Had the Athletics moved forward, Moss may have been the biggest boss of all. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
It has been a week since the Athletics were eliminated from the post season after a tough, 12-inning, loss to the Kansas City Royals in what will surely be remembered as one of the best playoff games from what is quickly becoming one of the best post-seasons in recent history. Yesterday, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim but not Los Angeles were eliminated by those same Royals as they head one step closer to their first world series in 30 years. To see the Angels eliminated in three games has to make Athletics fans think that this was, in fact, the year that the A’s could go all the way. Had the Athletics won the wildcard game, would they have won the ALDS against the Angels?
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The wildcard game, as a one game playoff, is a bit of a coin flip for a winner. Last Tuesday saw two of the game’s best pitchers give up hit after hit leading to 17 runs and 28 hits. No smart gambler would have placed a bet on those numbers and, yet, it happened and the history of the 2014 Athletics season will forever be defined by it. Let’s presume that we had won that game, since we did win the game several times, and proceeded to the ALDS in Los Angeles of Anaheim.
In real life, the Angels lost game 1 having only scored 2 points and with the core of their lineup going hitless. Had this been an Athletics game, the result may have been similar. Angels batter hit .150 off of Samardzija during his Athletics tenure with no home runs and only two RBI’s. The Athletics had hit .277 off of Weaver with 4 home runs and 15 RBI’s in 2014. When considerations are made for the Athletics’ rebounding offense and the Angels’ lackluster post season offense, game 1 could have easily gone to the Athletics.
It is an assumption that Gray would be in the lineup to pitch game 2 of the series but having not pitched in five days and Scott Kazmir being too much of a gamble in LA of A, it is a safe assumption. Gray, against the Angels, was being hit for a .223 average but everyone knows that he lives for big game situations like a playoff and, again, the Angels offense was struggling in the post season. Shoemaker is a bit of a roll of the dice in this game. The Athletics only hit .188 off of him in 2014 but they only saw him once. Also, Josh Donaldson and Derek Norris both went 2-3 off of Shoemaker, Adam Dunn had a home run and Eric Sogard took a hit off of him. It’s impossible to say that the Athletics would have dominated this game but it isn’t crazy to think that the A’s would have dominated in this game.
In real life, against Yordano Ventura (who has virtually identical season stats as Sonny Gray) the Angels were only able to put one run on the board.
This is the game that Athletics’ fans would have most loved to have seen. Lester, one of the best arms in the game, verses Wilson, one of the most hated pitchers in the world among A’s fans. In real life, Wilson didn’t even make it through the first inning, presumably because the mound sucked or the fans were terrible, and the Angels had to use eight pitchers to get through this game. This could be a disadvantage for the Athletics who would immediately be making lineup changes to balance out the odds. Let’s assume, then, that Wilson makes it through the first and has a normal outing.
The Athletics hit .302 with 1 home run and 8 RBI’s against Wilson in 2014. They also drew 10 walks. Obviously, those stats are meaningless in the post season but it is impossible to believe that Wilson would not have them floating in his mind when he took the mound in a playoff game against Oakland. He probably would be haunted by Coco Crisp (.429), Josh Donaldson (.500), Brandon Moss (.500) and Geovany Soto (.667) too.
On the flip side, The Angels of Anaheim had hit .232 off of Lester with 1 home run and 8 RBI’s. In my humble estimation, this game would have been a blowout at the coliseum and would have either sealed the A’s ticket into the ALCS or gave them a 2-1 advantage.
The Oakland Athletics of Oakland scored more runs in the post season than the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim did. Until Trout hit a homer in yesterdays series finale, his batting average in the post season was the same as mine. Angels pitching was not set up for the post season in the same way that Oakland’s was and our beloved A’s would be the better matched team in every game. With Brandon Moss, Coco Crisp, Josh Donaldson, Josh Reddick and Sam Fuld showing that the Athletics’ history of postseason struggles at the plate were a thing of the past (they combined for .406 in the wildcard game) I am pretty confident that had the Athletics won the coin toss last Tuesday, they’d be going to their first ALCS in years.
Of course, this is a masochistic way of looking at things. If “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry postseason but I make the point to illustrate the bigger picture, the Athletics were legitimate contenders to take it to the next level even with all the struggles of the past six weeks. It appeared to me that the team was ready to take advantage of the clean slate of postseason baseball and came to play. As we all know, it didn’t work out that way and we’ll always wonder what would have happened if Soto’s thumb wouldn’t have been hurt because, ultimately, it was that injury that hurt the A’s the most. Two or three fewer steals to put guys in scoring position and the Athletics may just win that game with a comfortable lead.
Now that I’ve depressed you all by getting your hopes up for games that didn’t happen and making you relive the agony of last week, take this bit of Polyanna optimism; if Billy Beane makes small changes to enhance the team and holds off on the rumored fire sale (which I think is a long shot at best), we are all still fans of a very good, playoff worthy, baseball team. The Angels are getting older and may have a closing window (remember that their window has been open for two or three seasons now), the Rangers and Astros will be better next year but still won’t be in contention and the Mariners are going to be as strong as ever for a while. This may be the most difficult division next year, again, but it’s not a division that the Athletics can’t beat.
Here’s to next year and our world series run!