Oakland fans can finally take a breather, as the Athletics have officially clinched the American League West on Sunday after a walk off grand slam from Justin Maxwell in extra innings to defeat the Texas Rangers.
The Athletics celebrated Sunday after they completed a sweep to the Minnesota Twins with an abundance of champagne and euphoria.
“It’s just a whole different feel this year,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “Because we really did expect to be here as a team.”
Unlike last year’s magical season for the green and gold, the A’s clubhouse expected a postseason appearance. The previous season which consisted of 15 walk offs was one that will never be forgotten; the A’s were the underdogs who battled their way for a 94 win season, and won the West.
However, this year was one where the results were expected, and well anticipated by the clubhouse.
“We’re a way better team than we were last year,” Reddick said. “Better lineup, more experience. I think we’ve really opened a lot of eyes. It proves we’re not just another team, we’re here to be No. 1. And if they don’t take us seriously, we’ll keep doing what we’re doing.”
The A’s are without a question a more complete team than they were last year. Josh Donaldson and Jed Lowrie are two players that are largely responsible for the A’s clinching the West with several games remaining, as opposed to last year where the A’s had to win the final game in order to take the crown.
The addition of short stop Jed Lowrie has done nothing but wonders for the A’s, and third baseman Josh Donaldson is putting up MVP type numbers.
Lowrie is not known for his defensive ability, although the way he’s swung the bat all season has been key to Oakland’s success. The short stop is a vital component to the A’s offense, and he continues to prove that with his consistency at the plate. His batting average has fluctuated from around .285-.300 throughout the entire season. Oakland’s hitting-machine is currently batting .288 with 15 homers and 74 RBI’s, and an OBP of .344. To top it off, Lowrie is second in the American League in doubles with 44.
Now, to the Oakland A’s most valuable player, Josh Donaldson.
Towards the end of last season we began to see traces of major improvements by Donaldson, not just with the wood, but defensively at the hot corner as well. But who knew Donaldson would undergo a complete transformation from an injury fill in to one of the best third basemen in baseball?
Quite a few saw potential from number 20, although very few could of anticipated a breakout season for the young third baseman. Donaldson is batting .307 with 24 jacks and 92 RBI’s, and an OBP of .388. The youngster has emerged as the leader of this young ball club, and his value is unfathomable.
Not only is Donaldson an exceptional hitter, his defensive abilities are incredible. Donaldson put on a clinic at third base, as he made several unbelievable plays which undoubtedly were some of the best of the year. His wins above replacement (WAR) number, which is a single number which represents the number of wins a player added to the team above what a replacement player would add, is 8.1 which ranks second in the league behind Mike Trout! To have a WAR number of eight or more is of significant value, and certainly a MVP type statistic. The speed, power, athleticism, and smarts of Donaldson along with his ability to hit and defend particularly well has formed him into a special player for the A’s.
Lowrie and Donaldson were two significant components to why the Athletics had such a remarkable season. Nonetheless, to have 94 wins with five games remaining takes a total team effort.
First and foremost, I must give much of the credit to reigning AL Coach of the Year, Bob Melvin. Melvin is a game changer, and as long as he remains the Athletics manager, you simply cannot count them out.
The pitching staff was outstanding for Oakland throughout the year. At 40 years-old Bartolo Colon had arguably his best season, putting up Cy Young award numbers with a 17-6 record and a 2.64 ERA – which leads the American League.
After a slow 0-4 start, the young right hander Jarrod Parker ended up having a terrific season on the mound. He currently has a 11-7 record for the green and gold with a 3.74 ERA. A recent loss against the Angels snapped Parker’s nine-game win streak and his 19-game unbeaten streak, the longest in franchise history since Lefty Grove strung together 21 straight starts without being defeated in 1931.
Offensively, there were plenty of contributions. Brandon Moss leads the team with 28 homers and has tacked on 81 RBI’s thus far, and your 2013 home run derby champion Yoenis Cespedes added 26 homers and 80 RBI’s.
The AL West was won due to a tremendous team effort, led by star third baseman Josh Donaldson. Oakland is incredibly hot right now, and if they continue to perform the way they have, this team is going to be extremely difficult to defeat come postseason.