The Astros have some competition in the AL West, especially from the Oakland Athletics.
As one of baseball’s top teams, both due to the on-field talent and background scandals, the Astros come into 2020 with high expectations. However, with a shortened season and budding competition, their spot atop the AL West has become increasingly contentious.
Anyone can play a part in the pennant race in 2020, but one team who will be the Astros’ biggest challenger is the Oakland Athletics.
The A’s have consecutive 97-win seasons ending in first-round playoff exits in the Wild Card game. They are clearly a talented baseball team, just one step short of greatness. That will change though in 2020.
Oakland’s deep rotation will make the difference in the shortened season.
Last season, the Athletics missed two of their best pitchers for most of the year. Sean Manea had only five starts, winning four of them behind an incredible 1.21 ERA.
Oakland’s opening day starter, Frankie Montas, was on track for a stellar campaign before a suspension ended his season, debuting with a 9-2 record and 2.63 ERA in 16 starts.
Yes, it is a small sample size, but actually a good indicator of how things may look in 2020. If it’s anything like those numbers, the Athletics have a lethal one-two punch. A.J. Puk and Jesus Luzardo, along with Mike Fiers’ bad blood with the Astros, create a deep starting rotation crucial in the war of attrition this year will be.
Behind the starters is a dominant bullpen, with closer Liam Hendriks thriving in his limited work and earning a spot in the All-Star Game. Equally reliable options come with Yusmeiro Petit and Jake Diekman in his first full year in the green and yellow.
But the A’s are not a one-dimensional side, as they boast talent to the plate. The sluggers are healthy again, notably Khris Davis, Matt Olson and Stephen Piscotty, injured for nearly half the season.
There is a running theme here: The A’s were great in 2019 without being at full strength. With a shortened season, a healthy lineup and the question of where the Astros focus will be, the A’s should be favorites to claim the AL West crown.