It’s still very early in the season, but the Oakland Athletics are looking pretty solid so far. Through the first twenty games, Oakland has gone 12-8 and boasts the AL’s best pitching staff (2.92 ERA). In addition, the A’s offense has been quietly putting together a decent start to the season. Through Monday, the A’s offense ranks 8th in batting average (.253), 6th in OBP (.325), 10th in OPS (.695) and 4th in runs scored (92).
While the offense will need to improve upon those numbers, the A’s should still be encouraged with their offensive production up to this point. In their last game against the Tribe, the A’s pounded Cleveland for 11 runs en route to another shutout victory. Eric Chavez, who has started in 16 of the 20 games the A’s have played, looked much better in Sunday’s game than he has all season. He drove in three and has driven in a total of six so far this season. He also collected his sixth double of the season on Sunday.
Chavez, who batted in the clean-up spot, could provide some much needed punch in the A’s lineup if he continues to hit the ball well as he did in Sundays’ game. Kevin Kouzmanoff, Daric Barton, Ryan Sweeney and Cliff Pennington have also gotten off to decent starts for Oakland, and have been a big part of the team’s early success.
Coming into 2010, most baseball fans, analysts and followers of the game knew that Oakland could pitch. But none of us could have seen this kind of performance from a relatively young team. Ben Sheets, who signed a questionable $10 million contract this past offseason, is starting to look like his former All-Star self. Justin Duchscherer, who missed all of 2009, is also performing well. And with Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez performing well, the A’s should continue to have one of the best staffs in the league.
The question is, how long can the A’s hold opponents to a .229 batting average? The A’s lead the AL in quality starts with 14, but will they be able to consistently pitch well for the duration of an entire season? It’s still only April, and while the A’s have enjoyed early success, it’s pretty hard imagining them being able to maintain that sparkling sub-three ERA for an entire season. Remember, both Ben Sheets and Justin Duchscherer are coming off injury-plagued seasons, and could still be susceptible to injuries.
If the A’s can stay healthy, which something they haven’t done in awhile, then they have a pretty good shot at capturing the American League West this year. But if Daric Barton (finger), Coco Crisp (finger), Kurt Suzuki, Michael Wuertz and Joey Devine miss any considerable amount of time, Oakland’s chances decrease considerably. Barton’s injury has not been evaluated yet, but the A’s should know more by tomorrow’s matchup against the Rays. Suzuki, who drove in 88 runs last season, should be ready to go come Tuesday.
As for now, A’s fans should be able to enjoy the 12-8 start. The A’s are playing exceptionally well, and if the season ended today (just 20 games in…ha!) the A’s would be in the playoffs for the first time since 2006. The A’s are a young, excited team and right now, they’re enjoying first place.
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