The Oakland Athletics are off to a good start, there’s no question about that. Currently, they have 12 wins and only 5 losses and lead the American League West by 1.5 games over the Texas Rangers (10-6). With such a great start, the question on the minds of Athletic’s fans is whether or not their team is the best is Major League baseball. The short answer to that question is no, they are not. The long answer is they are a good team, but they simply aren’t the best at this moment, and here is why:
Unfortunately, most of the wins the Athletics have come by are from beating teams that are ranked near the bottom, or at the bottom, of their division. So far, 9 of their 12 wins came from beating the Houston Astros (5-11) and Los Angeles Angels (6-10). These are two teams that have struggled and will continue to struggle (especially the Astros) to win ball games. These are teams Oakland should be winning against no problem, but, while they did beat these teams handily, it’s impossible to say they are the best team in baseball when they haven’t consistently beaten good teams.
The only consistently good team the A’s have played so far is the Detroit Tigers. Detroit (9-8) is currently tied for the lead with Kansas City (8-7) in the American League Central division. In that series, Detroit won two games and Oakland won one. It’s hard to take away too much from just three games, especially since Detroit didn’t sweep the A’s, but the Athletic’s victory was a closely contested ball game while their losses were one-sided (7-3 and 10-1).
Another reason Oakland doesn’t have the best team is there are other teams playing better; they are playing (and beating) other good teams. For instance, the Atlanta Braves (13-3) not only have a better record than the Athletics, but they also swept the Washington Nationals (10-7), a quality team. There’s also the Boston Red Sox (12-4) who just beat Kansas City and are on top of what might be the toughest division in baseball.
And finally, Oakland has a couple key injuries—one is Nakajima and the other is Anderson. Nakajima strained a hamstring in spring training and is still out. Even with a recovery, there isn’t a good chance Nakajima will see playing time since Lowrie has been playing quite well and Nakajima played quite poorly in spring training. Nakajima was supposed to be one of Oakland’s key acquisitions in the off-season, so his absence means the A’s don’t have the lineup they were hoping for, which may not be terrible, but it isn’t a good thing. Anderson, who sprained his ankle in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays (6-10), isn’t sure when he will return to the mound. There is good news about his condition though. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Anderson’s ankle has improved. Hopefully this means Anderson won’t be out of the rotation for too long.
To be the best team, Oakland needs to get their roster healthy, and back on the field as well as beat better teams. It looks like Cespedes will be back in the lineup in the near future, and I still haven’t lost hope that Nakajima will start playing like he did in Japan before the season is out. As for beating good teams, the Athletics will get a chance to do just that on Monday when they start a three-game series against the Red Sox followed by a four-game series against the Baltimore Orioles (9-7).