With today’s sweep of the Miami Marlins, the Oakland Athletics completed half of the season sporting a Major League-best 51-30 record which represents the A’s best first half since 1972, the season of their first of three consecutive World Championships.
Not even in the 100+ win seasons of 1988 (104), 1990 (103), 2001(102) and 2003 (103) did the A’s have a better record after the first 81. So far, the A’s have held the majors’ best record for two weeks and the best record in the American League for over a month. At five games ahead of the second place Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, A’s fan’s couldn’t ask for more as the A’s pursue their third-straight AL West crown (OK, maybe aside from maybe a 81-0 record).
With 418 runs scored, the A’s have outscored their opponents by 135 runs – the largest run differential in the league. The Athletics’ .264 batting average and .410 on-base percentage in pinch-hit at-bats ranks number one among clubs with at least 45 attempts.
The Run DMC combo of Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Yoenis Cespedes are the key suppliers to baseball’s most fearsome offense. Donaldson, Moss and Cespedes each have more than 50 RBI’s, and combined, are responsible for a hefty portion of the team’s runs scored with 167. The trio is doing their damage with home runs also as Donaldson and Moss have both smacked 18 dingers. A hot Cespedes rounds out the group with 14 long balls.
I hate to employ the over-used phrase of “when someone’s down another player steps up,” but the A’s have been getting contributions from some of the unlikeliest sources. Steven Vogt was left off the opening day roster and since rejoining the team on June 2, he’s been off to a hot start with a .317 BA in 21 games. He’s played right field, catcher and even a little first base – playing all three once in a single game.
The A’s pitching staff is looking like one of the best in MLB, if not the best. The staff’s 3.16 ERA ranks second in the majors behind the Washington Nationals 3.07. The questionable signing of Scott Kazmir, who had been sputtering stammering with the Cleveland Indians, has proven itself as he has not only reclaimed his one-time dominance at 9-3 with a 2.64 ERA, but he’s pitching the best baseball of his career. You also have to give credit to Jesse Chavez, the journeyman reliever who Oakland stuck in the starting rotation, who has responded 6-4 record with a 2.94 ERA in 16 starts.
Although Ryan Cook has had his struggles and Johnson has missed the mark of a $10 million closer’s contract, the other five relievers have ERAs under 2.32. Fernando Abad, Dan Otero, Luke Gregerson, Fernando Rodriguez and closer Sean Doolittle have baffled hitters all season, and have basically ended games after the sixth inning. Perhaps an even more surreal stat is that of the five, Otero has appeared in 38 of the 81 games.
After the meltdown on the mound in late innings by Johnson, a shoulder-tapped Sean Doolittle stepped in for the closer’s role. Despite having his 25 1/3-inning scoreless streak snapped by the Marlins on Saturday, Doolittle still has an outlandish 56:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The A’s will have to keep up their timely hitting, great pitching, and players stepping in when needed in the dog days of summer, but if this first half is any indication of the next half, expect them to be one of the last teams standing this season.