Wednesday, March 16, 2011

MLB 30 in 30: Oakland Athletics

Since their last playoff appearance in 2006, the A's have missed the playoffs in 4 straight years, and they haven't had a winning record since then either. With a similar formula to their Bay Area counterparts, they hope to challenge the Rangers in the AL West. But do they have enough offense?

What they Have: Pitching, and they have it in spades. The A's had a team 3.56 ERA last season, which was the best in baseball, despite having an average rotation age of slightly less than 24. Injuries did catch up with them towards the end of last season, but it didn't matter. The rotation is dynamite with All-Star Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, and southpaw Gio Gonzalez. Don't forget Dallas Braden, who threw the mother's day perfect game last season, and newly acquired Brandon McCarthy, who will help to round out the rotation. There is no reason why this starting rotation cannot duplicate last seasons success. In the bullpen, the A's have 2009 AL Rookie of the year Andrew Bailey at closer, who despite some elbow problems this spring, will still be one of the most underrated closers in baseball. Rounding out the bullpen are Michael Wurtz, Craig Breslow, and Brad Zeigler, all of whom factor in a great bullpen for the A's. The pitching for the A's has never truly been a problem. It's the offense that has been.
What they Don't Have: Much of any offense. The best offensive player is C Kurt Suzuki, who is consistent, but will never go for too much power. SS Cliff Pennington is coming off a shoulder injury, and new 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff had back troubles towards the end of last year. Notice a theme here? The outfield too had its fair share of injuries. Coco Crisp, Ryan Sweeney, and David DeJesus all missed time due to injuries last season. And, Kurt Suzuki and 2B Mark Ellis had time on the DL. So, not only do the A's have trouble hitting the ball, they can't stay healthy either. Not the best combination for any team, even a team with the great pitching that the A's have.

Any Help Coming? 1B/OF Chris Carter (Not related to the Mets Chris Carter) is one of the best power hitting prospects in baseball. He played a lot of LF when he played with the A's last season, and he could see some time as a DH this season. He may end up being an everyday player due to the A's lack of offense. OF Michael Choice also is a good power hitting prospect and has great defensive tools as well. SS Grant Green has some more great offensive tools, but lacks the defensive polish as of right now.

Outlook? Well, if they had the same kind of offense as they do pitching, they'd be awfully tough to beat. But because they don't, the A's may be mired at .500 again. This team can get hot due to its pitching, and they will challenge the Rangers and Angels in this division. But, with their complete lack of any offensive firepower, they may not be competing for very long.

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