Baseball Preview: Oakland Athletics
Last year’s record and finish are in parenthesis with projected improvement/decline indicated by plus or minus.
Oakland Athletics (93-69, 1st in the AL West) -7 games
Get Crunked: It’s weird to say it, but I think the excitement starts in the bullpen which is one of baseball’s best. Innings 7-8-9, it’s hard to find better pitchers than Kiko Calero, Justin Duchscherer, and Huston Street to finish a game. In the rotation, Dan Haren has become an underrated starter and absolute innings eater. Rich Harden can be an ace if he stays healthy. Nick Swisher showed off his power last year, coming in second on the team with 35 jacks.
Party Foul: The lineup is another hodge-podge creation by Billy Beane; there’s nothing that really stands out, but for some reason, everything will come together. Eric Chavez must rebound to his 30-100 form to provide support for Swisher in the middle, and combine with Piazza to replace the loss in production with Frank Thomas’ departure. Injuries can really slow this team down — Chavez had one last year, Crosby always seems to be hurt, same with Milton Bradley and Shannon Stewart. Mark Kotsay and Esteban Loaiza already went down, the A’s can’t afford much more.
What’d my GM do: He had to let ace Barry Zito and slugger Frank Thomas go, there just wasn’t enough money to keep them around. There was considerably less wheeling-and-dealing from Billy Beane than usual, all he really did was sign Mike Piazza to an $8.5 million one-year deal hoping Piazza will somewhat replace the Big Hurt. Alan Embree was brought in on a two-year deal to serve as the lefty stopper out of the pen. He also signed Shannon Stewart for such a cheap one-year deal, that it’s low-risk, high-reward. Beane will no doubt look to bolster the team at the trade deadline like usual.
Lay it on me Straight: The pitching really stands out to me, because the bullpen is so solid and the rotation isn’t far behind. The emergence of a healthy Rich Harden will replace Barry Zito’s production, and the bounce back year from Eric Chavez, plus Piazza will combine to fill the gaping hole left by Frank Thomas. The hitting isn’t stellar, but it’s enough to win games.
So where my boys gonna finish right now: They still should be good enough to win the division once again, but not win as many games as last year. Luckily the Angels have so many injuries to key players and failed to improve drastically over the off-season, otherwise Oakland would truly be in trouble.
Can we be better than that: Billy Beane runs the team — anything’s possible. Think about it, they won 93 games last year. 93!! Of course they can do better than what I have projected.