First Half Report Card: Oakland Athletics
With the All-Star break already here, I thought it would be a good time to do a little First Half Report Card of the Oakland A’s. Needless to say this team has far exceeded expectations, except mine, especially being 43-43 at the All-Star Break. Many pegged this team to have closer to 25-35 win range by the All-Star break due in large part to the off-season moves that Billy Beane made before the season by trading away Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, Andrew Bailey, and not attempting to re-sign Josh Willingham. There were warranted questions and anxiety with the team that the Athletics were fielding this year and who could blame anyone when all that was coming back from these trades were unknowns. So without further ado, your Oakland Athletics First Half Report Card…
Seriously, who would have known that Josh Reddick was going to be this good this fast for the Oakland Athletics. In my opinion, he is the A’s best outfielder considering both his play and his ability to stay off the DL and on the field. Reddick leads the team in BA (.268), HR (20), and RBI’s (49) along with having a solid OBP of .348, SLG% .532, and OPS of .880. He has also seemed to have taken a strong leadership role within the club house while also being the king of the pie in the face. Yoenis Cespedes was a very close second but his inability to stay on the field has to be a little concerning. Hopefully the sprained thumb that he received in the final game versus Seattle is healed along with the nagging hamstring injury in time for the start of the second half on Friday versus the Minnesota Twins. Rounding out the outfield is Seth Smith who has been a welcome addition for the A’s from the left side of the plate as well as a solid plug-in for Cespedes while he was out. The one question mark is still Coco Crisp, who as of late has been playing a lot better but the fact that he has essentially forced Cespedes into playing Left field is very concerning. Cespedes has looked lost at times in left considering he has pretty much played center field his entire career. Which definitely begs the question, will Coco still be with the A’s after the trade deadline?
The infield has played infinitely better than they did last year at this time. The A’s were 29th last season in fielding and committed a deplorable 124 errors. At least this season they have seemed to have righted the ship and are currently ranked 17th in defense and have only committed 57 errors with a Defensive Efficiency Rating of .713 placing them 2nd in all of MLB. Defense alone does not an infield make which is why I graded the infield a C- due to their inability to provide consistent offense. Jemile Weeks, Cliff Pennington, Brandon Inge, and Kurt Suzuki are the main reasons that the Athletics overall batting average is dead last in all of baseball with a .225 average and pretty much all other advanced offensive statistics.
Weeks seems to be slowly working himself out of the notorious sophomore slump year by ending his last 7 games before the All-Star break hitting .316, OBP of .409, SLG of .316, and OPS of .725.The signing of Brandon Inge brought stability to the left side of the infield but other than the hot bat Inge had when he got to Oakland, it has been pretty cold ever since. Pennington and Suzuki are brothers of the mendoza line and don’t really seem to be heading anywhere north of it any time soon. The two bright spots for the infield have come at 1st base where the most turn over has happened and who would have guessed Brandon Moss and Chris Carter would be the 2 players left standing and platooning there. Not I, but Moss has continued to hit for power since being called up with 10 HR’s, 18 RBI’s, SLG .644, and crazy OPS of .959. While Carter who’s only had 17 AB’s after being called up has wasted no time contributing with 3 HR’s, 5 RBI’s, and BA of .353. If 1st base can continue to get the type of productions it’s been getting and Weeks begins to gain his form from last year, the offense can’t help but be better in the second half of the season.
Even though the A’s are tied for the 3rd best ERA in all of baseball with a 3.39, a WHIP of 1.24, and a BAA of .239, I just couldn’t quite give them an A-. The main reason has been health and the inability of both Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon not to miss a couple of starts. McCarthy has been the riskiest of the two starters because of the flair ups that he has been having in his pitching shoulder. As for Colon, well he’s just Colon and every time he has to cover first or field a bunt I cringe and hope everything goes OK. As for the rookies on the staff, namely Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, and the Athletics lone All-Star Ryan Cook. These 3 rookies have pitched amazingly considering the fact that Parker wasn’t even supposed to be called up yet, Milone is having his first full year as a starter, and Cook had come into Spring Training as a set-up man and is now the A’s lights out closer. Over Parker and Milone’s last 10 starts they are 5-2 with identical WHIP’s of 1.09, with Parker sporting an ERA of 2.30 and Milone having an ERA of 3.09. While Cook has compiled a 1.41 ERA, is 8 of 11 in Save Opportunities, and is posting an ungodly BAA of .105 and WHIP of 0.89.
The rest of the bullpen has seemed to have turned a corner with guys like Balfour finally getting back on track with his set up role while Jordan Norberto and Jeremy Blevins are finding their stride as lefties out of the bullpen. Another great story for the A’s bullpen has been the emergence of the hard throwing lefty Sean Doolittle. He converted himself to a pitcher as a last resort to try and stay in the majors after a brief career at first base was taking him now where fast. Doolittle now provides another power arm out of the pen to go along with Cook and Norberto. Plus don’t forget the fact that starter’s like A.J. Griffin and Travis Blackley are also contributing when no one expected them too.
If both the starting pitching and excellent bullpen continue to pitch the way they have in the first half of the season, my prediction of the A’s possibly getting into the wildcard race may not look so crazy after all.
Bob Melvin has done wonders with this team and the fact that he has been able to get so much out of such a young team speaks volumes to the type of manager that he is. I know the A’s are only 43-43 but you cannot tell me with a straight face that if this same team was being managed under Bob Geren that it would be anywhere near that mark. Melvin has single handedly started to change the culture in the club house which is beginning to translate to winning on the field. Let us also not forget about the great job that Curt Young has done with the young pitching staff.
Final First Half Grade: B
For what the pundits had in store for the A’s this season, the fact that they are .500 at the break and playing some inspired baseball has me even more optimistic for a surging second half. Sure they won’t be able to catch the Rangers who are running away with the AL West. But if they start getting more consistency from the Offense and the pitching holds up, why can’t the A’s challenge for the 2nd Wild Card spot. No one said that this year would be easy especially with all the moves during the off-season. But this is by far the most fun I’ve had watching A’s baseball in a while and I’m starting to believe that this team just may be able to pull of the impossible. Wild Card or BUST!
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