With the A’s loss to the Brewers tonight the A’s have now lost 6 games out of their last 25, but they still have the third best record in the American League, and with a Rangers’ loss to the Red Sox, they are still only 1.5 games out of first place. I know that it’s June, but it’s nice to see the A’s be successful early in the season, as this team is normally known as a second-half team.
There is no question that when your favorite team is performing well, without a bunch of high-paid, well known players, fans of opposing teams are going to call the success a “fluke”. This all started last July, when the A’s went on to win 19 of their 24 games, setting themselves up to eventually win the AL West on the last day of the season. Now I know we aren’t “supposed to live in the past”, so let’s focus on this season.
Do I think think this team has been a fluke since July 2012? Yes, most of the 19 wins in their last 25 games and some of these wins have been against teams with losing records (10 out of the 19 to be exact), but isn’t that what good teams are supposed to do? Beat teams who are, supposedly, “beatable”? Would wins matter more if the team was winning against teams with winning records, than with teams with losing records? Now, I know it is still early in the season, but it is encouraging for me to see the team winning games they might have not won last season at this time.
Now, what exactly is a fluke? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a fluke is “a stroke of luck”. So to say the A’s are a flukey team, you would be saying the A’s are winning purely on luck. Are the A’s getting lucky? It’s quite possible. They have had a relatively “easy” schedule over the past three weeks, but they aren’t winning on balls that should have been caught, but were dropped. They aren’t winning by bad calls by umpires, or by fans interfering in plays. To state the obvious, the A’s are pitching well and scoring runs when they need to, to win games. I would not call that luck, I would call that, playing good baseball.
There’s been a few changes since early to mid-May, mainly, the pitching staff has really turned it around for the team, especially Jarrod Parker and Dan Straily. In his first seven starts, Jarrod Parker allowed 28 earned runs over 34.1 innings (7.34 ERA), while walking 18 batters and striking out 25, also posting a .372 BABIP. In his last five starts he has allowed just 9 runs over 34.1 innings, while walking 10 and striking out 26, also posting a .200 BABIP. His .200 BABIP over his last five games does actually show he’s running into a bit of luck, but his .372 BABIP also shows he was under-preforming earlier in the season.
Dan Straily is a bit different than Jarrod Parker since his sample sizes are a bit smaller, but definitely worth the mention. Straily was called up on April 29th after Brett Anderson landed on the DL with a ankle injury, through his first four starts he allowed 19 earned runs over 19 innings, walked 12, struck out 16 and allowed 3 home runs, which was good for a .310 BABIP. Through his last three games he has allowed 2 runs over 19 innings, walked one and struck out 14, while posting a .222 BABIP.
The most consistent pitcher has been Bartolo Colon, who was the biggest question coming into this season. He has pitched in 11 games for the A’s this season and over 70.1 innings has a 3.33 ERA, a 3.34 FIP and a .286 BABIP. He has only walked 4 batters and struck out 42, good for a 5.37 SO/BB ratio.
It’s not only the pitching that is helping the team win, their offense has also been decent, around league average, and are currently 5th in the league with runs scored (281). They have a combined .251/.336/.404 slash line this season, this comes a season after spending the entire season in the cellar in most offensive categories.
Josh Donaldson has been the MVP of the team so far this season, posting a .321/.392/.526 slash line in 245 plate appearances and has a .393 wOBA and 151 wRC+, good for a 2.6 fWAR. Jed Lowrie has also had a good season up to this point, posting a .317/.397/.447 slash line with a .371 wOBA and 137 wRC+.
I think most underrated is Coco Crisp’s return, who, since returning to the team on May 15th, has a .328/.421/.443 slash line over 76 plate appearances. He has walked 12 times, scored 14 times and driven in 10. It’s amazing what can happen to a team when their lead off hitter reaches base.
I don’t think it’s always going to be this easy for the team, they will hit bumps in the road, as most teams do. But, I think it’s time for people to realize this team is not winning games because they have magical powers where special winning elves come and prevent them from losing. This team is doing everything right, right now, just like they did in the second half of the season. Numbers do not lie; the A’s have hitters they didn’t have in the past, they are getting quality starts out of their five starting pitchers and the bullpen is preserving leads for the most part (26-2 when leading after the 7th inning). Add in team health and the Athletics are in a position to contend for the AL West title once again in 2013.