Aug 6, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin (6) in the dug out during the third inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports
With their loss on Tuesday night in Cincinnati against the Reds, the A’s find themselves in danger of losing their grasp on first-place. The red-hot Rangers are making up some serious ground as of late and Oakland has been scuffling along for the past week or so.
The vibe around the A’s, so it seems, has begun to change.
Last year, the A’s carried with them a certain vibe that helped capture the team’s first playoff appearance and division title since 2006. The A’s entered this season with higher expectations, but people around baseball still had doubts about Oakland’s chances at repeating success for a second-year in a row.
The A’s have had sole possession of first-place this season since July 2, but their AL West counterparts in Texas are aiming to change things. The A’s have enjoyed success this year despite their obvious flaws on offense and defense. Pitching has been the key ingredient to Oakland’s success this year, but the team is showing some signs of finally slowing down.
Offensively, the A’s are not performing well enough to repeat as division champs. The defense has been inconsistent all year-long and the pitching staff, led by 40-year old Bartolo Colon, can’t be expected to continue carrying the bulk of Oakland’s troubles.
Entering Wednesday, several of Oakland’s key offensive leaders from a year ago, are slumping big time. The A’s have Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, and Brandon Moss all underperforming on offense. Cespedes has a 23.8% strikeout rate this year, up from last year’s 18.2% rate.
Reddick, who missed time in May due to a wrist injury, has been a big disappointment offensively for Oakland. In 81 games, Reddick owns a .205 batting average and just five homers. Reddick’s drop in production has definitely taken a toll on Oakland’s lineup.
Even more disheartening news is the fact that Oakland’s best player during the first half, 3B Josh Donaldson, has seriously struggled since the All-Star break. He is hitting just .196/.338/.214 after hitting .310/.379/.522 during the first-half. As a team, the A’s are hitting just .243 on the year.
Fundamentally speaking, the A’s are not an overpowering team, but at first glance their offensive numbers suggest that the team has definitely struggled all season long. With Donaldson slumping, the offense suddenly becomes much weaker.
Taking out Donaldson from a lineup already hurt by the underperforming trio of Cespedes, Reddick, and Moss, means the A’s are going to need even more production from some of their supporting cast. Seth Smith, Eric Sogard, the newly acquired Alberto Callaspo, and Chris Young will have to step it up.
The talent is definitely there with Cespedes and Reddick, but inconsistent play has plagued them and the A’s at times this year.
Offensively, Jed Lowrie has been Oakland’s most consistent player. He’s remained healthy all year-long and has remained a constant in Oakland’s inconsistent lineup.
Defensively, however, Lowrie’s glove work has been a cause for concern. He has 15 errors on the year, while Oakland as a team ranks 17th in baseball with 66 team errors.
Things have not been falling in place for the A’s in the last week or so and the feeling around this club is beginning to shift.
The A’s are, for the moment, in a bit of a slide. It has not derailed them in any way, simply because there is a ton of baseball still left to be played.
The vibe around this team, however, is not quite the same anymore. The A’s had a six game lead in the west on July 29, but have just a one-game advantage over second-place Texas heading into Wednesday.
The A’s have talent to win another division title this year, but the vibe won’t quite be the same if they do.