It’s been forever since I’ve written a post. I don’t really have a good excuse except that maybe I was a little depressed that all three of my Oakland teams might soon leave the city that I’ve always rooted for. I won’t be mad if they stay in the Bay Area, but that’s far from guaranteed. It’s not that I haven’t been watching sports, but my week off from the blog turned into two, then two months, then four. If we actually have some readers out there still, I’m sorry! Maybe the A’s will get me rolling again now that I don’t have to talk about stadium situations and can talk about the awesomeness of the team.
By now you’ve probably at least heard of the A’s remarkable winning stretch in July, but it dates back to June 10th just after they lost 9 games in a row. At that point in the season I thought the A’s were done, I didn’t watch many games, but in the midst of a nine game losing streak who really does want to watch their team go through misery. Since June 10th, they’ve won 24 of 33 games, and moved into a tie for the second wild card spot and are only a half game behind the Angels in the AL West, after sweeping the Yankees in a four game series this weekend. Are they contenders? They’ve taken 5 of 6 from Texas this season, and won the series against the Yankees (the two best teams in baseball), so it’s not out of the question. It’s so crazy that every time the game is within a run or two going into the last couple innings, the team, the fans, and even the other team seems to feel like the A’s are going to win, and for this month plus run it’s happened nearly every time. They have 11 walk off hits from 11 different guys (None named Manny Ramierez who was supposedly a huge risk to sign). I don’t think they had 11 walk off wins in the past three years combined! Will they keep up this torrid pace? Probably not, but they’ve shown that they are going to make every team get all 27 outs every game, and can’t be counted out even when they’re down to their last strike. Since everyone has the stats I just regurgitated on the A’s I figured I’d go through their roster and let you know some interesting things about some of the seemingly 40 key contributors on the 25-man roster.
Yoenis Cespedes – If you haven’t heard about him by now, you must not watch baseball. I’ve heard a lot of comparisons of who he could be, and I’d pick Bo Jackson as my comparison. If Yo knew football, he could be a running back. Good thing they don’t play football in Cuba or he may never have made it onto the A’s roster. With him in the lineup the A’s are 38-24 without, 12-20. To say he makes a difference when he’s out there is the understatement of the post. Oh and he’s 18 for 38 with 4 homers during the last 9 games. There’s a ton of press out there on Trout being the MVP and ROY. Maybe there should be a little talk about Cespedes. After hitting .150 on breaking pitches before his hammy and hand injuries, he’s now hitting over .400 on breaking pitches since the injuries. I’d say Yo knows adjustments. To top it off, all the beat writers seem to think he’s a very nice guy.
Josh Reddick – It’s the first time we’ve had the 3 and 4 hitters in the lineup that A’s fans can be confident in for the last six years. Looking back, I can’t believe we had Suzuki as our clean up hitter for two years. While Reddick’s 21 homers has been very nice, he also leads the MLB in outfield assists with 9 showing off his arm. He seems to give the team the Nick Swisher mindset keeping everyone focused and loose at the same time, and is a true leader.
The Pen – Probably the most underrated part of this team. Once they got rid of Fuentes the bullpen seemingly has no holes. No doubt the starting pitching has been amazing, but the bullpen is also leading the AL in bullpen ERA, and has been a huge reason the A’s have the best team ERA in all of baseball. Sean Doolittle was a highly touted first base prospect that switched to being a reliever less than a year ago. All he’s done is pitch lights out after flying through the minor leagues this season and continued that success on the big stage to the tune of nearly two K’s per inning. Ryan Cook, the A’s All-Star rookie was thought to be a throw in during the Cahill deal. He started his career with a 29 inning scoreless streak. Though he’s faltered a little lately, his 42 appearances have only yielded 8 total runs given up over 42 innings of work. Not bad for a throw in. Evan Scribner has quietly worked his way into the back end of the bullpen when they have a lead. He’s a waiver wire pick up from the Padres and keeps getting them out of tough situations when the starter hits that rare wall. Grant Balfour and the much maligned Jerry Blevins have been putting up zeros after a tough start to the season. One cool thing about their bullpen is that nearly every guy throws in the mid-90′s and has at least one nasty breaking pitch, which was even more of a reason to DFA Fuentes.
Jarrod Parker - What’s not to like about the Cahill deal? Parker seems like a better and cheaper pitcher than him, and we got our closer and back up catcher out of the deal as well. 12 of his 16 starts this season he’s given up two runs or less, and he’s still learning in his rookie season! One of those bad starts was when he had the flu as well, so that’s a high percentage of quality starts for even a veteran.
Tommy Milone - The first couple times I saw him pitch I wasn’t too sold, but 9 wins later and I’m a believer. Just like Parker, Milone has the ablilty to make his fastball come out of his hand the exact same way his change up comes out keeping hitters off balanced. They might square one up, but that’s just because they guessed right. While Parker throws quite a bit harder, they are like the lefty and righty versions of themselves.
Aussies in the Rotation - Travis Blackley was cut by the Giants, and the A’s promptly swooped him up and threw him into some starts when the always injured Brandon McCarthy was on the DL. He didn’t pile on wins, but for a waiver wire pickup he’s posted a nice 3.36 ERA. Blackley has pitched all over the world and has taken advantage of his chance to shine in the A’s rotation in what was possibly his last shot in the big leagues. AJ Griffin, the third Aussie pitcher on the team, was the A’s 13th round 2010 pick. All he’s done is go 2-0 pitching into the 6th in every start with a 2.72 ERA. Not sure if either will still be in the rotation when/if McCarthy ever is healthy and with the return of Brett Anderson looming, but I’m a fan of both these guys.
1B Platoon - To say I was happy when they finally sent Barton down to AAA for good doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings about him. The Brandon Moss and Chris Carter platoon is working beautifully over the last month. A position that the A’s have had a tough time filling seemingly since Giambi left, they finally seem to have a good situation going. I’ll credit Melvin for putting them into good positions, because they both play a decent amount, and both seem to produce when they’re in there. They are two of the eleven walk off heroes.
Actually have power - Between Brandon Inge, Seth Smith, the 1B platoon, and Johnny Gomes they finally have players that can hit the ball out of the park outside their 3-4 hitters. When Inge hits another one, they’ll have six players with 10 or more homers. That hasn’t happened for them in a season for years let alone 2/3 of the way through one. For those of you that still think Billy Beane only cares about OBP, think again, he’s shifted to a less patient squad that hits the long ball over taking a bunch of walks. They are aggressive early in the count and often if they see a pitch they like.
Bob Melvin - He might be the manager of the year. Every button he pushes seems to work out well. His spring training mantra of running out every play has kept them all hustling on every play. He’s been part of winning teams before and knows how to motivate these guys even when everyone picked them to finish last in the division. Since he took over last year it looks like the players are having fun out there instead of when Boob Geren was just having them go through the motions, and even admitted to not knowing how to do a double switch.
The Lowlights - Jemile Weeks shows a flash or two of last season, but then promptly goes back into a slump. He hasn’t looked very patient at the plate swinging at a lot of bad pitches. Coco would be on this list with him, but he’s picked it up lately including his walk off hit yesterday. Kurt Suzuki has been a huge disappointment this year. He has been hurt, but if you can’t contribute anything on offense, I’ll take my chances with a rookie at catcher. He finally hit his first homer of the season, so maybe this will get him turned around. Cliff Pennington’s average fell off a cliff this year. Like Suzuki maybe he’s been injured since he just went on the DL, but his offensive production hitting under .200 with no significant signs of improvement make that the position most likely in need of an upgrade.