Hear that? That’s the clock getting ready to strike. We’re in the homestretch. The A’s are hanging onto a razor thin lead in the West, having given five games back to the Rangers in late July, including a sad stretch at the Coliseum.
The problem? The same it’s been all season. The A’s are hitting .243. That’s good for 24th in the League, just ahead of the Nationals, just behind the Cubs. Not inspiring company.
The team ERA is 3.60, still pretty great. It was 3.43 through June, a shocking 3.06 through July. The pitching isn’t the problem. Yet.
The problem is a 3-1 loss is a loss. A 2-0 loss is a loss. The A’s staff can pitch as well as they like. If they continue to get an average of 2 runs a game in support, the A’s are going to lose games. Maybe every one.
Allow me to restate the case. The A’s team ERA, good for 8th in the league, means they are allowing twice as many runs as they are scoring. That is unsustainable.
You can’t ask that of a young staff like the A’s’. You already ask them to pitch in the Coliseum. You already ask them to let opposing teams hit the ball and trust the defense. You can’t demand that they drop their team ERA by half.
I don’t know that the average fan understands how mentally exhausting pitching is. This staff doesn’t have one guy who can simply reach back and brainlessly throw a 98 mph heater if he gets in trouble. These guys have to think their way out of jams. A.J. Griffin mixes speeds and delivery. Dan Straily paints the edges of the plate. Bartolo Colon basically has two pitches, both fastballs. Bartolo has the years to slow things down, to stay even through the bad stretches. You can’t expect the same from Straily, Griffin or even Jarrod Parker. It’s unfair. And unrealistic. Nobody thought these guys could pitch this well. You can’t demand better.
The hitting though. A’s fans deserve better. And they deserve better from one A in particular.
What a nice surprise Josh Reddick was last year. Now he’s back to being Josh Reddick, career .236 hitter. What a nice surprise Josh Donaldson’s been. What a great return on the $480,000 he’ll earn this year. Chris Young? Sure, he’s the highest paid player on the team. But Chris Young, like Mr. Reddick, is a career .236 hitter.
But what about Yoenis Cespedes?
Yoenis Cespedes will earn $8.5 million this year. For that, he is hitting .236. He is currently striking out about 1 of 4 bats. And not good strikeouts. The word is out. Put the ball 6 inches off the plate, Cespedes will swing at it. Put it twelve inches off and down? Watch the mighty cut. Feel the mighty breeze. And his fielding? Well anyone at the park last Sunday certainly didn’t enjoy his channeling of Josh Hamilton.
Cespedes wants to be a leader. He wants to be a star. He needs to play like one. Big players. Make big plays. In big games.
If you’re an A’s fan and you really want to make your stomach hurt, take a look at the Rangers’ schedule for August. They have 7 games against Houston. Six against Seattle. They also play the White Sox and Brewers, two teams who have given up on the season.
The A’s? Among others, the A’s get the Orioles, the Rays, the Tigers and the Indians.
The A’s cannot sit and wait for Texas to lose. Even without Nelson Cruz, the Rangers are going to win most of their games in August. To keep pace, and to make the next A’s/Rangers series worth watching at the start of September, the A’s need to win most of the next month’s games. On the road. Against good teams.
To do that they need to hit. To win they need Yoenis Cespedes to hit. If that doesn’t happen, the season will, for all intents and purposes, come to an early end in August.