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Oakland Athletics Opening Day Primer

2011 Record: 74-88 Manager: Bob Melvin

The Athletics are embarking on yet another rebuilding job on-the-fly. The A’s were hoping to be a surprise contender last season with a good, young starting staff high in potential, but that staff was beset by injuries and never realized their potential. With the Angels and Rangers gearing up for a huge showdown in the AL West, GM Billy Beane has recalibrated the A’s roster with an eye on hitting the ground running in 2013.

Player in the spotlight: Yoenis Cespedes CF

The A’s uncharacteristically broke the bank in signing Cuban defector Cespedes in the winter to a 4-year, $36M contract. Cespedes brings some big power to the table and has good speed. He stands to be a major contributor and all-star candidate for years to come. He’ll be the key to a rejuvenated lineup that Beane hopes will be ready to compete next season.

Biggest question mark in the lineup: Manny Ramirez DH/Flake

Manny’s back and he’ll join the A’s after sitting out 50 games after getting his 100 game suspension shortened. Who knows what Manny has left, but the A’s are a perfect last chance for his career and if he proves that he can still hit well, then Beane might be able to swing him for a borderline prospect at the trade deadline.  Otherwise, Ramirez will just get in the way of the development of the A’s younger players who need major league at bats.

Pitcher in the spotlight: Brandon McCarthy

McCarthy enters 2012 as the ace of a depleted starting staff that consists of retreads and prospects. McCarthy was able to rejuvenate his career last season after not pitching in the big leagues since 2009. The A’s need McCarthy to make his starts consistently and hold down the fort until Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden comes back. McCarthy will be a free agent at the end of the season so that means that he could be moved somewhere to help this team retool for 2013.

Biggest pitching question mark: Tom Milone

Milone came over from the Nationals in the Gio Gonzalez deal where he won 12 games in each of the past 3 minor league seasons. Milone also added another win in his decent September call up last year. His development is in the spotlight because he might be the only starter among the current staff that will be around when they’re ready to compete for the AL West title next year or 2014.

Prospect with a chance to make an impact this year: Jarrod Parker SP

Parker was the key piece of the Trevor Cahill deal with the Diamondbacks in the winter. Parker was the D’backs top prospect before the trade. The A’s should have Parker in the rotation by midseason at the latest. .

Prediction: 3rd in AL West

This is an intriguing group of players that Beane has assembled. They’re not built to win this year, but who knows?  Beane has put together overachieving rosters before. But if all goes as planned, this team should get Braden and Anderson back and develop a couple more starters while getting their young lineup experience for next year. Then they should be looking at an 85 win team going into next season with the potential for more if things go well. This year, .500 is a more realistic goal.

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MLB Daily Balk Morning Rundown 5/12

Last Night’s Games  
American  
Detroit 9 Minnesota 7
Oakland PPD Texas
Seattle 2 Baltimore 4
Kansas City 4 New York 3 F/11
Tampa Bay 8 Cleveland 2
Boston 3 Toronto 9
Chicago 6 Los Angeles 4
National  
San Diego 13 Milwaukee 6
Cincinnati 3 Houston 4
New York PPD Colorado
Los Angeles 2 Pittsburgh 0
Washington 7 Atlanta 3 F/11
Philadelphia 5 Florida 3
St. Louis 4 Chicago 11
Arizona 3 San Francisco 4

 

Unbelievable final play!

Best of Yesterday May 11

Top Aces    
Player Team Stats
Hiroki Kuroda W (4-3) LAD 7 IP, 0 ER, 8 K, 3 BB
David Price W (5-3) TBD 8 IP, 2 ER, 7 K
AJ Burnett NYY 7 IP, 1 ER, 6 K, 5 BB
Chris Tillman W (2-3) BAL 6 IP, 1 ER, 5 K, 3 BB

 

Hitting Heroes    
Player Team Stats
Adam Dunn CWS 4-5, HR, RBI, 3 R
Starlin Castro CHC 4-4, 3 RBI, 3 R
Victor Martinez DET 3-4, HR, 3 RBI, 1 R
Rajai Davis TOR 4-4, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 SB
Jason Bartlett SDP 4-6, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 SB

 

 AL News/Notes

BJ Upton will start serving his 2-game suspension on Thursday for the Rays.

Kendrys Morales is now going to miss the entire 2011 season for the Angels due to complications from his ankle injury.

The Athletics have announced that Dallas Braden will undergo surgery to repair a torn capsule in his pitching shoulder. He’s going to be out until at least early next season.

The Indians’ Grady Sizemore injured his “other” knee on Tuesday after coming up lame sliding into second base.

  

NL News/Notes

Stephen Strasburg is getting closer to throwing off a mound for the Nationals after undergoing Tommy John surgery at the end of last season. Strasburg’s recovery time will be a pivotal factor in the Nats chances in the NL East in 2012.

The Dodgers have put Hong-Chi Kuo on the DL due to anxiety issues that have affected his ability to locate his pitches. Manager Don Mattingly couldn’t even guess if Kuo would be able to return this season.

The Phillies still plan to start Joe Blanton on Saturday despite Blanton not being completely healthy. The Phillies need a healthy Blanton to shop around the league due to his $8M salary and the Phils pitching depth.

 

Streaks of the Day

  • Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury ended his hitting streak at 19 games
  • Astros Hunter Pence extended his hitting streak to 15 games

 

Top Thursday Matchups

12:05 EDT Rays (Shields 3-1, 2.01) at Indians (Masterson 5-0, 2.11) — MLB Network

3:45 EDT Diamondbacks (Hudson 3-4, 4.47) at Giants (Cain 2-2, 3.38)

7:05 EDT Dodgers (Garland 1-2, 3.66) at Pirates (Morton 4-1, 3.13)

7:10 EDT Nationals (Zimmerman 2-4, 4.10) at Braves (Lowe 3-3, 3.22)

 

Yesterday’s Balks: 0

MLB Daily Balk Morning Rundown 5/3

 

Last Night’s Games  
American  
Texas 4 Oakland 5
New York 5 Detroit 3
Los Angeles 5 Boston 9
Baltimore 2 Chicago 6
National  
San Francisco 0 Washington 2
Milwaukee 2 Atlanta 6
Florida 6 St. Louis 5
Pittsburgh 4 San Diego 3
Chicago 2 Los Angeles 5

 

Thrilla by Godzilla!

Best of Yesterday May 2

A “Thrilla by Godzilla” gave the Athletics a walk off win over the Rangers. Hideki Matsui‘s 3rd homer of the season pulled the A’s within a game of the first place Rangers in the AL West. Josh Willingham had tied the game with a homer in the 8th off Arthur Rhodes.

Nick Swisher came through with a RBI hit in the 9th off Jose Valverde and Mariano Rivera closed out the Tigers to earn his 11th save for the Yankees. Alex Avila had a pair of solo homers for the Tigers in the loss.

The Nationals held the world champion Giants to 4 runs in their 4-game series. Tom Gorzelanny went 8 innings and Drew Storen saved his 6th game for the Nationals. Miguel Tejeda‘s two out error in the 7th inning led to both of the Nationals runs.

The Red Sox beat the formerly unbeaten Jered Weaver as they scored 6 in the 7th inning off the Angels bullpen to secure their win. Adrian Gonzalez‘ bases loaded double cleared the bases and David Ortiz hit his 3rd homer of the season in the 7th inning. Left fielders Carl Crawford and Vernon Wells finished the night batting .353; combined.

Alex Gonzalez doubled and drove in 3 runs while Jair Jurrjens held the Brewers to 2 runs in 7 2/3 innings to win his 3rd game for the Braves. Jurrjens’ is now 3-0 with a 1.52 ERA after 4 starts.

Paul Konerko hit 2 homers for the White Sox and Mark Buehrle won his 2nd game for the Sox. Sergio Santos came on for his 3rd save of the season. Chris Sale gave up a two-run homer to Derrek Lee in the 9th and there’s got to be some consideration to send him down to AAA to regain his confidence. Sale’s ERA is now 7.15 on the season.

Lance Berkman hit his 9th homer and drove in 4 runs for the Cardinals. But the Marlins got a sacrifice fly from Greg Dobbs in the 8th inning off Mitchell Boggs and Leo Nunez held on for his 10th save for the Fish.  Gaby Sanchez hit a grand slam in the 3rd and Mike Stanton also hit his 4th homer for the Marlins in the win.

Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak to 28 games with a RBI single in the 5th in the Dodgers win. Alfonso Soriano hit his MLB-leading 11th homer for the Cubs. Clayton Kershaw won his 3rd game and Jonathan Broxton threw a perfect 9th for his 7th save.

Garrett Jones and Chris Snyder each hit a pair of two-run homers for the Pirates in the 1st inning of their win.  James McDonald won his second straight start with a solid 6 innings, giving up only 2 runs.

 

What Happened (!!)Yesterday?

Yovani Gallardo was beat up again for the Brewers. He gave up 5 runs in 5 innings thanks to 4 walks and 9 hits allowed. Gallardo is now up to five consecutive starts in which he has allowed at least 4 runs for a total of 26 1/3 innings and 26 earned runs allowed. The Brewers were hoping that facing the Braves would help to cure his pitching ills, but it was not to be. This is quickly becoming a major concern for the struggling Brewers.

 

AL News/Notes

Rehabbing news for the Rangers as Tommy Hunter will be starting on Wednesday in AA and Neftali Feliz will pitch an inning as well and could return to the Rangers on Friday.

Nick Markakis hurt his knee and hand during the Orioles loss on Monday night, but should be ready to go Tuesday night in Kansas City.

Dallas Braden continued to experience stiffness in his shoulder on Monday morning and could be headed to see the doctor again. The Athletics have been fortunate to have Tyson Ross pitch well in Braden’s absence. Ross pitches again on Tuesday night.

Blue Jays manager John Farrell has adjusted fairly well in his first month as manager, but still has major issues with his starting pitching that needs to be addressed.

 

NL News/Notes

The Reds and Astros were rained out on Monday and will make up the game on Thursday afternoon. Homer Bailey is now expected to return to the Reds’ rotation to start Thursday’s game.

The GiantsPablo Sandoval is scheduled to have surgery on Tuesday on his right hand. He’s expected to be out of the lineup for 4-6 weeks. Unfortunately for the Giants, that means more of the ultra-struggling Miguel Tejada at third base with Mark DeRosa also on the DL.

Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner appear to be two to three weeks away from returning for the Cubs. The Cubs desperately need them to return as Ryan Dempster has really struggled and Monday’s starter, James Russell, has gotten lit up in his three starts.

 

Streaks of the Day

  • Dodgers Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak to 28 games

 

Top Tuesday Matchups

7:05 EDT Nationals (Hernandez 3-2, 3.23) at Phillies (Hamels 3-1, 3.13)

7:10 EDT Angels (Haren 4-1, 1.23) at Red Sox (Lester 3-2, 3.57)

7:10 EDT Brewers (Estrada 1-0, 3.00) at Braves (Hanson 3-3, 2.57)

8:15 EDT Marlins (Sanchez 1-1, 3.86) at Cardinals (McClellan 4-0, 3.23)

10:05 EDT Indians (Carmona 2-3, 5.15) at Athletics (Ross 1-2, 2.76)

 

Yesterday’s Balks: 0

MLB Daily Balk Morning Rundown 4/20

Enter Sandman, Exit Loss

Best of Yesterday April 19

James Shields crafted a complete game victory for the Rays over the White Sox. Shields gave up only 4 hits, 1 BB, and 1 run while getting 9 strikeouts in the 2-1 win. The Rays have now won 8 of 11 and only trail the Yankees by 2 games in the AL East.

The Brewers pitchers shut out the Phillies at Citizens Bank. Starter and ex-Phillie Randy Wolf went 6 innings giving up only 2 hits and 3 walks while striking out 5.

Jake Arrieta led the Orioles pitchers in shutting out the Twins at Camden Yards. Arrieta’s battery mate, Matt Wieters drove in 4 of the O’s 11 runs. Buck Showalter was impressed with Wieters.

Travis Snider broke his bat over his knee last night before hitting the game winning double in the 10th inning to give the Blue Jays a 6-5 win over the Yankees.

Ryan Roberts of the Diamondbacks blasted two homers, drove in 3 runs, and even stole a base in the D’backs 5-4 win over the Reds. Roberts is now hitting .382 on the season and might not even be in the majors if Geoff Blum hadn’t been injured before opening day.

The Marlins Josh Johnson continues to establish his Cy Young credentials during the first month of the season as he threw 7 scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 1.00 on the season. His 9 strikeouts give him a 27-6 K-BB ratio in 27 innings this season.

Rookie 1B Mike Trumbo delivered his 3rd homer and drove in 4 runs in the Angels rout of the Rangers on Tuesday night. Rangers starter Colby Lewis and the rest of their pitchers were feeling labor pains throughout this one.

Royals starting pitching Bruce Chen went to 3-0 on the season after giving up 2 runs in 7 innings in the Royals 5-4 win over the first place Indians on Tuesday night. Chen’s ERA is now at 2.42 and the Royals are 11-6 and one game behind the Tribe in the AL Central.

Panda time as Pablo Sandoval took Ubaldo Jimenez deep in the first inning for a 3-run homer as the Giants beat the Rockies 6-3 on Tuesday night. There are only two games separating the teams in the NL West now.

The Athletics Brett Anderson was spectacular in their win over the Red Sox on Tuesday night. Anderson won his first game by shutting out the Sox for 8 innings, giving up only 4 hits, 1 walk and he had 8 strikeouts. His ERA is now 1.63 on the season.

Ichiro and Chone Figgins combined to go 7 for 9 and steal 3 bases at the top of the order for the Mariners in their 13-3 win over the Tigers on Tuesday night.

What Happened Yesterday?

Mariano Rivera showed that he was human as the Yankees iconic closer as he blew his first save opportunity of the season on Tuesday night in Toronto. The usually immaculate Rivera walked one and gave up four hits in the 9th inning and only a brilliant double play initiated by 3B Eric Chavez kept Mo from losing his first game.

Terry Francona got tossed for the first time this season in the Red Sox 5-0 loss at Oakland. Francona was arguing a, you guessed it, a balk that wasn’t called on A’s pitcher Brett Anderson in the 4th inning when Dustin Pedroia was picked off first base.

Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero is hitting a gaudy .380 so far this season. But the backstop committed his fifth error of the season against the Reds on Tuesday night. There’s no DH in the National League to hide your glove, Miguel.

The Dodgers entered the top of the 9th inning against the Braves down 2-1 and hoping for another walk off win. Unfortunately, Dodgers relievers Kenley Jansen and Ramon Troncoso didn’t get the memo and gave up 8 runs between them in the inning. That’s going to leave a mark on their ERAs for awhile.

The Daily Balk’s Take

Geoff Baker writes that the Mariners won’t be trading ace Felix Hernandez this season, but might entertain that possibility during the winter or next season.

  • The bottom line here is that Felix is 25 years old and under contract through the 2014 season for very palatable salaries. The Mariners, or any team, would be foolish to trade a pitcher of this quality and value until they know if their young talent is going to pan out for them. If the young players don’t improve enough for the Mariners to contend by the end of the 2013 season, then maybe the Mariners could look to deal Felix. Until then, it just doesn’t make practical sense.

 

AL News/Notes

Sam Fuld of the Rays has led them to an 8-4 record since moving into the leadoff spot. The once 0-6 Rays are now right back into the AL East race at only 2 games behind the Yankees. Rays manager Joe Maddon even believes that Fuld is playing defense better than Carl Crawford in left field.

Tyson Ross will take over for the injured Dallas Braden in the Athletics rotation. Ross pitched well in spring training and almost won the fifth starter’s job. Ross is ranked by Baseball America as the A’s 4th ranked prospect and if he pitches well, could join the rotation fulltime or become a trade piece for GM Billy Beane to use to improve the offense in June or July.

The A’s are 26-22 against the Red Sox since 2006. That’s the best in the AL over that time period.

First baseman Kila Ka’aihue of the Royals is only hitting .151 this season in 15 games. With top prospect Eric Hosmer off to a quick start in Omaha, Ka’aihue’s days in KC could be numbered.

NL News/Notes

Starting pitchers for the Pirates, Kevin Correia and Charlie Morton have combined for the most complete games in April, 2, by the Pirates staff since 1992. The 92 Bucs won the NL East and lost to the Braves in the NLCS in Barry Bonds last season in Pittsburgh.

The Cubs and Padres will play a day-night doubleheader at Wrigley on Wednesday after Tuesday night’s rainout.

Crazy weather in St. Louis sets up a doubleheader on Wednesday at Busch between the Nationals and Cardinals. This will be a day-night doubleheader like the Cubs and Padres.

Ike Davis of the Mets has been in the majors for a year now.

“Five Finger” Mike Leake of the Reds is still scheduled to make his start on Thursday despite his legal issues from Monday.

David Hernandez and JJ Putz have stabilized the 8th and 9th innings for the Diamondbacks. Last year, the D’backs were historically bad.

Opposing hitters are batting .524 against the Braves Tim Hudson in the first inning this season. Hudson has yielded 7 runs in the first inning and only 6 runs for all of the other innings combined. Also, Hudson’s pitch in the vicinity of Jerry Sands’ head on Monday night was a purpose pitch. But Hudson signed a ball for him after the game.

Cody Ross is back with the Giants but was not activated for Tuesday’s game at Colorado. He should be in the lineup on Wednesday.

Brandon Belt of the Giants turns 23 on Wednesday and could get a plane ticket to Fresno as a “gift” from manager Bruce Bochy.

Streak of the Day

The Royals Wilson Betemit and Alex Gordon both extended their career long hitting streaks to 11 and 13 games respectively.

Top Wednesday Matchups

3:10 EDT Giants (Cain 2-0, 1.42) at Rockies (De La Rosa 2-0, 3.18)

3:35 EDT Red Sox (Buchholz 0-2, 6.60) at Athletics (Gonzalez 2-0, 0.47)

8:05 EDT Angels (Weaver 4-0, 1.30) at Rangers (Harrison 3-0, 1.23)

8:10 EDT Indians (Masterson 3-0, 1.33) at Royals (Hochevar 2-1, 4.21)

8:15 EDT Nationals (Zimmerman 1-2, 2.45) at Cardinals (Garcia 2-0, 1.35)

Last night’s balks: 1 – Bobby Parnell of the Mets against the Astros

Oakland Athletics Opening Day Overview

Oakland Athletics Opening Day Overview

Manager: Bob Geren     GM: Billy Beane

  Lineup:
1 CF Coco Crisp
2 1B Daric Barton
3 RF David DeJesus
4 LF Josh Willingham
5 DH Hideki Matsui
6 C Kurt Suzuki
7 2B Mark Ellis
8 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
9 SS Cliff Pennington

 

Crisp had a solid bounce back season in Oakland after signing from KC. He’s never been a great OBP guy and last year’s numbers were right in line with that. He’s not a long-term solution for the A’s in CF but can help them win games and maybe fetch a prospect or two in late July.  

Barton is Mr. OBP and led the AL in walks last season. He’s a high OBP guy with very modest, well, mediocre home run power. The A’s need him to remain the on base machine that he is and take his extra base power from close to 50 XBH to over 60 this season. At 25, he still has a lot of room to grow and could eventually become a 20+ HR guy to go along with his outstanding walk rate. He’s also one of the best fielding first basemen in the league.

DeJesus was rescued from Kansas City in the offseason and can play all of the outfield positions. He tore a ligament in his thumb that ended his season at 91 games. He’s a potential leadoff replacement for Crisp is they can find more powerful production for the #3 hole as he’s got a .360 career OBP after getting on at .384 last season.   

Willingham brings a big bat from DC and, of course, a good eye at the plate. It will be interesting to see how long he stays in Oakland as he’s a free agent at the end of the season. With Chris Carter waiting patiently at AAA for an opportunity in left field, Willingham is going to have to produce fairly quickly to stay in the lineup fulltime.

Matsui is a shell of his former Godzilla self. He still hit over 20 HRs last season with the Angels, but at 37 his best days are behind him. Unlike most decisions by Billy Beane, this signing looks more like a gate attraction signing rather than a good baseball move with prospects who could step in and equal or exceed what Matsui will do.

Suzuki took a step back last season as he had his worst average, OBP, and slugging. The A’s gave him a long term contract last year and need him to get back to the solid 2009 numbers and improve on those.

Ellis has been in Oakland forever and he could be done at the end of the year since his contract is expiring and Jemile Weeks is waiting. He’s a little pricey at $6M, but could be a solid addition to a team in the pennant race in late July. Philly could be an option if Utley doesn’t get healthier. Until then, the A’s will hope that he hits in the .290s again and plays his usual good defense.

Kouzmanoff came over from San Diego before last season and hit 16 HRs, but didn’t get on base (less than .300 OBP). He’s not a typical Beane type of player and should be somebody the A’s will be looking to replace as long as he’s the starting third baseman.

Pennington brings a mediocre bat with good speed. The good news for A’s fans is that their best prospect, Grant Green, is a shortstop who should be up no later than early next season.

  Starting Pitching
1 RHP Trevor Cahill
2 LHP Brett Anderson
3 LHP Gio Gonzalez
4 LHP Dallas Braden
5 RHP Brandon McCarthy

 

Cahill wasn’t on the opening day roster last season but starts this season. He had a tremendous breakout season in his second year in Oakland. While it might be difficult to expect a repeat season based on his K-BB ratio, he can come close if he can improve his strikeout rate.

Anderson might be the best unknown starter in the AL. While Cahill and Braden got a lot of attention last year, Anderson shook off early arm trouble and posted a 2.80 ERA. His win total should increase is he can start working later in the games (112 IP/19 GS), but the future looks bright for this 23 year old. If he can return to his 2009 strikeout rate and start over 30 games, he could make a run at the Cy Young award.

Gonzalez seems to have it all. He exceeded 200 IP for the first time last year and won 15 games. He struck out as many hitters as got hits (171). The next step this season is to further improve his BB rate and get it near 3 per 9 IP. If he does that, he could push his win total up near 18.

All Braden did last season was pitch a perfect game. He’s not a guy who brings the heat but he works the corners with off speed pitches and keeps the ball in the park. He’s not going to be a big winner on a team with a modest offense, but he takes the ball every five days and gives the A’s a chance to win as his 3.50 ERA last season shows. As the A’s continue to develop pitchers and Braden increases his salary in arbitration, the likelihood that he gets traded increases. That could happen later this season or in the winter.

McCarthy hasn’t pitched a full season since 2006. He’s suffered a number of injuries and probably won’t last the whole season without a trip to the DL. But he pitched well in AAA last season and again in Venezuela over the winter so the A’s signed him. The word on him in spring training was that he was looking good and his spot in the rotation is testament to that. Beane seems to make gambles that pay off and this one might as well.

  Bullpen
CL RHP Andrew Bailey(DL)/LHP Brian Fuentes
SET RHP Grant Balfour
  LHP Jerry Blevins
  LHP Craig Breslow
  LHP Bobby Cramer
  RHP Michael Wuertz
  RHP Brad Ziegler

 

Bailey is a solid pitcher when healthy but he missed time last year with elbow problems and will begin this season on the DL. The A’s will need him to be healthy to potentially surprise the rest of baseball this year.

Fuentes seems like he should be on the brink of becoming a situational lefty but still remains a viable candidate to close out games like he did for the Angels last season before his trade to the Twins. He’ll start this season as the A’s closer with Bailey out and could be called upon a few more times considering Bailey’s injury history.

Balfour got a two year deal for $8M to come over from the Rays where he was very good over the past three seasons. He another example of how the A’s have built a very good bullpen that should help to shorten their games and make their young starters winners more often.

Blevins is more of a lefty specialist who will benefit from having Balfour face right handed hitters late in the game. Breslow has a live arm but can get into trouble in smaller ballparks where his propensity to give up fly balls hurts him more on the road. Cramer came out of nowhere (literally) to pitch well in four starts last season and will pitch in long relief to start the season. Wuertz and Ziegler will back up the rest of the bullpen.

  Farm Prospects who could help in 2011
1 1B Chris Carter
2 RHP Tyson Ross
3 OF Michael Taylor

 

Carter is the A’s top AAA prospect and can play LF as well. He could get a look if Willingham or Matsui struggles. Ross didn’t make the team in the spring after starting last year as the 5th starter. He’ll be in the mix if they need to add an injury replacement or somebody’s ineffective.  Taylor was a highly regarded Phillies prospect that came through Toronto for Brett Wallace. He’s got all of the tools and plays center field. If Crisp struggles or gets traded, it should open the door for Taylor.

Three Questions:

1. Will the young Athletics rotation continue to pitch well?

  • This staff shouldn’t sneak up on anybody this season and if they can fulfill expectations, they should be in the AL West race all season long. While not as accomplished as the Big Three of Hudson, Zito, and Mulder ten years ago, this Big Three of Cahill, Anderson, and Gonzalez has the potential to be just as good.

2. Can the Athletics lineup provide at least average production?

  • The pitching is going to be at the top of the league, but the key will be if the offense can score enough runs to win more than they lose. Once again Billy Beane has taken chances on older players, high OBP players, and players too expensive for KC. If at least a few of these guys pan out, then the A’s can keep it close so Beane can make a deadline deal or two in late July.

3. What will Billy Beane do to make this team better?

  • When the A’s were going to the playoffs with their previous generation of players, Beane would always be working the phones and finding a handful of deals to give the team the ammunition to make a late season push. No team used to be better record-wise after the trade deadline than the A’s. With a pitching staff capable of leading a team to the postseason once again, how will Beane address the offensive needs of this club as the season goes on? You can probably expect a player heading to free agency whose team will need to eat a portion of his contract to make the deal.

 

Projection

The A’s have all the pitching to make a run at the Rangers in the AL West. The advantage for the A’s is Beane’s proven ability to work the phones to improve a solid team with good pitching and make it great for the stretch run. If he’s able to pull the right strings, the A’s could win close to 90 games and claim their first division title since 2006.