With Spring Training officially underway, the A’s and their small but loyal fan base are eager to show baseball what they’re really made of this year.
Oakland’s deep pitching staff, along with an upgraded lineup, will look to lead the team to the top of the ranks in the American League West this season. Taking out the Texas Rangers will be difficult, but many analysts will be quick to point out that the west isn’t exactly the toughest division in the majors.
I’d say the AL West might be the most wide-open division heading into the 2011 campaign. Texas, Oakland, and the Angels all figure to be in the running this year for the division crown.
Texas won the AL Pennant last year largely because of their stellar offense, but they also had Cliff Lee pitching for them after the trade deadline.
Lee is now gone, however, and the Rangers appear to have left the door open for teams like the Athletics and Angels. Both the A’s and Angels finished neck-and-neck last year with just one-game separating the two teams within the division, but Oakland finished second behind Texas with an 81-81 record.
Additions like Hideki Matsui, David DeJesus, Josh Willingham on offense, however, might push Oakland to the next level in 2011. Now, before you go crazy with comments saying that Oakland’s offense is still not that good, the A’s did a very, very good job this offseason.
Last year, the team hit just .256 (17th in the majors), and recorded just 109 home runs, which ranked 28th in the majors. Matsui, 36, may not be the same hitter he was a few years ago, but he should prove valuable for Oakland’s offense. Willingham, while not a 30-homer kind of guy, should also provide some much needed pop in the middle of Oakland’s lineup this season.
Either way you look at, the A’s should enter the 2011 season a much better team than they were a year ago. Pitching and defense wins games in this league, and the A’s have plenty of both.