With the recent run of success by the Oakland Athletics that has brought them all the way to a season high 16 games over the .500 mark at 73-57 many have found themselves questioning what they’ve been watching. Is it really possible that the A’s are this good? I’m here to bring reality to you all, but in this case reality is not bad.
Commonly the determination of whether a team’s success is simply run differential. If you have a positive run differential then it is generally believed your team’s success is legitimate, if not then there is a good chance your team has been getting some help from lady luck. As of tonight the A’s have scored 540 runs and have allowed 484. That’s a pretty impressive difference, and indicates that the success this season of the A’s is not by luck. Bill James developed a formula to determine what the team’s true win-loss record is based on their run differential. For the A’s this formula gives them a record of 70-59 through yesterday’s game. That’s only two games off from their true win-loss record of 72-57 at that point.
It’s no mystery that the A’s have quite a talented roster, but when many critics look at this team they presume that they are just on a hot streak. The problem with that notion is that this hot streak has lasted for 2 months now. On July 1st when the A’s salvaged the 4th game of their series in Arlington against the Texas Rangers with a 3-1 victory they improved to 38-42. They would go 5-1 the rest of that week prior to the All Star break and would return to the .500 mark many thought they would never see again in 2012. The month of July got even better and they finished an amazing 19-5 that month. After a rocky start to August the A’s once again regained their winning form and proved all the eager naysayers that they weren’t about to drift away into irrelevance.
So why is it that this team is having such a high degree of success this year? One word covers it all, balance. What makes this team so dangerous is the fact that just about anyone put in the lineup on a given day can do some damage. The return of the power stroke to the A’s lineup has coincided with this run of success. In 79 games since July 1 the A’s have hit an impressive 104 home runs. The A’s currently have 7 players who have reached double digits in home runs, and will increase that total to 8 if and when Coco Crisp goes deep again. For a team that has the reputation for not being able to hit, they sure do know how to hit the longball.
The most crucial development that has shaped this team has been the emergence of Chris Carter as a legit middle of the order threat. For much of the last 2 years it has been assumed that Carter was going to end up being nothing but a typical AAAA player, able to crush pitching at the Triple A level, but never able to adjust to pitching at the highest level. He’s turned a major corner, and looks like he might finally be in Oakland to stay. When he came to Oakland as sort of the diamond in the rough of the trade that sent Dan Haren to Arizona along with Brett Anderson and Carlos Gonzalez, there wasn’t much expected of him. But he hit like crazy in the minors, and continued to hit as he moved his way up the ranks. The biggest jump in a player’s development is the most important one, from Triple A to the Major Leagues, and Chris Carter has once and for all made that jump.
An honorable mention goes to Josh Donaldson who has shocked everyone with his hot hitting over the last couple weeks. Donaldson has forced his way into the conversation of being one of the crucial weapons as the A’s fight for a spot in the postseason. Regardless of whether they make it, they have shown that the talent is there to make this team a perennial threat much sooner than anticipated.
The A’s continue their hunt for October tomorrow night as the trainwreck Boston Red Sox come to town. It’s time to show everyone in Beantown just what the boys in Oaktown are all about.