Oakland Athletics: Better Than You Think


Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s skip the formalities. Here is a quick synopsis of Mark’s latest article “Pitchers Don’t Bounce.” Blah Blah Blah World Series titles. Blah Blah Blah All-Star game appearances.

Now you’re caught up.

It was a tired rehash of previous arguments in favor of the Giants, without any real research about what the injuries to the Oakalnd Athletics may actual mean. Let me enlighten you.

First, let me rehash some points I’ve brought up in our back and forth.

  • Sonny Gray will be the ace of the staff in 2014. Yes, he has been put into this role due to injuries, but his line against the Giants last week was impressive. 5.2 IP, 3 Hits, 1 Walk, 1 Run and 7 K’s. You know, ace-type stuff.
  • Scott Kazmir will be an upgrade over Bartolo Colon. After watching him pitch Thursday, heck all spring, who wants to argue that point.
  • Michael Morse is terrible at defense. I mean, you saw him drop a routine fly ball too right? Not to mention the ball he dove for that went all the way to the wall. But his offense should be an upgrade, albeit in a park that is known for keeping the ball out of the stands. Have fun with that one.
  • The A’s have the depth to absorb injuries. Just ask the Giants who are 1-4 against the A’s this spring. This team is still a contender.

Yes, Jarrod Parker will miss the 2014 season. Yes he was primed to be the ace of the staff. Yes it hurts the rotation. Parker’s WAR, or Wins Above Replacement was only 1.8 in 2013. If you take 2 wins off of the 96 from last year, you are still left with a 94 win team. I’d say that’s good enough to make the playoffs. With the additions to the bullpen made in the offseason, the A’s have an entire staff of arms that will all be working towards a win, not pinning the outcome of the game on their starter.

Let me pose a question. Which Matt Cain is going to show up in 2014? Will it be the Cain that threw 5 perfect innings against a rebuilding Cubs’ squad (that they lost 3-2) or the Matt Cain that gave up 7 runs in 2.2 innings against the A’s in a 8-1 loss? Are you sensing a theme here? It’s that no matter what Matt Cain and his stable (that’s because he’s “The Horse”) of All-Star appearances does, the Giants have been unable to win. As a side note, Tommy Milone, the guy the A’s sent down and you belittled in the last article held your Giants to 3 hits and no runs in 5 IP and got the win. It must suck to have your #2 beaten by our #6. I guess I was correct when I mentioned how the A’s develop arms.

That brings me to a point that we haven’t touched on much in this series. The A’s offense is flat-out better.

Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick had down years offensively in 2013, and somehow the A’s were among the best in baseball in scoring runs. This spring, they have continued putting up runs with an average of 5.9/game. We already know Cespedes can crush the ball (See the Home Run Derby from last year’s All-Star game). Just imagine what would the A’s offense COULD be if Cespedes actually starts hitting for average.

Since Mark harped on pitching, let’s go back to that. Let’s stay current, as Mark keeps saying. Let’s look at some starter’s spring ERAs. Keep in mind: all of these players have been All-Stars. Cain 7.47, Lincecum 6.52, Vogelsong 9.00, Hudson 3.72. Bumgarner has been solid, I will grant you that. Since their defense is so used to playing behind them, imagine how high their ERAs would be without being in the Giants’ rotation year after year! The A’s have 3 starting outfielders that are capable of robbing Home Runs, and and form one of the best defensive outfields in baseball. Reddick and Cespedes have cannons in right and left, keeping runners from taking an extra base. The threat of their arms alone will keep runs from scoring, and allowing the A’s “inferior” pitchers more opportunities to get the 3rd out.

Now let’s look at Jesse Chavez, the guy that was our 7th starter and has none of the luxuries of the defense behind him knowing who the hell is is. A  spring ERA of 2.74 low enough? Here is the rest of the rotation: Milone (4.26), Straily (4.73), Gray (3.48) and Kazmir (2.38) have all been solid as well. Which pitching staff, coupled with offense was superior again? By the looks of it, its the 2-time AL West Division Champions on both fronts.

Let’s address Mark’s argument about All-Star game appearances. Yes, the Giants have more players on their roster that have made the team. The Giants have also won World Series titles recently. Being in the Series gains a player recognition. That also means that team’s manager gets to pick which players he wants on the team, after the fan voting. Getting elected to the All-Star game is literally a popularity contest. Somehow Josh Donaldson, the MVP candidate, was left off of the 2013 squad. The A’s haven’t had representatives not because they don’t have people that are deserving, but because they aren’t household names, through no fault of their own.

To this same point, how is it that the A’s are able to be the more consistent team, without any All-Stars or the same pitching staff year after year? It’s because the A’s pay far less for the same amount of talent, and are able to spend their money wisely. This has offered them the luxury of platooning players into positions they, and the team, will be more successful. Donaldson and Hunter Pence had nearly identical statistics last season. Pence is making $16M in 2014. For that amount, the A’s signed Josh Donaldson (MVP candidate), Yoenis Cespedes (HR Derby Champion), Josh Reddick (Gold Glove Winner) AND Coco Crisp (Engine of the Offense). That’s an entire starting outfield, filled with offensive and defensive threats, plus an MVP-caliber Third Baseman for the same amount as Pence.

On the bright side, when Morse has a particularly poor defensive game (so home games) or Buster Posey throws to first when nobody is covering, at least Giants fans can go to the in-house bowling alley to take their minds off of the baseball game being played just feet away. Oh yeah, I called AT&T an amusement park too. Another score for #TeamJason.