After being the first to 30, then 40, and now being the first, and only team in the A.L., to 50 wins, it’s safe to say that the Oakland A’s are above the “50 feet of crap” they used to be under. In fact, for the first time during this recent resurgence, everyone else in the American League is under them.
Also, with the way they’ve been playing, they’re well above it, and probably for the first time in a long time, putting the words “Oakland Athletics” and “World Series” together may not be so much of a stretch.
It’s a little hard to imagine, and maybe calling the A’s a “World Series team” just halfway through the season could be premature. However with a 52-33 record 85 games into the season, the A’s may just be destined to host a couple of World Series games at O.Co. Coliseum in late October.
But before we can talk about this team representing the American League in the Fall Classic, the question really is if they can they beat Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers in the fifth game of the ALDS this time around.
Got to start small, right?
“It’s certainly a good first half,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We seem to have gotten a little stronger here.”
The A’s have been one of the most consistent teams in the A.L., hitting .253 as a team, led by Derek Norris who’s hit .309/.408/.509 with eight home runs and 35 RBI in 62 games for Oakland, with Coco Crisp’s .292/.383/.458 and seven home runs right behind him.
Oakland’s new bash-brothers trio of Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Yoenis Cespedes have combined for 51 home runs and 178 RBI so far this season. The A’s have scored an MLB-leading 429 runs this season and knocked out 91 home runs, tied for fourth most team home runs with their division rival L.A. Angels.
Safe to say that the extra $20 million in their payroll helped them buy their runs.
The A’s were only swept three times so far all season (Texas in late April, Toronto in late May and Detroit earlier in the week) and haven’t lost more than three games in a row all season so far.
But where the A’s have really shined has been on the mound.
Despite losing both key starters A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker during Spring Training to Tommy John surgery, the A’s pitching staff has been the brightest spot, boasting a combined 3.23 team earned run average, ranked fourth in MLB, behind Washington, Seattle and the L.A. Dodgers. Athletics’ starter Tommy Milone has been a huge boost in the back of the Oakland rotation with a 6-3 record and a respectable 3.79 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 15 starts.
“We’ve been playing tremendous baseball,” Milone said after their three-game sweep of the Marlins last weekend. “Obviously, that’s what we expect of ourselves. The goal now is just to keep it up. We can’t get soft. We’ve gotta continue to play good baseball. It’s not gonna be hard for us. We’re gonna go out and battle.”
But the biggest story of the A’s rotation has been free-agent pickup Scott Kazmir. The left-hander, whose career was thought to be all over before somewhat of a revival in Cleveland in 2013, leads the team in wins (9-3), ERA (2.61) and in batting average against (.216).
While the A’s have been a very solid team throughout the first half of the season, they’re not a perfect team.
One of the team’s best hitters from 2013, Jed Lowrie, has hit just .220/.312/.328 with four homers and 31 RBI in 80 games this season and reliever Jim Johnson, who was originally brought in from Baltimore to be the A’s closer, struggled in that role which shattered the A’s bullpen. The A’s are also missing outfielder Josh Reddick, who’s missed 20-plus games now with a knee injury.
Despite the issues though, the A’s have figured out their issues and pressed forward. Johnson has been moved into a late-inning role while Sean Doolittle (12 saves, 2.90 ERA) has pitched well since taking over the closer role in mid-May.
“We seem to have gotten some of the bullpen roles ironed out and we’re better for it,” Melvin added. “But it’s only the halfway point.”
It may only be the halfway point, or technically just past it, but little ol’ Oakland has the best team in all of baseball at the current moment. If the A’s continue to play their cards right, they may have the best team in baseball when it’s all said and done in late October.
It beats being below “50 feet of crap.”