Before the Athletics regular season truly got under way after the 2 game series in Tokyo, the guys from Swingin’ A’s laid out a few predictions for the 2012 season. Some were very optimistic, some quite the opposite. Needless to say it has been a bit of an up and down season for the A’s, and they currently sit on the fringes of already being out of the race in almost mid-June. The staff here may have dwindled a bit (If you’d like to help fill the void, click here), but the remaining members of the staff have answered a few burning questions that have come up so far. The season may not have been extremely successful, but it certainly has not lacked in interest.
We have reached the point where 100 games remain in the 2012 regular season, so I posed 5 questions to help evaluate the season thus far, without further ado let’s see what came up.
1. What has been the biggest pleasant surprise (Not named Josh Reddick)?
2. What has been the biggest disappointment (More specific than just the offense)?
3. At this point in the season, if you were Billy Beane what would you do?
4. Who would you nominate to be an AL All Star?
5. Given the first 2 months of the season, what do you expect the record to be at season’s end?
Editor, Sean Davis
1. For me the biggest pleasant surprise has been the continued success of Brandon McCarthy. No doubt about it he has has a tumultuous career with the shoulder problems he’s dealt with over the years. Last year when the A’s signed him simply for depth, he pleasantly surprised all of us with his season despite a stint on the DL. This year seemed like a major crossroads in McCarthy’s career, either he would show that last year was a fluke and regress in his performance, or he’d prove that he’s really turned a corner on the mound. Aside from his brief DL stint this year, which I think simply has to be accepted as part of the Brandon McCarthy package deal, he’s been exceptional. With a few more wins on his resume a strong case for an All Star bid could be made. In light of the fact he’ll be skipping his next start, hopefully his shoulder problems aren’t a big hinderance for the rest of the season.
2. Coco Crisp showed himself to be an extremely dynamic and useful offensive weapon for the A’s last season, so much so that the A’s saw fit to sign him to a new 2 year, $14 million contract. It’s safe to say that despite his recent warm up with the bat, he has been a massive disappointment in 2012. As with Brandon McCarthy, DL time is almost a given with Crisp at some point in the season, as has been the case with the inner ear infection that shelved Crisp recently. But his performance on the field has suffered as well, and it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why that has happened. Personally, I believe the fact that the A’s went out and signed Yoenis Cespedes and proclaimed him to be the starting CF out of the gate really irked Crisp. I believe he’s unhappy with his situation in Oakland and he’s let it hinder his play. Since Cespedes isn’t going anywhere soon, and there seemingly isn’t enough room in the outfield for the two of them, so perhaps Crisp’s time in Oakland will be short lived.
3. If I ran the Oakland Athletics, I would be feeling a strong leaning towards majorly shaking up the roster since the team as currently constituted will not succeed. As I noted in the previous question, I would actively seek a suitor for Coco Crisp and pull the trigger on a deal to move him out of Oakland. I would do the same for the likes of Seth Smith, and even as much as I hate to say it, Jonny Gomes also. Smith should be able to fetch a decent prospect in return, and his departure would open up a roster spot for a young player who needs a shot (more on that in a second). I would also see what could be had for Grant Balfour, although his struggles this season surely have diminished his value on the trade market. Brian Fuentes, if you can unload him, jump on the opportunity otherwise relegate him to mop up duty. Finally, I would get Chris Carter and Michael Taylor on the roster and in the lineup on a regular basis. They have shown so much promise in Triple A over the last few years, but haven’t had an extended opportunity in the Majors to prove themselves. It’s imperative the A’s find out once and for all if they have two useful players in their system, or if they simply have two more Quadruple A hitters.
4. This is a pretty easy answer, Josh Reddick absolutely has to be going to the All Star Game. Yoenis Cespedes was supposed to be the big 5 tool outfield addition to the roster, but Josh Reddick has shown himself to be the true prize of the offseason. Although he’s cooled somewhat recently, his .860 OPS as of June 11th is as high as I’ve seen any A’s player post in quite a long time. At this point he should definitely be the first A’s position player to make the All Star team since Ramon Hernandez in 2003. Big time honorable mention to super reliever Ryan Cook, who’s phenomenal start to the season has left few A’s fans missing the likes of Andrew Bailey (once he ultimately gets the closer job). Keep an eye on Brandon McCarthy as well.
5. The A’s have not really made any tangible progress over recent years, and it seems this year is no different. At the beginning of the season I predicted the A’s would finish with a 79-83 record, and in 3rd place. I still think they’ll finish in 3rd, but I think 75 wins is the new ceiling for 2012, they’ll end up with 73 though with their new found ability to lose games they absolutely should be winning.
Senior Staff Writer, Joseph Lopez
1. The biggest surprise for me thus far has been Josh Reddick, who has been the only hitter worth watching. But since Reddick is the obvious choice for many A’s fans, I’ll go with another guy in starting pitcher Tommy Milone. Milone, 25, came over in the Gio Gonzalez trade and has proven to be a solid addition for the pitching-heavy Athletics. Milone leads the team in wins with six and owns a nifty 3.77 ERA in 76.1 innings of work this year. He’s had his few up’s and down’s so far in his inaugural campaign with the A’s, but Milone has shown early on this year that he can be a solid and dependable arm in Oakland’s rotation for years to come.
2. The biggest disappointment this year has been Oakland’s offense. Among the biggest disappointments this year has been catcher Kurt Suzuki. His talent behind the plate should go unquestioned. He handles Oakland’s young rotation year in and year out, but the backstop’s offensive production has been worrisome. The former clutch hitter from Cal State Fullerton has seen his bat grow cold in recent seasons. This year isn’t much different, as the 28-year old is hitting just .219/.260/.279 with no home runs and 16 RBIs in 52 games. The A’s have a pretty good hitting prospect in Derek Norris, another crucial piece from the Gonzalez trade, so Suzuki’s time as Oakland’s full-time catcher could be coming to a close.
3. If I were Billy Beane, I wouldn’t do much else than finally call-up Manny Ramirez. The A’s aren’t in a position to win, so pulling the trigger on the Ramirez call-up is pretty low risk. It would be a nice experiment for the younger guys on the team, too. Learning from a veteran player like Ramirez could help the A’s turn things around on offense a bit. Another course of action could be flipping hot-hitting Josh Reddick for a few prospects. Beane’s done that before in the past. Remember Carlos Gonzalez? The Rockies’ power-hitting outfielder, who just couldn’t cut it in Oakland after being handed such a short leash?
4. I would nominate Josh Reddick as Oakland’s All-Star representative. It’s an obvious choice. Probably too obvious.
5. The A’s are headed in the wrong direction and so I’m inclined to update my pre-season predictions. I had the A’s pegged for an 81-81 record and a shot for third-place seemed reasonable. Now? Well, things have changed. The A’s are, in my eyes, anyway, headed for a last-place finish and another sub-.500 record. 70 wins now seems like a stretch.
Staff Writer, Devin Pangaro
1. Biggest Surprise: Coming into the season, the bullpen did little to inspire my confidence. On paper. the A’s simply did not have a shutdown guy to bridge the gap to the closer and essentially shorten the game. Entrusting the 8th inning to candidates such as Brian Fuentes, Jordan Noberto, and Andrew Carignan seemed like a sure fire way to trigger a heart attack. Simply speaking, the A’s needed someone to step up and dominate. Answering the call, was Ryan Cook. Coming out of oblivion to open the season with a 23 inning scoreless streak was both unbelievable and incredible. Striking out 21 hitters in that time, while allowing a microscopic OBA of .056, he quickly became the A’s most trusted and dominant reliever. Making him the biggest surprise of 2012.
2. Biggest Disappointment: Although he’s never done much to merit comparisons to the better shortstops in the league, Cliff Pennington has been an utter offensive disgrace thus far in 2012. It be easy to stick up for him, if he showed virtually any redeeming quality with the bat. But no, he is completely inept as a switch hitter putting up splits of .186/.200/.271 as a righty and .195/.272/.260 as a lefty. As you can see, he is simply not a Major League hitter. While his defense for the most part is acceptable, and his arm in on par with a small cannon he simply doesn’t do enough offensively to pass for a league average player. Penny in many way symbolizes the struggles of the A’s offense, with his propensity to pop up, ground out, and strike out in nearly every at bat he is the very epitome of a disappointment in my book.
3. Billy Beane is about as unpredictable as they come. Yet, if I were him I’d give the team another month before I opened up shop before the trade deadline. While the team may have overachieved for the first six weeks of the season, I truly believe they are better then they showed during the nightmare that was the nine game losing streak. Essentially we’re looking at a team that could flirt with .500 if everyone is healthy and the bats pick it up a little bit. I think his best strategy here is to wait and see, before making any sudden moves.
4. While the A’s may have a few fringe candidates for the All-Star team. none is more deserving in my eye then Josh Reddick. His 14 home runs, rank amongst the lead leaguers despite playing nearly a month without Yoenis Cespedes batting behind him to provide protection. He’s really put a stronghold as the number 3 hitter in the A’s lineup and quite simply with his long hair and predilection for pro wrestling he’s beginning to resemble Jason Giambi more and more each day. Without a doubt, he should be the first Oakland position player to attend the midsummer classic since 2003.
5. The first month of the season had me really excited, I thought our young pitching was blossoming, our offense was finally acceptable and the addition of Brandon Inge provided stability and veteran leadership. The team exuded a scrappiness and resilience that was sorely missing during the Bob Geren era. Then came the losing streak, and the team regressed back to 2010. In truth, I believe the A’s are somewhere in between these two teams, I still want a respectable year however. If everyone gets healthy, I can foresee a season of 80-82. While that’s not going to bring home a pennant, I think with this team it will go a long way to providing hope for the future.