It’s difficult to say that the A’s have surprised people this year after what they did in 2012. However, come postseason time, they should be surprising people by knocking out the big guns. Here are three reasons why the A’s are primed for a magical run deep into October.
The pitching staff is outstanding.
Sure there have been bumps in the road, but every team faces those, and the A’s young pitching staff has a short-term memory.
The first month of the season was rough for Jarrod Parker, and that’s a generous way of putting it. But since the middle of May he has a top three ERA in the American League. He has #1 stuff and has proved that up and down every lineup (Red Sox, Orioles, Tigers, Rangers, you name it). Then you look at Bartolo Colon, one of two A’s All-Stars in 2013 (along with closer Grant Balfour). He was having a Cy Young caliber season until an injury caused a couple poor starts and a trip to the DL, but he’s 2-1 since returning and seems to have his movement and velocity back on his fastball. Then there’s the kid, Sonny Gray. With a fastball sitting in the mid-90′s he knows how to hit his spots and then buckle knees with his devastating curveball. He has an ERA at 2.77 as a starter with almost a strikeout per inning. Now you get Brett Anderson back too, and he could possibly become the best fourth starter in the league. He, like Parker, was terrible at the beginning of the year, and he has only been used out of the bullpen since coming off the DL, but after what he did down the stretch last year and during his one playoff start, it’s hard not to see him as a part of the starting rotation there this year too.
Top to bottom the A’s starters can compete with anyone else’s in the league and they will be ready to show the world that come October.
They can beat the top pitchers.
Come playoff time you see only the best team’s, best pitchers. And, well, the A’s have shown this year that they can beat the top pitchers in the game, especially one’s they could potentially see come the postseason. And this list is long, so be ready: Max Scherzer (two no-decisions), Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister, Hisashi Iwakuma (twice), C.C. Sabathia (twice), James Shields, Yu Darvish (three times), Derek Holland, Madison Bumgarner, Chris Sale (twice), Shelby Miller, Jeff Locke (when he was unbeatable),Gerrit Cole, Homer Bailey, Justin Masterson, and David Price.
There are a couple of reasons the A’s have been successful in such games this year.
First let’s take the offense side. It’s not a great offensive team but one thing that they do really well is work counts. A’s hitters wait for their pitch and force tough at-bats from the pitcher. As the opposing pitcher’s pitch count rises, and they get tired they start missing locations and the A’s hitters are ready to take advantage, scoring just enough runs to put their team on top.
But it’s not just scoring runs, it’s run prevention too. Just like it was demonstrated above, the A’s starters are terrific and they thrive on being in the spotlight against the top pitchers in the rest of the league. They know that the game is going to be on all the highlight reels so they want everyone to see how good they can be too. It’s a team effort and one that will carry over into October.
The atmosphere at the Coli.
This one is simple.
A’s fans have never really been great at showing up to the ballpark. That’s a well-known fact around baseball. But another established theme is that the fans that are there are as passionate as any. Last year’s playoffs, including Game 162, were a good example of that as many described O.co as the loudest stadium they had ever played in, including many of the Tigers who celebrated in front of cheering A’s fans who wouldn’t let the season end on a sour note as they chanted, ”Let’s Go Oakland!!” into the night.
When you combine this type of energy with the loose clubhouse Bob Melvin keeps it’s only going to get the A’s players moving and more hyped up for the big games. They live and feed off the crowd. Sure O.co Coliseum is more run down than any professional stadium ever should be, but it has tradition. The A’s players know that and only want to be a part of it. They want to add on to the magic that has taken place over the last 45 years in Oakland and bring a tenth title to the A’s franchise.