The Oakland Athletics have completed the first half of their schedule, and currently sit atop baseball with a 51-30 record. All is well in the East Bay, but the second half could be even better.
In the first half, the Athletics had the 7th toughest schedule and still managed to go 21 games above .500. Looking ahead to the second half of the season, once the A’s get past this coming week filled with games against Detroit and Toronto, the schedule gets dramatically easier.
After the All-Star break, the A’s face Baltimore at home for 3. That is the “tough” part. After that, their next 9 are against Texas and Houston. Couple that with a reeling Giants squad to pad the record before the break, and the A’s should be looking at another winning month.
August has 7 games towards the end of the month against the Angels, but the rest is filled with interleague games (the A’s current interleague record is 7-1) and games against the hot and cold AL Central. To put it lightly, the Athletics second half schedule gets much softer, with some tough divisional games sprinkled in.
The Athletics currently hold a 98.9% chance of making the playoffs. They could go .500 the rest of the way and still attain 90+ wins. That’s how well they performed in the first half. Yet, seeing that they rank 1st in MLB in runs scored, and 2nd in runs allowed (#1 is Seattle who have allowed 2 less runs) there are no signs that this train should stop.
There are areas in which the team could improve their depth. Second base has been a glaring hole this season, but it hasn’t cost the team yet. My bold prediction for the second half is that Billy Beane doesn’t seek an improvement at second. Instead, he leaves Eric Sogard off the playoff roster, with Nick Punto, the gritty veteran getting some playing time.
Who takes over that roster spot? Billy Burns. He doesn’t need to be in the lineup, but he can create some havoc on the base paths if the A’s need a run. Couple him with Gentry and Crisp and the Athletics all of a sudden are a fairly speedy team. This way, the Athletics can also beat you by playing small ball, instead of waiting on their big hitters to do some damage, which, outside of Cespedes they haven’t in October.
Another improvement to be sought for the Athletics second half would be another solid reliever. Another one? Yes. Bob Melvin has been primarily using 4 arms in the ‘pen with Francis, Johnson and Cook seeing time occasionally. That one extra arm could save the entire bullpen from growing weary later on.
Some will argue that the A’s need another starting pitcher, but as of right now I don’t see it. The staff has the second-best ERA in baseball, meaning they stack up pretty well against anyone.
The Athletics second half should be much like the first. Full of winning, home runs and pitching. Only this year, the A’s are looking primed and ready to get that ALDS monkey off of their backs.