As much as we try to focus on the positive, we find it incredibly difficult, at times anyway, to completely block out the negative ions that surround us in the world. The world of baseball, in my opinion, is no different. The A’s amazed their fans last year with a post-season run that ended prematurely in the ALDS against the Tigers. The green-and-gold had no business playing in the playoffs, or at least that was the general consensus at the start of the 2012 campaign.
Oakland’s historic and memorable run, though, defied those baseball “experts” who pegged the A’s as nothing better than a third-place team in a division that belonged to Albert Pujols. Fast forward a year, those same “experts” are now counting on the A’s to give the Angels and Rangers a run for their money again in 2013. While everyone has analyzed the A’s in a generally positive light, including myself, there are a few things that could go terribly wrong for the A’s in 2013 that could ultimately tank their attempts at repeating as division champs in ’13.
Earlier this month I took a look at what the A’s have going for them as they enter the new year. Among the bright spots in Oakland were a strong starting rotation, excellent depth across the diamond, and a young star named Yoenis Cespedes. In order to stay fair, however, I feel the urge to look at a few things the A’s have going against them in 2013. It is my own honest opinion that the A’s will, in fact, find a way to compete again this year, but again, to play devil’s advocate, I’m giving you, the reader, three things/scenarios that could create problems for Oakland’s encore in 2013.
- The Brandon Moss Experiment Fails: The A’s currently have Brandon Moss penciled in as the team’s starting first-baseman. Moss, 29, enjoyed some success in Oakland last year, hitting .291/.358/.596 with 21 HR and 52 RBI in just 84 games. He was part of Bob Melvin‘s platoon plan at first base last year, as the A’s had Chris Carter at first as well throughout the season. The duo proved highly effective, combining to hit 37 HR last year for the A’s. With Carter now in Houston, however, the A’s now have Moss by himself and that could potentially be a problem down the line. Moss proved to be a solid mid-season addition for the A’s last year, but the guy essentially spent an entire career in the minor leagues before bursting onto the scene with Oakland. The guy also had a miserable time in the post-season collecting just two hits in 15 at-bats last year. The A’s are placing a lot of confidence in Moss this year and that could backfire. The A’s have added a ton of depth this past winer bringing in the likes of Jed Lowrie to help fill in various spots in the infield, but the A’s would hope to keep Moss on the field rather than on the bench. It’s likely Moss will prove to be a reliable source of power again in 2013, but there remains the possibility that Moss, who didn’t hit that great against lefties, could come crashing down to Earth this year. If that happens, the A’s will have to rely on their depth to carry them.
- Oakland’s Rotation Hits A Sophomore Slump: The A’s rotation is build around young talent. That young talent is being headlined by a 25 year old in Brett Anderson, who is entering this year healthy for the first time in years. The southpaw will be leading a rotation that includes fellow youngsters Jarrod Parker (13-8, 3.47 ERA), Tommy Milone (13-10, 3.74 ERA), A.J. Griffin (7-1, 3.06 ERA), and Dan Straily (2-1, 3.89 ERA). The A’s were a strong pitching team last year, posting the league’s sixth-best ERA (3.48) thanks in part to their stingy bullpen, too. But the attention should remain on Oakland’s young arms which helped the A’s reach the post-season last year for the first time since 2006. The A’s featured four rookie starters in their playoff series against the Tigers last year and each starter, for the most part, held their own. The rotation has playoff experience now, but there remains the possibility that the rotation could face a sophomore slump. The young A’s starters threw a lot of innings last year, so it’ll be interesting to see how well guys like Parker and Milone respond this year after setting highs in innings-pitched last year. Injuries could also put a road-block in the A’s path to October baseball this year as well. Anderson and Parker, in particular, are both pitchers with a history of injuries and if either one of them goes down due to injury, the A’s could be in serious trouble. The A’s figure to experience their fair share of growing pains this year, but whether or not they’ll overcome those pains remains to be seen.
- Oakland’s Lineup Fails To Score: The A’s are not a terrifying team of offense, at least on paper they are not. The A’s led the majors last year with 15 walk-off wins and a lot of timely hitting helped the A’s capture the division crown. Now, to say the A’s will enjoy the same type of late inning magic is a little too much, even for me, the ever-optimistic A’s fan. The A’s have solid pitching that should keep them competitive, but the team will still need to figure out ways to score runs in 2013. Last year, the A’s ranked 28th in the majors with a .238 batting average and 24th in on-base percentage with a .310 mark. The Moneyball days are over and the A’s are now relying on speed and the occasional timely hit to score runs. The team did manage to score 713 runs last year, thanks to a .265 average with men in scoring position. Also, for the first time in years, the A’s had a little bit of power last year. Josh Reddick (32 HR), Yoenis Cespedes (23 HR), and Brandon Moss (21 HR) helped bring power back to Oakland last year, but it will be interesting to see whether or not Reddick’s power returns in ’13 and whether or not Moss pans out at first. Offensively, the A’s lack serious star-power and recognition, but they are banking on their added depth to help score runs this year. In order for the A’s to continue their winning ways this year, the guys who performed well last year on offense will only have to continue their offensive output. If they don’t, the A’s could find themselves in a constant battle to score runs.