Oakland Athletics WiR: Errors, Walk-Offs and Predictions
By Jason Burke
Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
On Sunday, the Oakland Athletics capped off another stellar week, going 5-1. The A’s returned to the Bay Area after a terrific road trip, posting a 7-2 record in their first trip away from O.Co in 2014. Their homecoming involved sweeping the rebuilding Astros, including one win of the walk-off variety on Josh Donaldson Bobblehead Day. The A’s are hot right now, but they still have plenty of room for improvement. The coming series against the Texas Rangers could be a wake up call if problems aren’t addressed.
Before we look into the future, let’s focus on what is factual. The A’s lead the AL West by 2.5 games over the Rangers. The A’s are 13-5 to start the season. The A’s top 3 starters all have sub-2.00 ERA’s and are a combined 6-0. The bullpen has settled down in the past week. Yes, Luke Gregerson allowed the Angels to score on him in a game the Oakland Athletics eventually lost, but I can make a case that the circumstances lost that game, not Gregerson. Here is the argument:
Mike Trout got on first base, and went 1st to 3rd on a single up the middle. The only reason he got to 3rd is because of his blazing speed. Almost no other players in the majors could have made it to 3rd on that hit. He subsequently scored on a fielder’s choice, a run created by his speed alone. If the same set of circumstances played out against any other team, heck even the Angels and not with Trout on base, the run doesn’t score. If that is the only game the A’s lose this week, then so be it. This is especially true with the defense they’ve been playing.
The Oakland Athletics have recorded 18 errors in 18 games, leading to a .973 Fielding Percentage. Typically, this number is in the .990 range or higher. The A’s don’t have a lot of power pitchers, which means the ball gets put in play more often than not. Fielding more efficiently is something they MUST do in order to continue winning ballgames. The only team that the A’s have faced that was both good, and not ravaged by injury, has been the Cleveland Indians to start the season.
They dropped 2 of 3 to Cleveland. The Twins and Astros aren’t ready to compete (6-0), the Angels had just lost Josh Hamilton (2-1) and the Seattle Mariners are missing their #2 and #3 starters in Iwakuma and Walker (4-2). The Athletics are beating these teams, which is a plus, but if they continue this poor defense further into the season, they won’t be able to beat them as consistently when they’re fully healthy.
The Oakland Athletics take on the Rangers starting on Monday. The pitching probables are as follows:
Darvish (1-0, 0.82) vs. Straily (1-1, 5.40)
Martinez (0-0, 4.50) vs. Milone (0-1, 4.09)
Perez (3-0, 1.86) vs. Gray (3-0, 1.80)
Going by ERA alone, this should be a great matchup. Yes, Darvish has a 0.82 ERA, but against the Oakland Athletics in 2013 he posted a 4.13. The A’s know how to work the count and draw a walk, and if they start doing this again on Monday, look for Darvish to get frustrated and give up some runs. Last season he averaged only 6 IP per start against the Athletics. This series is going to be close, but I see the Oakland Athletics taking 2 of 3, widening their lead in the AL West.
Other predictions for the series: Milone tosses 7 innings on Tuesday, allowing just 2 runs.
Josh Reddick starts every game and hits .250 for the series, but is overshadowed by Craig Gentry‘s, who starts in LF.
With Cespedes out, Donaldson stays hot, and carries the team to at least one victory.
Prince Fielder only gets 1 hit the entire series, and its a single.
This series is a big one for the Oakland Athletics because it will be the first real measuring stick of 2014 and it really could go either way. Both teams want to take a hold of the division early, but only one has been able to do so the past 2 years.