Currently in second place in the AL West, the Oakland A’s are (surprise, surprise) performing better than most had expected of them prior to the season. After trading away their top hitter (Swisher) and pitcher (Haren) during the off-season, only androids (like Marvin here) – and UmpBump’s own Nick and Coley – figured that Oakland would be in the thick of the division race in 2008. But lookie what we have here.
Despite being 3 1/2 games behind Anaheim (and no, I will not call them LA), the A’s have by far the best run differential in their division, scoring 4.5 runs per game while giving up a paltry 3.8. Yes, it’s probably still too early to look too deeply into things like this, but it is worth a mention. So what do they need to make their push towards the post season? More pop.
Although being able to score 4.5 runs per game is pretty good, I don’t see how they can keep it up as they are currently constructed. Their team batting average is .255, which is below league average. But with runners in scoring position, that number jumps to .278, which third highest in the league. There’s a decent chance that those two numbers will become closer together by the end of the year. And I’m betting that it’s going to be their average with RISP that’s going to come down a bit, which is going to make their offense slightly below average.
While the addition of Frank Thomas certainly does help, unless Eric Chavez remains healthy, Jack Cust is the only guy in the lineup with considerable pop. There is currently no one on the squad with double-digit homerun totals. As a team, they are 25th in all of MLB in the category and 27th in slugging percentage – neither figure elicits images of a playoff-bound team.
I do think their pitching is for real, however. Or at least, good enough. I am watching Joe Blanton’s K and walk rates, and I do think that Dana Eveland’s walks are going to come back to haunt him one of these days. But even if one of these guys falter, they have a perfectly good replacement just waiting in the bullpen by the name of Chad Gaudin. Throw in what appears to be a stellar defense behind them – despite the presence of Cust in left -, and I think they can keep this good thing going. And if they had a little more muscle, I’d be pretty sure of it.