in any trouble? No. No they’re not. It is almost impossible to find a team in all of baseball, who haven’t had some slumps, some bad weeks, and unfortunately the A’s are enduring theres whilst everyone else in the West is hot. It happens.
While I highly doubt Oakland are in real trouble, there are several, alarming trends within the franchise. The Angels, undeniably, strengthened their greatest weakness prior to the trade-deadline, adding several bullpen pieces, most notably closer Huston Street, who is having lots of success in Anaheim. The Mariners, added several offensive pieces, including Austin Jackson, who will most certainly help the Mariners in their charge on the West.
Oakland, on the other hand, failed to address their greatest weakness; innings in their rotation. They may currently have the best rotation in all of baseball, but with three starters who have never been near 200 innings, and another who is renowned for fading in the second half of the season, they have failed to ensure their rotation won’t tire. As full of aces as the rotation is, it’s hard to see them not tiring come the end of season. I mean, even if they do reach the postseason, they will be very tired come October.
Furthermore, losing Yoenis Cespedes was a huge loss. Although the A’s did add Jon Lester, who will be pivotal in Oakland’s charge towards winning the West, losing their offensive catalyst was a huge mistake. Cespedes was the team’s cleanup hitter, and losing such an important piece in the lineup without replacing it, sparks a situation similar to losing to a closer: If you lose your closer, without replacement, the eighth inning man has to pitch the ninth. The seventh inning man has to pitch the eighth, and so on.
Just like losing a key piece in the middle of a lineup. Derek Norris, who was very comfortable hitting in the two-hole this season, now has to hit fourth, which he isn’t overly good at. And, in an inevitable corresponding move, another hitter who was comfortable with where they were hitting now have to hit second. It just isn’t good baseball. Not in the slightest. Another problem: The platooning ways of Billy Beane are catching up on him.
I love platoons. They make sense. However, with key hitters like Coco Crisp and Josh Donaldson not performing, playing the splits and platooning and therefore benching hitters who are hot, and hitting well simply doesn’t work. Take for example, the A’s against the Atlanta Braves and Alex Wood a few days ago. With a leftie on the mound, the A’s left two key hitters in Stephen Vogt and John Jaso on the bench. I could continue, they are many alarming trends in Oakland, but we are all over-reacting, a little.
As aforementioned, every team has hot and cold spells. It will, however, be very interesting indeed to see how the A’s recover from this spell. With the all evidence presented here in terms of the A’s becoming bad, it is hard to ignore the other two thriving franchises in the West. It is very difficult to overlook potential MVP Mike Trout in Los Angeles and potential Cy-Young winner Felix Hernandez in Seattle. We can guess all we want, but what will happen come the end of season is very unclear. Ultimately, only time will tell. Although, I will say one thing: Don’t be surprised if the A’s end up scrapping for the second wild-card spot.
Tags: American League West