Shoulder tapped into the starting rotation after injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, Jesse Chaves is one of this year’s surprises so far. Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
With a 32-22 record, it’s hard to believe the Oakland Athletics have already reached the one-third mark of the 2014 season. Not unexpectedly to many the A’s find themselves in first place of the AL West.
At this point, it would be a proper time to point out what I feel is the surprises and disappointments of this season so far.
The performance of third baseman Josh Donaldson (.276 BA, 13 HR, 41 RBI) and first baseman Brandon Moss (.273BA, 12 HR, 42 RBI) would not be considered “surprises” of this still young season. They are both good players having good seasons thus far. The same goes for pitching phenom Sonny Gray who’s performing as expected with impressive stats of a 5-1 record, 60 strikeouts, and a 2.31 ERA.
Chavez was shoulder tapped into the starting rotation after injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin. Chavez made 35 relief appearances and had a 3.92 ERA last season. In the starting role this year he came out strong and though he was tagged with the loss on May 29 against Detroit, he still has a 2.90 ERA and 60 strikeouts. The A’s are 7-3 in Chavez’s10 starts. In his three losses, he’s kept the team close, leaving with the A’s only trailing by one run in close games. (Refer to disappointments-Bullpen)
Kazmir, acquired from the Cleveland Indians to replace Bartolo Colon’s departure, leads the team with a 6-2 record which could be higher if not for a second inning ejection on May 17 when the A’s topped the Indians 6-2. Kazmir is throwing strikes and forcing his opponents to swing their bats, and the results so far have been fantastic.
Pomeranz is another unexpected southpaw who wasn’t forseen to be in the starting rotation. Pomeranz allowed just three earned runs in 13 2/3 innings for a 1.98 ERA out of Oakland’s bullpen before firing five scoreless innings of two-hit ball in the nightcap of May 7 doubleheader against the Seattle Mariners. Since then he’s gone 2-1 in three starts lowering his ERA to a 1.52 and at one time had an 18-inning scoreless streak.
Pitcher Drew Pomeranz and Catcher Derek Norris, two of this year’s best surprises 1/3 into the 2014 season Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Consistent production led to consistent playing time for Norris who was slated to be platooned with John Jaso. In addition to batting over .300 this season, he’s cut down on strikeouts and increased his walks by taking more pitches with each at bat. On May 20, his BA was a whopping .351.
A’s fans cannot argue the biggest disappointment this season is the failure and on-going struggles of reliever Jim Johnson on the mound. From Day-1, his performance has been just ghastly. As late as today, allowing two runs to score over the course of one inning against the Tigers, in what was a close game and where the A’s came back to score two in the bottom of the ninth. A 50-save guy with the Baltimore Orioles, this year Johnson has blown leads, given up runs in close games, given up runs in blow outs, blown shutouts…the list goes on. If it wasn’t for his $10 million contract, he’d had been DFA’d or on I-80 on his way to Sacramento a long time ago.
Coliseum boo birds have become a regular thing to Jim Johnson who lost his closer role and gained a 6.65 ERA. There’s no place for a $10 million mop-up man on this team Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
He’s the anchor who’s held the team back. Simply put, it’s a different season and bigger lead in the AL West without Jim Johnson and his glaring 6.65 ERA this year.
Luke Gregerson has done no better. Blowing 5 of 8 save opportunities he leads all of MLB. Hang tight there’s more; Gregerson also leads the league in most inherited runners scored. His 2.70 may be equal to last year, but for some reason opponents bats are smacking his pitches. By now Manager Bob Melvin should have discovered not to bring him in during tight games.
Basically, there’s nothing good to say about this year’s bull pen. It’s been the Achilles heal of an otherwise great start. Overall, with help to the bullpen in a mid-season acquisition, this year should continue to be a great one.