This week ESPN has been releasing their power rankings for the upcoming season, a few teams at a time. Wednesday, numbers 18-13 were revealed, and the Oakland Athletics made their appearance at #18, with a projected 79-83 record. The only team in the division ranked below the A’s is Texas at #25 with a projected 72-90 record. That’s right, the Astros are going to finish above Oakland (#15, 83-79).
I like the author of this piece, David Schoenfield, because he actually writes about the A’s during the season which is a breath of fresh air from the usual baseball narratives. His argument for the low finish for Oakland is because, “I worry about the power and run scoring and the rotation if Kazmir doesn’t have a strong season. I’m predicting a record under .500 in a tough AL West, although it wouldn’t surprise me if A’s surprise us. They usually do.”
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One argument in his piece that doesn’t quite stick is that the Oakland Athletics have lost ace-level pitching from Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija, who started 27 games for Oakland combined last season. What he failed to mention was their combined 11-10 record and that the team went 33-40 after acquiring Samardzija. Sure, they’ll need some of the younger players they’ve acquired to step up this season, but Oakland has the pieces (ten of them) to fill out a strong rotation.
The offense is the big question mark for Oakland right now, and I get that. A lot of their success will depend upon the health of Brett Lawrie, whether Billy Butler and Ben Zobrist can return to their career averages, and the impact that Mark Canha can provide as the season progresses.
Sean Doolittle’s injury could haunt the A’s this season as well but for right now that’s speculation. They dealt with injuries last year and held the best record in the majors for quite a number of days. Losing Doolittle would certainly hurt, but it wouldn’t be the be all end all.
In all fairness, Schoenfield did say that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Oakland Athletics finish with a better record than the one he projected. There is a lot to prove for the A’s this season and as we have seen in previous years, that’s when they thrive.