Oakland Athletics Have Become Legitimate AL West Contenders

Don’t look now, but the Oakland Athletics are primed to make their first playoff appearance since the 2014 Wild Card game against the Kansas City Royals.

The Oakland Athletics currently hold the second Wild Card seed, and are just three games behind the New York Yankees for the first spot.

But the mission doesn’t stop there, Bob Melvin and his staff have this young group of players aiming at bigger goals that are still within their reach — a division title.

The A’s come into the weekend just two games behind the Houston Astros for first in the AL West. And coincidentally, this weekend. the A’s will welcome the Astros to the Coliseum for a three-game series, which by the end of it could lead to a flip in the division standings.

But how did the A’s get here? The team that was 212-274 (.436) over the past three seasons, now has a legitimate shot to dethrone the defending World Series champions.

At the All-Star break, the A’s sat in third place, eight games behind the Astros with a 55-42 record. Pretty solid first half for a team that has failed to reach .500 the past three seasons.

Since July 17th, Oakland has become the hottest team in baseball and doesn’t show any sign of letting up. Oakland has posted a 17-7 (.708) record and has gained six games in the division, passing the Mariners in the Wild Card race.

The Athletics also now hold the fourth best record in baseball and are a legitimate threat to the Astros.

So what gives? What’s the reason for the club’s incredible recent play?

Well, for starters, it’s the starting pitching. The starters have combined to go 10-5 with a 3.15 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .249 batting average.

The rotation of Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Edwin Jackson, Sean Manaea, and the recently acquired Mike Fiers doesn’t stand out as a threatening rotation, but they are doing a great job pitching the team to victory.

While the starting pitching has done a great job, the bullpen has been equally as impressive. Led by Blake Treinen and Lou Trivino, the bullpen has produced the highest Wins Above Replacement rating in the entire MLB, over the second half of the season.

Melvin’s bullpen has a 2.85 ERA in over 85 innings pitched and are holding hitters to a .214 batting average. Their 10.55 K/9 and 0.84 HR/9 ratios are among a few statistics that correlate with their league-high 78.7 percent strand rate during the second half.

Even with the recent success of the bullpen, David Forst and Billy Beane continued to make moves to solidify their bullpen by acquiring Shawn Kelley and Fernando Rodney after the July 31st deadline.

Their bullpen is eight men deep now, and everyone knows pitching depth is critical during postseason runs.

Offensively, the production has continued to produce as it has all season. The offense currently ranks in the top ten in all of baseball in home runs, ISO, SLG, runs scored, and RBI. Their leader in the offense has been none other than, Matt Chapman.

Chapman is not only becoming a human highlight reel at the hot corner. But he also has been tearing the cover off the ball since the All-Star game.

In 24 games after the All-Star game, Chapman is slashing .368/.440/.737 with six home runs and 24 RBI. Chapman is hitting .279 with 16 home runs and 43 RBI during his first full season with the A’s.

Chapman isn’t the only one hitting for Oakland, Khris Davis leads the team with 34 home runs, and 93 RBI. 13 of his 34 home runs have come in the second half along with 29 of his 93 RBI have come in the past 24 games.

Davis was always known for his power, but with 41 games still left to play, Davis will likely find himself with a new home run career high.

When you tune into ESPN or Fox Sport, you won’t see a lot of analysts talking about the Athletics. Similar to the Phillies, they are a team that is peaking at just the right time, and that leads to shocking people.

Well, they’ve grabbed the attention of fans in the Bay Area, and maybe by this weekend, they catch the attention of the Astros. Who knows, perhaps if they sweep the Astros this weekend, they might be at the center of the AL playoff race.

It’s still the middle of August, and there is a lot of baseball left to be played. But if you are local to the Oakland Coliseum, you should make your way down to the ballpark. You never know, this could be the next team that Hollywood is building a “Moneyball” script based off of.