Melvin looks on during a workout at Papago Park. (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
96-66, 1st in AL West, eliminated in LCS by Detroit Tigers
As you would expect in compiling a 96-66 record, the A’s did not have a single month where they played less than .500 ball. The closest occurred in August when their record was 14-13.
Once they claimed first place after a win on September 9th, they held it until the end of the season.
It is almost a custom now that the A’s get a season from a player that absolutely no one envisioned. Enter Josh Donaldson, who finished 4th in the AL MVP voting. Don’t be shocked if another A’s player does the same in 2014. You have been warned.
As of this writing, the A’s have committed $74.4MM to their 2014 payroll. This represents a $12MM increase over what would be last year’s Opening Day number of $62.0MM. That $74.4MM also does not reflect those contracts extended to those that are under team control.
The addition of Johnson ups that number by $10MM. Toss in the signing of Kazmir ($9MM) and acquisition of Gregerson ($5.065MM) adds to the bottom line as well. Still, it’s never beyond GM Billy Beane to acquire high-priced talent if he sees a particular player helping this team win some more games.
Player to watch
After not even being on a big league roster during the 2012 season, Kazmir bounced back with an impressive 2013 campaign. The Cleveland Indians rolled the dice and were the benefactors of his surprising performance. Even though his ERA was over 4 (4.04), his FIP was a respectable 3.51 while his xFIP was even lower at 3.36. He posted his highest strikeout rate (9.23) since 2007 (10.41) and his lowest walk rate ever (2.68).
Potentially pitching half of his games in the expanse of O.co could certainly lead to Kazmir posting his best season since breaking in with the Devil Rays in 2004.
If there is one concern, it would be that Kazmir has exceeded more than 200 innings pitched only once in his career (206.2 in 2007). Injuries have obviously played a role with that.
Now all Kazmir needs to do is back up that 2013 season. The A’s are banking on just that as they inked the lefty to a two-year, $22MM deal.
Player that must improve
You could list two here, but I’ll tab Reddick.
After compiling a 2012 season in which he cracked 32 home runs, Reddick’s power suffered last season. Sure, Oakland can do that to any hitter, but his home/away splits weren’t as severe in 2012 as compared to 2013. In 2012 Reddick performed better in Oakland than he did on the road.
Just to give you a quick look. Last season, Reddick’s SLG away from home was almost 190 points higher (.476/.290).
But the wonder of Reddick is that his offensive slide of 2013 did not impact his defense. See for yourself.
That’s not slouch attempting to go to third. Drew Stubbs is pretty darn fast.
The other player: Yoenis Cespedes. The 2013 Home Run Derby champ might be on the verge of a fantastic season.
Not that I think Donaldson will by any means, but the 2013 season he produced was phenomenal. That season also could lead to a drop in his 2014 numbers and/or lofty expectations. Even if he does slide somewhat, and the Athletics and see improvement from Reddick and Cespedes, that potential slide won’t adversely affect the team’s overall play.
One thing I’ll add here. It may seem like I’m picking on the A’s offense a bit, but I’m not. Considering their home turf, every run scored is more magnified and valuable. A one-run 9th inning lead in Oakland is far different that holding that same lead at Camden Yards.
One question for 2014
Can the A’s get past the LCS?
Those dastardly Tigers. Knocked the A’s out of the postseason extravaganza the past two seasons. Actually, Detroit has eliminated Oakland the last three times the A’s have made the postseason (’06, ’12, ’13).
But to answer my question, sure the A’s can get past the LCS. Some aspects will have to work in their favor.
As previously mentioned, Oakland must get better seasons from Reddick and Cespedes. First and foremost, the duo must stay healthy. There’s also the aspect of Coco Crisp setting the table for them.
The back-end of the bullpen must be as reliable as it was last season when Balfour was the closer. Johnson wasn’t as scintillating in 2013 as he was in 2012. Adding Gregerson into the bullpen mix definitely solidifies what many to believe as one of the best pens in baseball. Having Ryan Cook ready for the season would make Melvin’s job a little easier. Cook dealt with shoulder tendinitis in January and only recently had his first bullpen session.
Replacing Colon might not have initially appeared difficult, but the recent injuries to Jarrod Parker (forearm strain) and A.J. Griffin (elbow tendinitis) do cause concern. Parker might not be ready for the start of the season and Griffin has been shut down for three weeks. The services of these two will be needed.
After all, the A’s do have the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels with postseason aspirations also vying for the division crown.