Let’s face it, the Oakland Athletics didn’t provide their fans with a satisfying performance in 2011.
The team’s third-place finish does little to boost the moral of the fan base, and the fact that team missed the playoffs for the fifth-straight season crushes any feeling of optimism towards next season.
Finding the positives in a very disappointing season is tough, but I’ll give it my best shot. The A’s, while a very frustrating team to watch in 2011, did provide a few glimmers of hope.
A couple of players in Oakland proved they’re worthy of playing on the big-league level, while other players like David DeJesus left us scratching our heads in bewilderment.
The following players are completely deserving of the hardware I’m handing out here on Swingin’ A’s. While playing for a losing franchise, these player proved that they’re winners. Here are Swingin’ A’s 2011 Team Awards:
CY YOUNG: GIO GONZALEZ- Oakland’s best pitcher this season was Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez, 25, proved yet again this year that he’s a pitcher on the cusp of becoming something special. He was Oakland’s lone All-Star in 2011, and despite a bumpy second-half, the A’s southpaw finished with a career high 16 wins and a 3.12 ERA over 202.0 innings. While walks continue to be Gonzalez’s biggest worry—he walked an AL leading 91 batters—he’s still one of the best young lefties in the game right now. He finished the year with 197 strikeouts (4th in AL), and posted a 8.78 K/9 rate in ’11. He hasn’t scored a long-term deal like Oakland’s Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill, but Gonzalez is definitely worth an extension. Heading into 2012, Gonzalez should be considered one of the game’s best young pitchers.
Honorable mentions: Brandon McCarthy, Guillermo Moscoso…
BIGGEST SURPRISE: GUILLERMO MOSCOSO- Sorry, Brandon McCarthy, but Guillermo takes this award. While you could argue for either one as being Oakland’s biggest surprise player in 2011, I’ve got to go with Moscoso. Moscoso, who made his major league debut against, ironically enough, the A’s on May 30, 2009, was acquired by the Athletics last January in trade with the Rangers. Unlike McCarthy, who beat out several other pitchers including Bobby Cramer, Rich Harden, and Josh Outman, for a spot in Oakland’s rotation, Moscoso didn’t really see much action until late May. An injury to Tyson Ross opened up the door for Moscoso, who took the starting role and ran with it. In 21 starts this season for the A’s, Moscoso went 8-10 with a 3.38 ERA. He, like most of Oakland’s pitchers during the second-half of the season, faced his share of bumps and bruises, but he finished 2011 strong. In five September starts, Moscoso logged in 33.1 innings of work, a 2-2 record, and a sparkling 2.16 ERA. In comparison, McCarthy also finished the season on a high note, going 2-2 with a 2.19 ERA over 37 innings in September. McCarthy, who didn’t pitch in 2010, pitched extremely well this season, and I’m sure most of you will call him Oakland’s biggest surpise in 2011. Knowing that, however, I’ve chosen Moscoso instead because I feel many people will probably overlook his strong 2011 performance.
Honorable mentions: Brandon McCarthy
BEST RELIEF: GRANT BALFOUR- Entering the season, many people around baseball, including myself, drooled all over Oakland’s strong pitching talents. The starting rotation included several young pitchers on the cusp of stardom, while the bullpen including the likes of ’09 AL ROY Andrew Bailey, Brian Fuentes, and Grant Balfour. Unfortunately, the pitching couldn’t hold the A’s above water, and the season just didn’t pan out like it was supposed to. That’s not to say, however, that Oakland’s pitching was a complete disappointment. By far my favorite pitcher out of the bullpen, Grant Balfour proved to be a very nice pick up by Oakland. Balfour, who was used to pitching in the gritty AL East while with the Rays, transitioned over the much weaker AL West quite nicely. In fact, he put together a very strong 2011 campaign. In 62 appearances this season, Balfour compiled a 5-2 record with a 2.47 ERA and 26 holds. Balfour proved to be a much better acquisition than Fuentes, who struggled for much of the first half.
Honorable mentions: Andrew Bailey, Jerry Blevins…
Now, let’s go ahead and switch our focus to the offense:
MVP: JOSH WILLINGHAM-Willingham, who was acquired through a deal with the Nationals during the offseason, proved to be the best offensive player Oakland has had since Frank Thomas. Like the “Big Hurt,” Willingham put up solid power numbers for a rather weak Oakland lineup. He posted career highs in home runs (29) and in RBIs (98) this season for Oakland. While his .246 batting average is nothing to write home about, the A’s would welcome back Willingham with opens arms next season, should the free agent elect to return. Oakland expects Willingham will receive plenty of lucrative offers this offseason from richer teams, so a Willingham return looks, at the moment, uncertain. But, there’s no denying that Willingham put up very strong numbers in Oakland.
Honorable mentions: Jemile Weeks, Cliff Pennington, Hideki Matsui, Scott Sizemore…
BIGGEST SURPRISE: JEMILE WEEKS- Weeks was by far one of the biggest surprises for Oakland this season. Like McCarthy and Moscoso, Weeks took his position and ran with it; establishing himself as the team’s future second-baseman. Mark Ellis, a clubhouse favorite, had a rough 2011 outing, and was traded shortly after Weeks’ callup in June. The former first-round pick of the ’08 draft, Weeks proved he belonged in the big leagues. In 97 games this year with Oakland, Weeks, the younger brother of Milwaukee’s Rickie Weeks, posted a .303/.340/.421 slash line with two home runs and 36 RBIs. This is a guy who represents the A’s future, and that in itself gives me something to smile about. Another deserving player to dub as Oakland’s “Biggest Surprise” on offense is 3B Scott Sizemore. Sizemore, a second-baseman by nature, switched over the hot corner for Oakland this year, and posted solid numbers. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs during the spring next season.
Honorable mentions: Scott Sizemore, Cliff Pennington…
Overall: While 2011 was supposed to Oakland’s return to post-season prominence, it was instead a Jekyll and Hyde season with Oakland struggling to find consistency on offense and defense. In retrospect, I’d like to call this year’s A’s squad the 2011 version of the 2010 Seattle Mariners. Both clubs entered their respective seasons with a high sense of hope and promise. Both, unfortunately, failed in their quest for an AL West crown. Next season doesn’t look particularly hopeful, but you never know. Here’s to hoping 2012 will be a good year for the green-and-gold!
Tags: 2011 A's Stats A's A's Lineup A's Offense Awards Brandon McCarthy Brandon McCarthy A's Cliff Pennington CY Young David DeJesus Gio Gonzalez Guillermo Moscoso Hideki Matsui Jemile Weeks Josh Willingham Mark Ellis MLB Awards MVP Oakland Oakland A's Oakland A's Baseball Oakland A's News Offense Scott Sizemore Silver Slugger