Sonny Gray. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
It has been widely documented that the A’s have had trouble getting past the first round of the playoffs in the past thirteen years. They have reached the ALCS just once, in 2006 while making the playoffs seven times in that span. But you already knew that.
The 2014 version of the Oakland Athletics is a different breed. The A’s pitching, which has already been stellar, was bolstered with the addition of Luke Gregerson to the bullpen. Gregerson can pitch to both righties and lefties effectively. The A’s will also benefit from a full year of Sonny Gray in the rotation. He will have growing pains, much like Jarrod Parker did last year, but he will be ready to shine come playoff time.
The A’s generally rely on pitching to hold the other team down, and scrape out a couple of runs to win their games. While the pitching staff will most likely hold opponents, the A’s offense is very capable of putting up some runs. Last season, they ranked 4th in baseball in runs per game.
Now why is 2014 going to be different? The addition of Gregerson, when paired with Cook, Doolittle and Johnson shortens the game to 5 innings. The A’s strength is many team’s weakness. Their bullpen. If the A’s can’t score against a team’s starter, they will win late against their bullpen.
If the A’s offense was so good last season, why didn’t they make the ALCS then? The A’s rely a lot on the long ball. The key to winning in the playoffs is hitting in the gaps, hitting with 2 outs and runners in scoring position, and moving runners over. We all know Sogard can bunt (ask Matt Garza), but only a handful of other sluggers can be trusted with this task.
Enter Craig Gentry. Gentry hit .320 and had a .480 On Base Percentage with 2 out and runners in scoring position. At the very least, he isn’t going to kill the rally with those stats. He will prolong the rally for the next guy up by getting on base, wear down the pitcher or simply get a hit himself.
Billy Beane has cooked a lot of gumbo in his tenure with the A’s, but this 2014 batch will prove to be his finest to date.