2020 MLB Preview: Oakland A’s
The Oakland Athletics have made the playoffs five out of the last eight years but the result has always been the same: a loss in the playoffs. The wildcard has not been kind to the A’s with losses in three straight appearances.
The A’s though are not the Washington Nationals, though. They don’t fire their manager every year. They realize that their extremely frugal/constant rebuilding strategy needs a steady hand who’s grateful for the opportunity. That sums up Bob Melvin to a tee. This is a guy who finished two games over .500 with a nothing Arizona Diamondbacks in 2008 and was rewarded with a pink slip. For some reason the likes of Chris Young and Eric Byrnes were being counted on to lead Arizona to the promised land that year.
Expectations are high in Oakland this year too. The A’s have Melvin and a real shot to do more than just make the playoffs. AJ Puk, Frankie Montas and Jesus Luzardo are expected to be in the starting rotation and improve a team that won 97 games last year. Puk was in the bullpen, Montas missed time on suspension and Luzardo had shoulder issues. Mike Fiers (3.90 ERA) pitched well in spite of a lot of pressure from the Astros cheating scandal of which he basicallly blew the lid off by himself. Chris Bassitt continued to show he’s a solid major-leaguer (3.81 ERA 1.19 WHIP). Yusmeiro Pettit continues to be solid in the bullpen and provides a sixth starter. Liam Hendricks’ 1.50 ERA was three runs below his career average but the rest of the bullpen should be able to match last year’s performance.
Offensively and defensively they have pieces and the time is now to use them because you know Billy Beane and David Forst are going to have a fire sale before too long. Shortstop Marcus Semien had a career high in homers with 33 and average at .285 but her reduced his strikeout total by 22 percent. I love third baseman Matt Chapman’d defense and power, but what I loved even more was his ability to make contact. Last year though, his batting average fell off 30 points. Outfielder Ramon Laureano came out of nowhere to hit .288 with 24 home runs. I like outfielder Seth Brown. He could be this year’s Laureano. He’s hit for power and respectable average (.274 career in the minors). He strikes out a lot but still gets on base at a .352 clip.
Bottom line, this team reminds me of the 1970s Baltimore Orioles: lots of three-run homer potential and the possibility of a dynamite pitching staff. Houston’s vulnerable this year. Let’s see if the As can finally get over the playoff hump and maybe win a championship. We didn’t even mention Khris Davis. If he can get hot at the right time, he can carry them a long way.
There would be some kind of irony in one of the league’s worst teams in terms of attendance finally wins a championship with fans not being allowed to attend. Last year, 97 wins was unexpected. I think they would have topped 100 this year.
Coronavirus 60-game prediction: 37-23.
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