The A’s finished off one of the best first halves of baseball in their history on Sunday. They sit at 56-39 and have the fourth best winning percentage in all of baseball all awhile sitting atop the AL West over the Texas Rangers by two games. As the All Star Break is now upon us and Yoenis Céspedes home runs have finally landed somewhere in the universe we can take a breath and reflect on the first half and look ahead to the second half. The A’s have gotten consistent production and value all over the diamond so far in 2013. With that in mind here is my review of the first half, some awards, and a preview of the second half and the A’s path to a second straight postseason berth.
Jul 14, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics rush third basemanJosh Donaldson
(20) after hitting an RBI single for a walk-off win against the Boston Red Sox at O.co Coliseum. The Oakland Athletics debated the Boston Red Sox 3-2 in eleven innings. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
1st Half Review: With the A’s fresh off a stunning AL West championship and postseason berth in 2012 a new energy was felt around the East Bay and Coliseum coming into the 2013 season. Despite a somewhat slow start from the pitching staff everything seemed to click a few weeks into the season and the A’s have made another impressive run to end the first half. Bartolo Colon is in Cy Young form. Josh Donaldson emerged to become an offensive force to go along with a consistent Jed Lowrie and clutch hitting from the rest of the lineup. This run was not benefited from the likes of Céspedes or Josh Reddick or Brett Anderson. That means if they return to form in Reddick and Céspedes’ case or return the team in Anderson’s case the team will only become stronger. With the team in first place to finish the first half they will have to contend with everyone gunning for them in the second half.
1st Half MVP: Josh Donaldson. This was a little too easy. Jed Lowrie put up a fight, but Donaldson is no doubt the first half MVP.
1st Half Cy Young: Surprisingly this was a hard choice for me. Obviously, Bartolo Colon has been incredible in the first half becoming the Ace of the staff once Brett Anderson went down with injury. However, my first half Cy Young award goes to Grant Balfour. Balfour has been exceptional in the closer’s role and yes to relinquish a save opportunity. This kind of consistency is no doubt a relief to starting pitchers and late inning relievers knowing their hard work is not going for not. He even eclipsed Dennis Eckersley’s record of consecutive saves in the first half. Both are deserving but Balfour is the Cy Young.
1st Half Unsung hero: Another tough decision for this award. I am giving this to Jesse Chavez. There were some other deserving candidates such as Nate Freiman, John Jaso, Dan Straily, etc. However, Chavez gets the nod. I am somewhat biased in my decision however as what shoot out to me occurred while I was in attendance. The event that shifted the balance to Chavez’s favor was his relief appearance in the 18 inning New York Yankees game. The A’s were going for the sweep on a Wednesday afternoon. Offense was at a premium. All the relievers had been used except for Sean Doolittle and Chavez. Chavez came in threw 5.2 IP giving up one hit and two walks with seven strike outs and no runs. The A’s won that game no doubt giving them a huge boost heading into the rest of the month of June.
2nd Half Preview: The A’s start the second half against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. If the A’s can win or even sweep the series they will push the Angels closer to the brink of extinction in the 2013 season. The A’s have relatively easy second half with a lot of division games still left against the Angels, Mariners, and Astros. Even though the Mariners and Angels play well against the A’s the Green and Gold have shown they are up to the task. I see the A’s continuing to roll against their competition coming out on top in the AL West to go along with the best record in the American League.