Kings of the Hill, Mound, Everything
The Oakland A’s are continually in the mix in the AL West, and they do it in the quietest way possible every year. While they haven’t won the World Series since 1989, the A’s have seen a lot of success when it comes to getting to the postseason. This year it’s more of the same, as Oakland has the best record in the American League. With the Red Sox and even the Tigers (to a much lesser degree) falling behind, the league could be up for grabs and right now it’s Bob Melvin’s for the taking.
The Oakland A’s have long done it without the big bankroll that the Yankees, Red Sox or Tigers have, with an emphasis on on-base percentage, good defense, and solid pitching. This year, as we get close to the midway point of the season, the A’s have proven to be one of the best defensive teams in baseball. They rank 1st in the AL Fielding Runs Above Average and are in 1st in Defensive Runs Saved Above Average by quite a large margin. On the pitching side of things, Oakland clearly has the best staff in the league. They’ve given up 30 less runs this season than any other team in the AL, and their team ERA is half a run better than all other pitching staffs. In fact, the A’s have given up exactly 100 less earned runs than the Rangers this year. In less than 70 games.
The big different from previous years is the offense. It’s the best in baseball, and there are no Mike Trouts or Miguel Cabreras to carry the load. Oakland has scored the most runs in the AL, and they’ve done so in a park that is famously pitcher-friendly. Oakland has scored 80 more runs than the defending-champion Red Sox, and almost 100 more than the Tampa Bay Rays. They’re getting big-time offense from veteran outfielder Coco Crisp, who had a breakout power year at the plate in 2013, hitting 22 home runs when his previous career high was 16 in 2005. Crisp has gotten off to another great start with an OPS over .800 in mid-June. Brandon Moss, another former Red Sox player, is tearing it up at the plate for a third straight season after being nothing more than a AAAA player since 2007. Moss has hit 67 home runs in about two seasons worth of games, and this year he’s sporting an OPS of near .900. Both players will see their old club when the Red Sox come into Oakland this weekend for a four-game set. A’s games are always a great bang for your buck, and you get into any one of the four games for $25 or less.
The A’s are looking like the complete team right now, but it’s hard to keep up this kind of pace throughout an entire season. Even if they don’t, the AL West is not the toughest division to win and they should be able to hold off the rest of the pack. The Angels will likely give them a run, but I can’t see the Mariners or Rangers having any chance at the division crown. It’s Oakland’s to win.