A’s Are Among Baseball’s Best, And People Are Noticing


Shortly after the quarter point in the season, the Oakland Athletics find themselves in the driver’s seat early on in the American League pennant race.

As we approach the end of May, the A’s are establishing themselves as an elite team, with every win cementing their status as a force to be reckoned with.

If that’s a surprise to you, that means you probably haven’t been paying much attention over the last three years to one of the most entertaining teams in the Majors.

Yes, the collection of underdogs that are commonly viewed as a cute afterthought to the real title contenders are now considered one of the best teams in baseball by virtue of their 30-17 record.

But it’s not just the fact that Oakland has the most wins in baseball, it’s how they’re winning that’s turning heads.

Best in the league in run differential. Three pitchers in the top 10 in the American League in ERA. Victories in 11 of 13 contests going into tonight’s game against Toronto, which easily could’ve been 12 had they held on against Tampa Bay Thursday night in extra innings.

Add it all up and you can see why the A’s are being hyped as a serious threat to play deep into the fall if they keep playing the way they are.

It’s that time of the season where teams are settling into their spots in the standings and preparing for the grind of the summer months, the time when the good teams start to separate themselves from the pack.

We’ve got enough tape on each club by this point to start poking holes in the resumes of the ones who look like they might have what it takes to win it all, and when it comes to the A’s, they haven’t given us all that much to critique.

In seasons past, Oakland has relied on their pitching to prop up the team while they waited on the bats to get going by June or July.

When Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin were lost for the year to Tommy John surgery, the biggest question heading into the season was how the starting rotation would hold up without arguably their two best starters. While there are still plenty of games left to play, through almost two months Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez have been excellent.

While big things were expected from Gray in his first full season and with Kazmir coming off of a bounce back campaign in Cleveland, the biggest question mark was Chavez, and the 30-year-old journeyman has performed above and beyond any reasonable expectations, putting up numbers in his first year as a starter that rival some of the best arms in the game.

Drew Pomeranz and Tommy Milone have done their jobs holding up the back of the rotation to quell any fears (for the time being) that the losses of Parker and Griffin would derail the season.

Additionally, the bullpen remains strong, with Sean Doolittle nabbing the closer’s role and Luke Gregerson and his slider being utilized in the eighth inning, along with guys like Dan Otero and Fernando Abad working the middle innings if necessary. The arsenal of relief pitchers at his disposal has allowed manager Bob Melvin to weather the storm of Jim Johnson’s struggles and the temporary loss of Ryan Cook.

Solid pitching has always been the most reliable aspect of every A’s team during Billy Beane’s tenure as general manager, and the front office did well to acquire arms in the offseason as a back up plan for a scenario that ended up happening.

As a result, the loss of Parker and Griffin placed the pressure to perform out of the gate squarely on the offense, and Oakland’s hitters have answered the call, and then some.

Any discussion of the A’s offense lately has justifiably focused on their eye-popping run differential. Their mark of +96 is more than twice as good as the next best team, the Angels at +44, and they’re simply rolling when it comes to putting men on base and getting the hit to bring them home.

Leading the charge is the three-headed monster of Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Yoenis Cespedes, with the three accounting for 104 of the team’s 227 RBIs. If you’re looking for the source of the A’s success at the plate, look no further than those three.

There’s certainly been other contributors, from contact hitters like Jed Lowrie and Alberto Callaspo to the streaky, “Careless Whisper” inspired run of offense by Josh Reddick. And we haven’t even mentioned the likes of Derek Norris, who’s sporting a .340 average with 20 RBIs, or Coco Crisp, who will hopefully get back to being the sparkplug at the top of the order after missing 12 games with various ailments early on.

While there’s plenty to be excited about for Oakland’s fans, it cannot be overstated how small of a sample size this is. It’s highly unlikely that the team continues to perform at this level for the entire year.

A Major League Baseball season is one of peaks and valleys, and while the A’s are coming off an impressive two months, things can turn awfully quickly, and depending on how much you want to read into the recent offensive performance (or lack thereof) against Tampa Bay, they could already be falling back to earth from an unsustainable run.

Beginning tonight against Toronto, the next three weeks is possibly the toughest stretch of the season for the A’s, as they’ll take on the top three teams in the AL East (including the Yankees twice) as well as those troublesome Detroit Tigers and the Angels twice. We’ll know a lot more about this team following that difficult test.

But as of today, the A’s have positioned themselves one of the top teams — if not the top team — in the game. And they’re getting the recognition that comes with it.