Why This Spring Will Be Different

Oct 10, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) celebrates as he and right fielder Josh Reddick (16) score runs on a two run RBI double by designated hitter Seth Smith (not pictured) during the ninth inning of game four of the 2012 ALDS against the Detroit Tigers at O.co Coliseum. The Oakland Athletics defeated the Detroit Tigers 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Spring training his finally here and the A’s are looking forward to another trip into the post-season. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. The A’s are looking forward to anothertrip into the post-season. The A’s were not expected to be playoff contenders last year, but they shocked the baseball world with 94 wins and a division crown that came on the final game of the season.

Last year the A’s were considered to be a bottom dweller in a division that was considered fiercely competitive. The A’s had no business being mentioned in any sentence that contained the word playoff. The playoffs were reserved for the powerhouses in Arlington and Los Angeles and not for the penny-pinchers from Oakland.

Oakland was the last place anyone considered home to the playoffs.

That was then and this is now. This year the A’s enter spring camp with heightened expectations and whether that is a good or bad thing, Billy Beane and his bunch of youngsters are beaming with confidence that they’ll meet those expectations.

One thing going for the A’s this year is their starting pitching. Many doubters last year questioned whether or not Oakland’s inexperienced rotation could handle the long, grueling test that is a 162-game season. The young A’s not only proved they could handle big league hitting, but that they were among the best pitching staffs in baseball.

Brandon McCarthy (8-6, 3.24 ERA, 111.0 IP) will be missed this season after being signed by the Diamondbacks this offseason, but the A’s were able to re-sign the veteran Bartolo Colon (10-9, 3.43 ERA, 152.1 IP). With Colon, the A’s have a strong veteran presence in their still young rotation.

Overall, the A’s rotation is one thing to be excited about this spring. It will be interesting to see how well Brett Anderson (4-2, 2.57 ERA, 35.0 IP) performs as Oakland’s ace in the rotation. It is still unclear as to who will start Opening Day, but Anderson, 25, is definitely a top-option for manager Bob Melvin. If Anderson can stay healthy, he could anchor an A’s rotation that could do some serious damage in the American League.

Watching young guys like Jarrod Parker (13-8, 3.47 ERA, 181.1 IP) and Tommy Milone (13-10, 3.74 ERA, 190.0 IP) will continue to mature and gain experience this spring will be exciting and interesting as well. There are a lot of things to like about Oakland’s pitching.

Last spring there was just the hope the young guys would adapt well to major league hitters. Now there’s an expectation, not hope, that surrounds each of these guys this spring. We now expect a guy like Parker to only get better with more experience.

The A’s did not enter camp last year with a very “scary” lineup. The team was expected to struggle offensively all year long, but the team did surprise a lot of people with their .265 average with runners in scoring position.

And Oakland got plenty of power from guys like Josh Reddick (32 HR), Yoenis Cespedes (23 HR), Brandon Moss (21 HR), Jonny Gomes (18 HR), and Chris Carter (16 HR). Overall, while not entirely threatening, the A’s did manage to score 713 runs (14th in MLB) while also posting a .404 SLG. percentage (15th in MLB).

Fans should expect Cespedes, who impressed just about everyone in his first full-year in the majors, to have an even stronger outing in 2013. The A’s have also added a few extra pieces this offseason that have solidified various spots in the outfield and infield.

Beane and Co. didn’t have a “splashy” offseason by any means, but what they did accomplish should be considered a job well-done. The A’s didn’t have to give up a bunch of talent and cash to retool and revamp their roster like the Angels had to this winter, so the front-office bested just about everyone in the AL West.

The A’s have depth, strong starting pitching, and now they have playoff experience under their belt. They know what it takes to get to October and they’re expectedto return to October baseball this year.

It all starts with spring training and oh how different this spring will be.

Topics: Oakland A's, Oakland Athletics

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