If you said that the Oakland Athletics were going to be in the playoff mix back in the offseason, you would’ve had people asking for you to be drug tested. But the A’s have defied the odds, are playing well, and are one of the most captivating storylines of the 2018 season so far. Currently 55-42, they’re in third place in the American League West, and three games behind the Seattle Mariners for the second AL Wild Card seeding. But, even with how silly it might sound, them surpassing Seattle and/or holding onto a playoff spot is feasible. In fact, here’s five reasons why Oakland can make their first playoff appearance since 2014.
Their Lineup Can Only Improve
The most interesting aspect of the A’s roster is their starting lineup. While they are 10th in runs scored (449) and 6th in home runs (127), the A’s have not been an overpowering unit offensively. They’re 13th in team batting average (.246), 14th in hits (821), and don’t have many individuals hitting for average outside of All-Star shortstop Jed Lowrie — who is hitting .285. With that said, Khris Davis has recorded 64 RBIs, Lowrie has knocked in 62 runs, Matt Olson has 47 of his own, and Stephen Piscotty has totaled 46; they find ways to score runs. In the process, youngsters such as Dustin Fowler, Olson, and Matt Chapman are playing on a consistent basis, and growing in the process.
The A’s have a healthy balance of youth and veterans in their order with former All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy, Marcus Semien, Mark Canha, Piscotty, and Lowrie. This team is beating opponents with the long ball and by playing small ball. It’s nothing special, it’s just decisive baseball — which is what the A’s have been formulated around for years.
They Have The Assets to Make a Trade For Starting Pitching
The A’s starting rotation is one of the more underwhelming amongst playoff-caliber teams. They’re 19th in team ERA (4.36) and don’t have a surefire ace or overpowering arm in their rotation. Nevertheless, they are receiving competent outings from Sean Manaea (who threw a no-hitter earlier this season), Edwin Jackson, and Frankie Montas as of late. Adding a top-end starter — or two — would take their rotation to the next level.Here are five reasons why the red hot Oakland @Athletics could qualify for the postseason.Click To Tweet
When it comes to the type of pitchers the A’s should target, ones under team-control for the foreseeable future would make sense. Some names president Billy Beane could look into acquiring are the Tampa Bay Rays’ Chris Archer and the St. Louis Cardinals’ Carlos Martinez — who are each under contract for at least the next three years. In return for those prized arms, the A’s could offer one of their highly regarded outfielders considering that their Major League outfield is likely set for the next few years. The A’s would be wise to hold onto prized lefties Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk in case they need an extra arm down the stretch, or simply want them to be on their 25-man roster in 2019.
They Have An Elite Bullpen
The A’s bullpen is their biggest asset. It’s one of the best cores in the game, is consistent, and the grouping is eighth in team ERA (3.50). Since they acquired him from the Washington Nationals in a deal that sent Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson packing, Blake Treinen has been exceptional as the A’s closer, this year in particular. Executing 24 saves, recording 61 strikeouts, a 0.94 ERA, and a 0.98 WHIP in 48.0 innings pitched, Treinen punched his ticket to the 2018 MLB All-Star Game.
Righty Lou Trivino also owns a 1.22 ERA and 0.95 WHIP, and has recorded 50 strikeouts. Yusmeiro Petit, Emilio Pagan, Santiago Casilla, and Ryan Buchter have also been reliable options out of manager Bob Melvin‘s bullpen. The A’s have one of the best backends in the game, are capable of picking up where their starters leave things, and can limit the damage.
Seattle Looks More Like One-Year Run Than Long-Term Threat
Much like the A’s, the Mariners have exceeded expectations and are in the playoff picture. If the playoffs were to begin today, they’d travel to the East Coast to take on the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game. But their roster is not built for long-term success like the A’s. Sure, Jean Segura, Dee Gordon, Kyle Seager, Mitch Haniger, Nelson Cruz, and friends have picked up the slack with Robinson Cano suspended. But the Mariners rotation is thin behind lefty James Paxton — who also struggles to stay healthy.
The Mariners have a win-now roster, and one of the worst farm systems in the league based on the amount of trades they’ve made over the last three years. As currently constructed, they’re a more talented team than the A’s, but the Mariners are only three games up on the A’s, and one could argue that Oakland was one of the least talented teams in the Majors going into this season. The A’s are hitting their stride and are a dangerous foe given what they have — or don’t have — on the line.
The Athletics Have Nothing To Lose
Going into this season, every team in the AL West was viewed as better than the A’s based on the lack of veteran talent and progressing youngsters they had on their roster. Four months later, the A’s are one of the best teams in baseball and have been on a tear as of late. Winning 21 of their last 27 games, the A’s have put themselves in the thick of the playoff race and are beating some respected teams in the process. Going 4-2 against the Cleveland Indians and winning three out of four games on the road against the first-place Houston Astros, the A’s have shown that they can compete with AL powerhouse ballclubs.
They have the proven veterans in Lowrie, Davis, and Lucroy; they have the evolving youngsters; they don’t have any expectations; they just play ball, are smart in doing so, and are winning games as a result. They can only improve in the second half, but even if they don’t make the playoffs, this has been an impressive run and encouraging glimpse of what the future has in store for the A’s. At the same time, they have nothing to lose, and the way they’re winning games channels successful A’s teams of the past. By the way, they also have the lowest payroll in baseball ($82.7 million).
This is Moneyball at its finest: The A’s are very much an AL Wild Card threat.