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2013 Oakland A’s Preview

April 1, 2013

In the past I have done these a bit differently. I’ve gone player by player and talked about everyone. I am going to keep it a lot simpler this year and just sort of talk more generally. The A’s last year won the division. No realistic A’s fan thought this was possible, those optimists who are excited and optimistic were crazy if they foresaw what happened. The pitching had question marks, the offense was a question mark and Texas and Los Angeles were juggernauts who were destined to beat Oakland into the ground. Of course it didn’t end up that way. Guys like Josh Reddick who were expected to be “solid” or “above average” turned out to be much more than that. Jarrod Parker pitched brilliantly, the depth of the rotation meant guys like A.J. Griffin and Travis Blackley who were either “who?” or not on the A’s at the beginning of the year took leading roles in ensuring the A’s succeeded. Guys we thought we could count on like Jemile Weeks turned into persona non grata pretty quickly. That’s the way it is though, this year will be no different. The 25 men who begin today will be different from the 25 men on this team in May or June and beyond. That said, here are some broad strokes for 2013.

The pitching worries me. Brett Anderson looks great on top, but his last healthy season was 2009. His only healthy season was 2009. So if all goes right, he makes 32 starts great. But that seems to be asking a lot. Then you have Parker, Tommy Milone and Griffin. Three pitchers who have a combined two and a half years of MLB experience. That is confidence inspiring? Bartolo Colon then is a huge question mark. How much of his success is PED related? Mentioned in the Biogenesis reports is he someone who suddenly could be on the hook for a 100 game suspension? Furthermore, last year the A’s pitchers dropped like flies if that happens again – again something not entirely outside the realm of possibility – who do the A’s depend on? Dan Straily (1/5 of a season’s experience), Andrew Werner (basically no experience), Pedro Figueroa (basically no experience), Bruce Billings (basically no experience)? You get the drift. Starting pitching is a fickle thing and the A’s just don’t have a lot of depth. While they’ve had a magic trick of turning crap into gold year-in-year-out, the A’s can’t hope to perform that trick forever.

The bullpen on the other hand is incredible. The depth extends to the MiLB roster and one could argue Sacramento’s relief corps might even be passable as a second division MLB pen. The A’s have a lot of interesting options and the depth they have there is so significant that I think it could be used to help shore up problems elsewhere even though traditionally relievers do not fetch much in trades. The bullpen is one area where there is little concern and if there is a hiccup with a guy in Oakland, the confidence should be high that there are lots of very feasible and solid options waiting just up I-80.

Offensively I think this team takes a step back. They struck out an awful lot in 2012 setting an American League record and I don’t expect that to change that much. There are serious questions regarding Josh Donaldson, Hiroyuki Nakajima and Scott Sizemore. While I don’t question Jed Lowrie‘s abilities, I do question his ability to stay healthy which many will argue is a skill in its own right. Nate Freiman has never seen action above Double-A, and he will platoon with Brandon Moss whose .291/.358/.596 slash line and .402 wOBA and 160 wRC+ will not be repeated. That means a big potential step back for a squad that didn’t really represent a strong point to begin with. Behind the plate John Jaso is an upgrade over Kurt Suzuki but how much of one? It seems to depend on which Jaso you get. Derek Norris should continue to develop but again, there is an awful lot of trust being put in someone with a very short resume.

The outfield is another area of strength and if one of these areas of weakness proves to be too much the outfield depth is mineable. Chris Young will be a rotating backup and DH along with Seth Smith. Reddick, Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes offer perhaps the strongest defensive outfield other than the Angels’. If one of these guys is to be voted off the island I’d vote Crisp whose low on base percentage gives me fits, but realistically his speed is a game changer and despite his pathetic arm his defense is great.

All together this is a good team but not a great team. Here is the huge caveat that can be said of virtually any team, I can see this as a team that wins 90 or a team that wins 70. I have them a hair above .500, I figure they win 82 or so. Things go their way they can bump that up to 92 wins and could be in the playoffs, things don’t that could be about 72 and they are hoping to stay ahead of the Mariners for third place. That all said, this is why they play the games! Let’s go Oakland!

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