DEFENSE: The A’s made 99 errors collectively this season, and posted a .984 fielding percentage. In all of baseball, the A’s ranked 11th in fielding, and actually posted a better fielding pct. than every other team in the division (Texas, Angels, Seattle). Overall, for the season the A’s did play exceptional defense. This team has really re-invented itself this season, as they’ve relied on small-ball as a main source of their victories. The A’s had a good defense behind them, and as a result, they get a passing grade. GRADE: A- (90%).
PITCHING: Okay, this one’s clearly the A’s most favorable subject. The A’s did extremely well this season with their young pitching staff, and I was most impressed by the maturation displayed by both Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez. The two pitchers made some major strides this season, and the A’s should be in good shape next year if these two can repeat the same success they had this year in 2011. Cahill, who was placed on the disabled-list at the start of the season (which opened the door for Gonzalez), was clearly the A’s staff this year. Last year, Cahill went 10-13, started in 32 games and recorded an ERA of 4.63. Cahill also managed to log in 178.2 innings of work last year. This year, however, Cahill improved by winning a total of 18 games, and lowered his ERA to 2.97. He also recorded more innings of work as well, as he logged in 196.2 innings of work. Cahill’s improved command, figured to be his best asset this year, and while he did give up 19 homers, that’s still a far cry from his total from last year (27). Now for Gonzalez. This year has been fantastic for Gio, who despite dealing with many personal hardships (loss of a family friend, among other things), did not let his emotions affect him during the games he started. Last year’s 6-7, 5.75 ERA campaign seems like a life-time ago considering Gio won 15 games this season and posted an ERA of 3.23. Finally, after all that top-prospect hype that once surrounded him, Gio seems to have become a permanent fixture in Oakland’s young rotation. Aside from Cahill and Gonzalez, the A’s seen pitchers Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden put in some good performances. I especially like Anderson, who like Cahill, figures to be a top-of-the-rotation arm. In fact, I actually like Anderson more than I do Cahill. Anderson, who finished the year with a 7-6 record and a 2.80 ERA, did have his share of DL visits, but as long as he’s healthy, he’s an ace (uh, oh. That kind of description reminds me of Rich Harden. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that!). And who can forget about Dallas Braden’s perfect-game on Mother’s Day? Braden, 27, is the “veteran” of the staff, and should be an important part of next year’s rotation. And while the Ben Sheets deal didn’t really pan out for the A’s, I do believe by simply having a guy like Ben in the clubhouse that the A’s young pitchers learned a thing or two about pitching. Heading into next season, I see the A’s bullpen playing a big part of the team’s success as well. The bull-pen, which was pretty depleted near the end of the season (most notable missing player was Andrew Bailey), will hopefully be ready for next season. The only problems I had with the ‘pen this season were Michael Wuertz and Jerry Blevins. Wuertz, who received a two-year deal last offseason, did not have a productive year, as he went 2-3 with a 4.31 ERA. Blevins wasn’t much better either, as he posted a 3.70 ERA in 48.2 innings of work. Overall, however, Bailey had a nice season, and the ‘pen shouldn’t be a big problem heading into next year. Oh yeah, the A’s staff managed to lead the league in quality starts with 101. The next team with the most quality starts was San Francisco who had 95. GRADE: A (92%)
COACHING: The main goal for any major league manager, or any sports manager for that matter, is to lead his team to a championship. If you look at it that way, then the 81-81 A’s failed. But Bob Geren did a decent job this season. Sure, he may not be the best coach out there—certainly not my favorite—but the A’s did managed to finish with a .500 record. The team, who won just 75 games last year and finished 22 games out of first, finished this year 81-81 and in second-place in the American League West. The A’s did have their chances, don’t be mistaken, but the A’s also didn’t the offense that could’ve gotten them through the playoffs had they gotten there. Pitching wins championships, but you also need to score runs in order to win. The A’s were also riddled with injuries this season, as they lost Coco Crisp, Eric Chavez, Ben Sheets and Ryan Sweeney to injury. With that in mind, I’ll be grading on a curve. Hopefully next year will be Geren’s finest. GRADE: B (82%)
OVERALL: The A’s certainly have their work cut out for them next year, as the Rangers figure to be tough as well as the Angels. The A’s, who have won 14 division titles in their history, are a couple of “bats” away from seriously contending next year. If the A’s can land a couple of sluggers this winter, they can easily pass the Rangers in the west. With the pitching staff Oakland has, all they really need is an improved offense. So, for Billy Beane and Co., improving the offense should be the top priority this winter. Finishing with a .500 record was important for the young team, and hopefully they can carry the same intensity/momentum they displayed in the final four games of the season into 2011. OVERALL SEASON GRADE: B (84%)