The Oakland Athletics began the season just like everyone expected. They did not give A’s fans much to hope for by starting the season with a 10-12 record during the month of April, an 11-16 record in the month of May, and found themselves getting shutout in 9 of those games. The pitching staff was great. The hitting was terrible…plain and simple.
The pitching staff ranked among the best in the American League in all major statistical categories. That did not matter. Oakland’s dead beat offense ranked last among fellow American League teams during April and May in runs scored, runs batted in, hits, and batting average. As much as we would all like to forget, the Athletics ended the month of May by losing their last 8 games and losing the first game in June to complete a 9 game losing skid. Then before the second game of June, Grant Balfour erupted in the clubhouse telling his teammates “I am tired of losing.” They must have listened. Oakland would go on to unleash the fury of their offense and abolish the Kansas City Royals 9-3.
The month of June was a completely different story. Oakland’s offense found life. Finally, the A’s trustworthy pitching staff that has pitched far beyond expectations, now had an offense to back them up.
The beginning of June was nothing easy for the Athletics. Despite taking three of four games at home from the Texas Rangers, the A’s struggled to find ways to win against the Kansas City Royals and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In a desperation move to find some offense at first base, the A’s recalled Brandon Moss and designated Kila Ka’aihue for assignment. Brandon Moss not only jump-started Oakland’s offense but he miraculously resurrected his career. Moss—who hit 7 home runs in June— sparked the teams sweep of the Colorado Rockies at Coors field with the help of Seth Smith, who the A’s acquired from the Rockies via trade this past off-season and ended June hitting .296 with 12 extra base hits. Smith and Moss both helped lead the Athletics to win five of their next six games which included a sweep at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The A’s went on to lose two of the three 9th inning nail biters against their cross bay rivals the San Francisco Giants, salvaging the last game in walk off style. On a road trip to Seattle the A’s managed to sliver off enough hits to win the three game series against the Mariners—thanks to the help of Seth Smith and Yoenis Cespedes, who hit .343 with 4 home runs in June. Astonishingly, the Oakland offense blossomed in June and lead the American League in “money ball’s” favorite statistic, walks, with 103, ranked 4th in extra base hits (88), 6th in runs scored (133), 5th in doubles (47), 3rd in home runs (34), and 6th in runs batted in (125).
DownSide: The offense has done enough to win in July but still find themselves at the bottom of the list in most offensive categories. They are the second worst team in home runs (22), runs batted in (21), and have the 4th worst batting average (.235).
UpSide: After the all-star break the A’s are promisingly within striking distance of the second wild card spot, only 2.5 games back. They are currently sitting at .500 with a 43-43 record, and are 6-1 through the first week of July. The pitching staff has started July putting up astronomical numbers. They rank first in the American League with a 1.57 ERA, a WHIP of 0.91, they have given up the least amount of free passes with only 14 walks, they are tied for first with opponents only hitting .197 against them, while only giving up three home runs, which they rank first in also. An offensive upside is that they are getting clutch hits from players coming off the bench and are tied for 3rd with 11 pinch-hit hits. Last but not least, the A’s also lead the majors with 8 walk off hits.
As you can see, the upside for the A’s is much larger than the downside. The A’s also started off the month of June slow before launching into one of the best offensive teams in the American League, so there is no reason to think they can’t do it again. They have been one of the most exciting teams in baseball and who knows what kind of excitement will be in store in the second half. Go A’s!