Despite being swept this past weekend by the Kansas City Royals, the Oakland Athletics have had a lot to smile about in the month of June. The offense has been red-hot as of late, led by Billy Burns’ current 16-game hitting streak. The starting rotation has begun to solidify itself as one of the premier pitching staffs in baseball. And even the bullpen has started to find a rhythm after a terrible start to the season.
But despite clinching their first winning month since July of last year, the Athletics still find themselves in the AL West cellar, at 10 games under .500. While the Athletics certainly feel like better days are ahead, the hole that they dug themselves into during the first couple months of the season is proving to be a tough one to climb.
A 14-30 start to the 2015 season leaves the Athletics with little room for error the rest of the way. Every game and every series becomes magnified from this point forward. The 2014 Athletics grabbed the second Wild Card spot by posting an 88-win regular season, thanks in large part to a remarkable first-half performance in which they owned the Major League’s best record. Though they stumbled to the finish line following a couple of huge midseason trades, the bottom line is that they were still able to taste the postseason due to their fast start in the first half.
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The 2015 Athletics don’t have that luxury. The pressure to consistently string together wins in the second half of the season is much greater for this year’s team.
Lucky for the Athletics, history is on their side. They have always been a strong second half team. The 2012 Athletics found themselves in a similar position in the standings at this point of the season. They responded by going 19-5 in the month of July, as well as going 13-2 over the last 15 games of August to help them win the AL West crown on the last day of the regular season.
It’s probable that the Athletics this year can go on a similar run. Keep in mind that this team hasn’t put it all together yet. Once the defense and the relief pitching fully come around, together with the strong offense and starting pitching we’ve shown so far, the 2015 Athletics are capable of putting together a run at the postseason.
But what if the Athletics don’t make the postseason? Let’s say they rebound with another memorable second half performance. But they can’t get those crucial last couple of wins and finish just one or two games out of the last Wild Card spot. Suddenly, everyone’s attention goes back to the 14-30 start to the season. All of the one-run games and all of the blown leads from the bullpen. Nobody would even remember the second half.
Even though the 2012 and 2014 Athletics had many bad stretches, the bottom line is that those teams made the postseason. When the team is in, everyone looks at the positives. When the team is out, everyone looks for something to blame.
The 2015 Athletics have dug themselves a pretty big hole. But they have begun to play better baseball. Something says that there is promise to this team. It would be a disappointment to see the successes of this year’s Athletics overshadowed by the failures. Let’s hope that hole isn’t already too big to climb out of.