Oakland Athletics: Why the A’s can win the AL West

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 27: Sean Manaea #55 of the Oakland Athletics pours beer into his mouth as he celebrates clinching a wild card spot after the game against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on September 27, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 27: Sean Manaea #55 of the Oakland Athletics pours beer into his mouth as he celebrates clinching a wild card spot after the game against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on September 27, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
(Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Oakland Athletics: Why the A’s can win the AL West

The full comparison

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The Astros have a distinct advantage over the Athletics at only two positions, those being second base and DH. Bregman is better than Chapman at third, but not substantially so. Springer is better in center, but Laureano is coming on fast.

Elsewhere, the A’s are competitive and possibly better. Olson’s performance line at first is on the uptick and probably has already left Gurriel behind. Shortstops Correa and Semien are both first-rate when they play, but Semien plays much more. In left, Canha is closing on Brantley and may have already passed him. Right field is a wash.

The Astros have nothing at catcher, while the A’s have a future star in Murphy.

The decisive advantage may be on the mound. The loss of Cole forces the Astros to rely on McCullers, who was sidelined for all of 2019 and who was hardly a star before that. Urquidy has potential. Peacock is a journeyman.

All they can certainly count on, then, are Verlander and Greinke.

Manaea established during the stretch run last September that he is ready to resume his role as anchor of Oakland’s staff, and Montas provides a solid No. 2. Their joint return, coupled with Cole’s loss, could all by itself swing most of the 10-game gap between the two teams.

Fiers is a third established asset, making the Oakland rotation deeper, more established and more reliable than Houston’s. As with Urquidy in Houston, the A’s will hope for some kids to come through, notably Puk and Luzardo. But unlike the Astros, they also have Bassit to cover them in the event the kids fail.

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Finally, Houston must play the entire season looking over their moral shoulders, stripped of the swagger that has fueled them. It’s hard to play baseball while carrying baggage. That may be Oakland’s best and most meaningful advantage of all.