Oakland A's: Bright Spots and Low Points Thus Far in 2012
After three weeks of baseball, the A's find themselves in a position I'm sure they're pleased with, tied for second in the division with Seattle. After taking the last three in Anaheim against the Angels, the A's are a respectable 7-7, owning the same amount of victories as the Yankees and Rays.
Carried thus far by their pitching, the A's offense needs to drastically improve if they're to continue to compete with the likes of New York and Tampa Bay for a wild card spot. Now this should surprise no one, but the A's offense, which has been dormant for years now, is showing signs that it could improve.
For the first time in awhile, it appears as though Oakland's lineup does in fact have some power potential. Currently the A's have a combined 12 home runs, to put that into perspective they didn't reach that total last year until game 27.
There are a lot of positives for the A's so far, but also a lot of negatives that still need to be addressed.
Bright Spot: Bullpen
The A's total ERA is 5th best in the league at this point at 2.91, and the bullpen has had a lot to do with that.
It was scary heading into the season not knowing who the closer was going to be, but Grant Balfour has held down the fort considerably well. So far, by going 4-4 in save opportunities, Balfour has been the steady veteran presence the A's needed in their youthful bullpen.
The younger pitchers have also been up to the task thus far. Fautino de los Santos and Ryan Cook have yet to give up a run this year, and Brian Fuentes has embraced his more limited role after losing out on the closer job.
Overall, the A's possess a very complete bullpen which should be a strength for them all year.
Low Point: Jemile Weeks
Coming off a 2011 rookie campaign in which he hit over .300 and became one of Oakland's most consistent hitters, Weeks came into 2012 with extremely high expectations. Expectations he hasn't even come close to reaching at this point.
Currently hitting only .190, an increase in Weeks' production is instrumental if the A's offense is going to turn around.
Combined with Coco Crisp,who is also struggling as he's currently battling the flu, the two need to be table-setters for those who are hitting behind them.
Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes are swinging the bat well, but if no one's on base it's severely limiting their potential impact. Once Weeks starts to play up to his capabilities, that should jump start the A's offense mightily.
Bright Spot: Outfield
After losing Josh Willingham and David DeJesus in the offseason, there were a lot of question marks concerning the A's outfield. But with the additions of Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes, it appears as though the A's actually improved at these positions.
Both Reddick and Cespedes have turned out to be the A's most consistent and dangerous hitters thus far, each batting third and fourth respectively in Oakland's last game. Though Cespedes isn't the most reliable of hitters just yet, his power still has to be accounted for by opposing pitchers.
Meanwhile, Reddick has been just what the A's expected out of him.
A consistent hitter, Reddick may not scare opposing pitchers like Cespedes does, but he's still a threat to get on base in every at bat. Combine that with the occasional extra base hit and home run, and Reddick can be a solid cog in the middle of the A's lineup for some time.
Low Point: Corner Infield Spots
The A's knew going into the season that first base was going to be a concern, but when starting third baseman Scott Sizemore went down in Spring training with a torn ACL, third base became an issue as well.
As of now, neither position is even close to being settled and the A's are getting very little production at either spot. The A's hoped Josh Donaldson would step up and take control over at the hot corner but both his glove and bat have struggled so far. Then Eric Sogard stepped in, only to manage similar results.
Over at first, Daric Barton has stepped in, but it's still too early to tell whether he's going to be a permanent solution at the position. He's finally healthy once more, so if all goes well the A's are hoping Barton can regain his 2010 form.
Adding intrigue, though, is the recent play of Kila Ka'aihue. Although his play hasn't amazed anyone, his production shouldn't be overlooked. Hitting over .400, he does have some pop in his bat as well despite the fact that he only has one extra-base hit, a double in Monday's loss against Los Angeles.
Expect him to get more at-bats if Barton continues to flounder.
Bright Spot: Starting Rotation
This may be the most surprising aspect of the club so far.
Heading into the year, the A's only had two spots of their rotation nailed down, only one of which was with the team last year. After Brandon McCarty and Bartolo Colon, the A's had no idea who would follow them in the rotation.
Enter Tom Milone, Graham Godfrey, and now Tyson Ross. Though not spectacular the three have given the A's reliable starters who they can count on to hand the ball to their bullpen in the 7th or 8th with the game still within reach.
Milone thus far has been the most impressive of the three. Even though Milone isn't overpowering, he has plus control and a very good feel for pitching, keeping hitters off balance with a very good changeup.
Godfrey has given the A's everything they could've hoped for, and Tyson Ross appears as though he's finally ready to stay in Oakland for good.
The rest of the rotation meanwhile has performed better than expected. McCarthy has become a legitimate top of the rotation starter, and Colon is pitching at a high level despite his age, including a start Wednesday against the Angels that saw him throw 38 consecutive strikes.
The A's are going to go as far as their pitching carries them this year, and right now they're getting the job done. Hopefully, they can continue to pitch on this level and keep Oakland in the thick of things deep into the season.