Last season was an anomaly. For the first time in recent history, the Oakland Athletics were pegged by many of the baseball experts to win the tough American League West division. We all know how that turned out. The Athletics’ record went on a free-fall during the last two months of the season all while the star-studded Angels played up to their potential. The A’s clung for dear life to a post-season berth with the Seattle Mariners only one game behind them for the last wild card spot. It was really backwards for the way the underdogs in Oakland typically end their season. The pressure was on right from the start and the usually loose and easy A’s found themselves in unfamiliar territory – being chased rather than being the chaser.
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Now, with just over two weeks, yes, only 17 days, until that magical opening day is upon us, the Oakland Athletics are primed to start the season in a place they seem to be more comfortable: being overlooked and underestimated. Nothing signifies this more notably than the recent Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds Report. The A’s are given just a 36.8% chance of making the playoffs, finishing third in their division behind the LA Angels (67.4%) and Seattle Mariners (52.4%). According to this report, the Angels would finish on top of the entire American League and face the Wild Card winner, either the Tampa Bay Rays or the Seattle Mariners. The revamped Boston Red Sox would take the East and face-off with the top Central mainstay Detroit Tigers.
Some may think, who really cares what is projected this early on? While I tend to agree with that sentiment, Will Leitch gives reason to put more stock in this than any other projection method. What this does provide, however, is just more motivation for the overhauled Athletics to prove the “experts” wrong. Reports like BP’s, along with being the target of a division rival’s joke as Tony wrote about, only put the A’s in the exact spot where they thrive. Tell them they can’t do it and they will prove you wrong time and time again. Not only do team veterans like Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick, have something to prove, but how good would it feel for newcomers Brett Lawrie, Marcus Semien, Ike Davis and others who are filling Oakland’s big vacancies, to do well.
Go right ahead and give the Oakland Athletics a 36.8% chance of making the playoffs. I project they have a 100% chance of surprising the baseball world yet again.