The writers at Swingin’ As took the time to answer some questions regarding the first half and previewed the second half. With the A’s beginning the second half tonight read through the answers and see where your answers line up.
Jul 14, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Boston Red Sox shortstopJose Iglesias
(10) leaves the field as Oakland Athletics surround 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
1. First Half MVP
Andrew Brown [AB] (Staff writer) Josh Donaldson without a doubt. His offensive breakthrough and defensive improvements have carried the A’s offense in the absence of production from Yoenis Céspedes and Josh Reddick. Bartolo Colon and Grant Balfourhave strong cases as well, but Donaldson certainly gets it in my opinion.
Devin Pangaro [DP] (Staff writer)- Josh Donaldson. Make no mistake about it, Donaldson’s maturation into one of the games elite third basemen has been a complete joy to watch. As his 4.2 WAR will attest to, he’s hands down been Oakland’s best offensive and defensive player. With his confidence in full-swing, there’s no other Athletic I’d rather see bat with the game on the line.
Sean Davis [SD] (Editor)- The easy answer would be Josh Donaldson, but I have to go with Bartolo Colon. The pitching staff struggled badly early on, but Colon was a stabilizing force then, and has pitched like an ace lately. Without Colon’s contribution the Athletics are likely not in the position they find themselves right now.
Kevin Mendez [KM] (Staff writer)- Although there are many MVP worthy players on the Oakland Athletics, I have to pick Bartolo Colon as my MVP for the first half of the season. It’s hard to pick a guy who only plays every five games, especially when there is a player like Josh Donaldson who has been huge for the A’s all season long, but Colon brings more to the table than just his performance. Bartolo Colon is 40 years old and is having his best season since 2005 when he went 21-8 with a 3.48 ERA. He finished the first half of this season with a 12-3 record and a 2.70 ERA – good enough to make the all-star team. Nobody expected to get this type of production from Colon. Not only has he established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball, he is the veteran leader that the A’s and it’s young pitching staff needs. When the A’s pitching staff was doing poorly he showed them way to success; when Brett Anderson, who was supposed to be the teams ace and horse, got hurt, Colon took over and filled the hole. Without Colon stepping up the way he has, the A’s would not be where they are going into the second half of the season. That is why Bartolo Colon is my first half MVP.
2. First half unsung hero
AB- My first half unsung hero goes to Jesse Chavez. He came into some tough situations, i.e. the 18 inning Yankee games, and stepped up when it mattered most. His long relief role has brought back memories of Travis Blackley from last season.
DP- Jed Lowrie. Heading into Spring Training, it appeared that Lowrie was destined for some sort of super-utility role ala Ben Zobrist. Following the injury of Scott Sizemore, and the demotions of Jemile Weeks and Hiro Nakajima it was made abundantly clear that the Athletics contingency plan was about to pay dividends. As the starting shortstop, Lowrie has settled in as the Athletics most consistent player. A virtual lineup chameleon, he has provided the A’s with a .295/.364/.424 line, with 7 home runs and 37 RBI’s.
SD- Jed Lowrie has flown way under the radar, both nationally and locally. He was barely considered for the All-Star team, and falls way behind the likes of Josh Donaldson and Coco Crisp in importance to the team locally. But his numbers rank among the best shortstops in the American League, and despite some defensive struggles has shored up the shortstop position quite nicely.
KM- The unsung hero for the A’s is the entire coaching staff. Bob Melvin continues to make all the right decisions and he puts his players in the best position to succeed. Chili Davis has his guys hitting the ball better than ever. Curt Young has continued to bring the best out in all of his pitchers and the rest of the coaching staff continues to do their job at a high level. Coaches tend to get overlooked and I’m glad I can pay tribute to the A’s wonderful coaching staff.
3. Best moment in first half
AB- I think most of us will agree the 18 inning win against the Yankees to complete the sweep will go down as the best moment of the first half. Not only was it Mariano Rivera’s last day pitching at the Coliseum, but also the A’s got some timely performances by virtually unknown players at the time in Nate Freiman and Jesse Chavez.
DP- It may seem a bit bias, but the near sweep of the World Champion San Francisco Giants sticks out most in my mind. Not only because of all the territorial fodder that went with it, but because the A’s were finally able to win in front of a large crowd at the O.Co and solidify themselves as force to be reckoned with.
SD- The 19-inning game on April 29th stands out for me. I was in attendance and stayed for the entire game. The delirious celebration when Brandon Moss took Barry Enright deep to win the game is something I will never forget. Only about a thousand people remained to see the home run, but the energy made it feel like the place was packed at 1:42 AM.
KM- My favorite moment in the first half has to be the 18-inning walk-off against the New York Yankees. The special part about it was that I was in attendance and it will most likely be the last time I ever see Mariano Rivera pitch live ever again considering he is retiring at the end of the season. But it was also fun to see the rookie, Nate Freiman, get the walk-off hit against the future Hall of Famer. I got the opportunity to talk to Freiman about his walk-off hit against the best closer in the history of baseball and he said it was very surreal. He grew up a Boston Red Sox fan so he grew up watching Mo close down his favorite team. Freiman said it was nice to be on the winning side against Rivera and the fact that he was the one to get the hit made it that much sweeter. Shout out to Grant Balfour for breaking Eckersley’s record as well – that was pretty special.
4. Second half sleeper
AB– John Jaso. Jaso has been extremely consistent behind the plate so far in 2013, but I see him surging offensively in the second half of the season. He continues to get on base at a high clip, but his average and power numbers will rise as he gets more comfortable adjusting to Oakland.
DP- Josh Reddick. It’s been a bit of a lost season for Reddick so far. Injuries and a carryover of lasts seasons slump, have crippled his numbers and left him with a paltry .218/.300/.345 batting line as we head to the second half. There are reasons for optimism, however. During the last road trip, Reddick had several strong offensive games and consistently made hard contact. If he can get back on track and provide a strong second half, then the sky is truly the limit for the Oakland offense.
SD- Without a doubt Yoenis Céspedes has been a sleeping giant all season long. Despite his 15 home runs, he has never gotten hot. I believe his incredible Home Run Derby performance will spark his bat to recapture that power stroke and he’ll be in for a big second half.
KM- My choice for second half sleeper is Jed Lowrie. While most A’s fans may not consider him a sleeper pick because of his great season, I think it’s what he allows Bob Melvin to do with the line-up that makes him a sleeper. Lowrie is hitting .295 with 7 home runs, 37 RBI, and has scored 41 times – nothing about these numbers make him a sleeper. But Lowrie has allowed Bob Melvin to use him all over the line-up and he has continued to produce. The important aspect of this is that it helps make Melvin’s platoon systems more affective. Not only can he shake up the order and plug the right guy into the line-up, but he always has Lowrie balance out the line-up. Lowrie can hit at he top of the order and get on base for the run producers, or he can hit in the heart of the order and be the run producer. He can also play both middle-infield positions. This is a luxury that any manger would love to have and Melvin knows how to use it to perfection.
5. Second half predictions
AB- The A’s will continue their run of success into October carrying along with them a second straight AL West crown. It will be an interesting postseason with the races in the AL West and East both being extremely close. How far the A’s will go in the postseason will be determined by their pitching and clutch hitting.
DP- As excellent as first half as the Athletics have had, it wouldn’t surprise me if they continue the dogfight with the Texas Rangers into the final week of the season. With that said, I can see the A’s finishing with a record of 96-66 and repeating as division champs with Texas finishing close behind.
SD- With Céspedes getting hot, I think the Athletics will continue to fight off the Texas Rangers and repeat as AL West Champions. It won’t be easy, and they may even lose the division lead at points down the stretch, but they have all the tools to ultimately withstand the onslaught from the Rangers and emerge victorious.
KM- I expect the Athletics to surge in the second half like they always seem to do. They have emerged as one of the best teams in all of baseball and I believe they have what it takes to be at the top when it’s all said and done.
6. Trade deadline predictions
AB- With the A’s having no obvious need I see them possibly looking for some relief help, but other than that it should be a quiet trade deadline for the Green and Gold. Even with the speculation of a second base upgrade I don’t see Billy Beane selling the farm for an expensive rental.
DP- As alluring as an addition of Chase Utley may be, I can’t see the Athletics mortgaging the farm for him or anyone else. Top prospects such as Sonny Gray and Michael Choice should be off-limits, which leads me to lean towards acquiring help in the bullpen. I’d like to see Oakland explore the option of adding a late innings reliever such as Jesse Crain. Someone with experience, who could take a little heat of Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle as we reach the dog days of Summer.
SD- I don’t foresee any major impact moves being made, and I don’t think any are necessary. I think perhaps a left-handed reliever could be on the way, and possibly a middle to back end of the rotation starter as well. I don’t see a middle infielder being brought in because the price tag for a player like Chase Utley will prove to be too steep.
KM- I expect the A’s to make a trade for a middle-infielder at some point. There have been numerous rumors going around about Utley, Rollins, Young, and many other players getting traded to the A’s. I am sure Billy Beane will make a big move as well as make some under the radar moves that will have a big impact on the result of the season.