A's Contenders or Pretenders?

MLB: Oakland vs. Seattle April 8

Eric Chavez and the A's are in first place--but for how long? (Photo: Courtesy of Yardbarker.com)

At 7-4 the Oakland Athletics lead the pack in the American League West. Nobody could’ve seen the listless Athletics in first place after the first week and a half, but with the A’s brilliant pitching and timely hitting, many of us are re-evaluating their situation. Are these A’s really as good as they seem? Or are they just teasing us fans with their strong start? Will they be in contention come June-July? Or will they fade out as most baseball analysts seeing them do?

Well, those are difficult questions. Especially since the season is still very, very early. The A’s figured to be in the cellar of a very tough and competitive AL West, but the A’s have pitched brilliantly and their starters are 6-0 to start the season. Pitching is clearly their biggest strength, but their offense is quietly putting up some impressive numbers. They’re second in the AL in runs scored with 51, and are just about in the middle of every other offensive category. Mind you, the A’s are doing all of this without any big names in their lineup. So far, Eric Chavez, perhaps their biggest name, is hitting .212/.233/.321 with 2 RBIs and 3 runs scored. Chavvy, who played in just eight games last year, has collected three doubles so far this season. His timing isn’t quite there yet, but it should come with time.

Daric Barton, who was expected to share time at first with Chavez before Cust was released, is off to his best start ever. Through Thursday, Barton is hitting .343/.489/.457 with 7 RBIs. Barton has been a huge part of the A’s early success. His ability to get on base has done wonders for the A’s “anemic” offensive attack (11 BB in 11 games). Another player off to a good start is SS, Cliff Pennington. I may have my doubts about Pennington’s ability to continue to be a contributing force on offense, but there’s no denying what he’s done so far for the A’s. Pennington is currently hitting .229/.341/.486 with 2 HR and 8 RBIs. In 60 games last season for the A’s, Pennington collected four homers, and considering he’s collected two already, we could see a little more power from him this year (but not too much—anywhere between 6-10 is his limit).

The A’s pitching staff has been brilliant to start the season, and A’s fans should be excited about the young team’s start. Ben Sheets notched up his first win last night against Baltimore, and Brett Anderson is just downright crazy. Anderson will win at 15 games this year, especially if the A’s continue driving in runs like they have been. Dallas Braden, Justin Duchscherer and Gio Gonzalez have all been solid this year as well.

With all of that in mind, I still see the A’s finishing third in the American League West. But I hope I am wrong. The A’s offense has gotten off to a great start, and the pitching is definitely among the top staffs in the AL, so saying the A’s will be around in October isn’t totally out of the question. As of now, the A’s are pretenders—but that could change. We’ll see as the season progresses.

Tags: 2010 A's Blog Ben Sheets Chavvy Cliff Pennington Dallas Braden Daric Barton Eric Chavez Gio Gonzalez Justin Duchscherer MLB Oakland A's Blog Oakland Athletics

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