This will be the blog’s last look at AL West division rivals before turning our eyes to the Astros next. Today we continue the topic with the defending division champs, the Oakland A’s. We will include some stats from 2019 and 2020 since 2020 was such an odd wad season.
- Last Playoff season. 2020 when they lost the ALDS to the Astros 3-1
- Last Playoff winning series. 2020 when they beat the White Sox in the Wild Card round
- The A’s are 8-5 all-time in the World Series, 4-2 in Oakland and 4-3 back in the Philadelphia days. They last played in the WS in 1990 (being swept by the Reds) and last won the year before in 1989 sweeping the Giants in the Bay Area earthquake series.
- 2019 Record. 97-65 2nd place in the AL West – 10 games back / 52-29 at home / 45-36 on road / 27-22 one run games / 6-9 extra inning games – They were 8-11 against the Astros
- Hitting. 5.22 runs/game (5th in AL) / .249 BA (8th) / .327 OBP (5th) / .776 OPS (5th) / 257 HRs (4th)
- Pitching. 4.20 runs/game (4th in AL) / 1.242 WHIP (4th) / 45 saves (5th) – Starters – 4.02 ERA (4th) / Relievers – 3.89 ERA (4th)
- 2020 Record. 36-24 1st place in the AL West – 7 games ahead / 22-10 at home / 14-14 on road / 7-6 one run games / 6-1 extra inning games -They were 7-3 against the Astros
- Hitting. 4.57 runs/game (T-8th in AL) / .225 BA (14th) / .322 OBP (7th) / .718 OPS (10th) / 71 HRs (9th)
- Pitching. 3.87 runs / game (4th) / 1.234 WHIP (4th) / 17 saves (T4th) – Starters – 4.49 ERA (8th) / Relievers – 2.72 ERA (1st)
The A’s have been one of the best teams in the majors the last two seasons, which did not help them in two failed playoff runs. Their 36-24 record in 2020 would project out to 97-65, which was their record in 2019. But thanks to the Astros fall-off last year, they went from 10 games back to 7 games up in the division. The A’s survived a drop off in their hitting in 2020 by riding a top-5 pitching staff including the best bullpen in the majors. The bullpen meltdown in the playoffs doomed them in 2020. This season the A’s have to make up for a slew of off-season losses, which were partially offset with some late off-season signings.
The offense will look much different in 2021 and considering their struggles in 2020, that might not be a bad thing. OF and former Astro Robbie Grossman left as a free agent to Detroit after a solid 2020. SS Marcus Semien left as a free agent to Toronto after a big fall-off hitting in 2020. He is being replaced by SS Elvis Andrus, who came from the Rangers in a trade sending longtime OF/DH Khris Davis to Texas. IF Tommy LaStella, who hit well as a trade-deadline rental from the Angels signed with the Giants. 3B Jake Lamb was picked up after being released from the D’Backs in September and hit well down the stretch, but he also left in free agency to Atlanta. The two big additions are the signing of veteran Mitch Moreland as the likely DH and the return of Gold Glove and slugger 3B Matt Chapman, who missed the last part of the season and the postseason with a hip injury. Similar to the Astros, the A’s are hoping for bounce-back seasons from some of their main starters like 1B Matt Olson (.195 BA/ ..734 OPS), CF and former Astro Ramon Laureano (.213/.704), Stephen Piscotty (.226/.629) and Chad Pinder (.232/.688). The A’s will get some improvement, but likely their offense will be league average.
The A’s bring back their starting rotation that, as a whole, was quite good the last couple of years, but they have had some problems in Spring Training. Frankie Montas missed time due to COVID protocol and then left his last start with a ripped cuticle, which sounds minor but can be problematic over time. Mike Fiers was supposed to fill the 5th spot in the rotation behind Montas, Jesus Luzardo, Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea, but has been suffering from hip inflammation brought on by a large number of voodoo dolls being bought and used in the Houston area. Bassitt is the ace here and Manaea has been very good at times. 23 year old Luzardo is the one to watch as he looks like a stud in the making. If Fiers and/or Montas miss time early, look for high end prospect A.J. Puk, former Phillie Cole Irvin or youngster Daulton Jefferies to pick up some starts. Starting pitching (except for one yellow-bellied chicken who is hiding from his former club) looks like a strength again for Oakland.
As stated above, the A’s had the best and deepest bullpen in the MLB until they crashed in the playoffs. In the offseason, they lost their lockdown closer Liam Hendricks (White Sox) and other bullpen denizens, Joakim Soria (D’backs), T.S. McFarland (Nats) and Daniel Mengden (Free agent waiting hell). They recently signed a replacement closer Trevor Rosenthal, who came back from a nightmare 2019 to pitch quite studly for the Royals and Padres in 2020. Jake Diekman (0.42 ERA) who was almost untouchable in 2020, moves into the set-up man’s spot. They re-signed Yusmeiro Petit and signed FA Sergio Romo from Minnesota, who join J.B. Wenderlein and Lou Trivino to make their bullpen on paper a tough gauntlet to run through again.
2021 Prediction: 93-69 and first in the AL West
The AL West is going to be a close two-horse race, but right now it looks like the A’s have a good shot at holding off the bounce-back of the Astros. More on that next post.