6 Challenges the Oakland A’s Will Face in 2013

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Starting in their division, these are some important factors that hopefully will prove to be nothing more than a weak thorn in Oakland‘s side during some point of next season‘s highly anticipated run:

# 1 The Texas Rangers:

They may have lost Josh Hamilton, but Texas broke about even by acquiring catcher A.J. Pierzynski and designated hitter Lance Berkman.  The two new additions bring with them not only solid power, but add some much welcomed veteran leadership.  Jurickson Profar (who has just agreed to play for the Kingdom of The Netherlands in this weekend’s Championship Round of the World Baseball Classic) and Mike Olt – two highly touted prospects – could both potentially find themselves somewhere on Texas’ roster come opening day – most likely in a bench capacity at first – , despite the pair’s poor numbers so far this spring.

Mar 11, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Yu Darvish (11) pitches during the fourth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Japanese import Yu Darvish heads the Rangers staff as their ace, and is projected to have an equally – if not better – impressive year.  And although there are a few players in Oakland’s lineup (including recent acquisition John Jaso) who have decent numbers against the phenom, the team as a whole hit only slightly better than major league average against Darvish in his first year in the majors, with Oakland hitting to the tune of .279.

The team’s respectable .384 OBP against Darvish deserves more speculation, however, as the rookie ace had an impossibly high amount of walks issued (89) last season, and it is very likely that he will be able to make an adjustment by next season.  And no, it doesn’t account for all of his earned runs, but hey, walks usually turn into runs.  Billy Beane and Bob Melvin should definitely get some Yu Darvish video-tape time in to instill the good ‘ole “take a pitch” mentality to the players when facing the Ranger’s ace.

As a whole, Texas surprisingly does not hit Oakland very hard, as they own a sub-par .240 average against the club.  But what is slightly concerning are the numbers they have against Oakland’s starters, all of whom – besides A.J. Griffin and Brett Anderson (who had zero appearances against Texas in 2012) – are responsible for at least one or two Texas homeruns in as many games started against their division rival.

In addition, Brandon McCarthy is no longer around to account for some of the better numbers the team had against Texas, and the starter is replaced by a recovering Brett Anderson, who suffered a minor neck injury in his last start.

Though he is scheduled to make a minor league start this Saturday, manager Bob Melvin has decided not to pit the lefty against Oakland’s division for the remainder of spring.

“He won’t pitch against the division,” Melvin said, “and we can get his pitch count where we want to get it.”

Oakland did sweep the Rangers out of the playoffs in the final three games of the 2012 regular season, so they might want to try and keep the mentality they had in that series present whenever facing the hot swinging Texas lineup.