Oakland A's: 5 Issues Standing Between Them and Getting Back to the MLB Playoffs
It was only a week ago when the Oakland A's found themselves in the thick of the AL Wild Card chase. Since then they have gone on to lose six in a row, seeing their GB rise to five in the wild-card standings.
Not only that, but they have slipped to third in the AL West, now finding themselves behind Los Angeles as well as Texas. Luckily for the A's, it's only May, and there's plenty of time to turn things around. They are also expecting several big-name players to return soon as well, which should help out immensely once the dog days of summer roll around.
If the A's want to experience a great second half like they have in years past, then players on and off the roster at this point in the season need to step up. Here are five areas the A's must improve if they're to have any shot at making a postseason run this season.
This is one department that should drastically improve in the coming days. Yoenis Cespedes is close to returning from injury, and Manny Ramirez may be back as soon as Wednesday.
Combine that with the surprising power numbers from Josh Reddick, and the A's should have pretty formidable power in the middle of their lineup. The key is ultimately Cespedes, though.
There is no way of knowing what kind of power Ramirez still has, and Reddick at this point in his career hasn't played an entire year in the bigs, so his reliability down the stretch is still a question mark as well. The one certainty of the three is Cespedes. The raw power is obviously there, it's just a matter of health and his progress at adapting to Major League pitchers.
Top of Lineup Needs to Step Up
One of the most surprising and disappointing aspects of the A's season thus far has been the play of the top of their lineup, particularly Jemile Weeks. Coming off a tremendous rookie season, Weeks was thought to be a building block of the A's future. Up to this point he's been far from it.
Making matters worse has been the rather unspectacular play of Coco Crisp. Hitting only .156 this year, it may be time for the A's to explore other options in left field, especially when Cespedes returns. Seth Smith has been eager to gain an every-day role and if Crisp continues to disappoint, don't be surprised if Smith gets his wish.
A Corner Infielder Needs to Step Up
Coming into the season, perhaps the biggest uncertainty on the A's roster was seeing who was going to man the corner infield spots. The A's thought, or rather, hoped, that it would be Josh Donaldson and Daric Barton, but as of now it appears as though Brandon Inge and Kila Ka'aihue have established themselves at third and first for the time being.
When Inge first arrived in Oakland he was sensational, hitting four homers in five games. Unfortunately for Inge and the A's that hot streak was short-lived as Inge went down with a groin injury shortly after.
Ka'aihue, on the other hand, was a wild card coming into the season. His play hasn't been as spectacular as Inge, but it's solid enough to warrant serious playing time at a position that's troubled the A's all year. These two don't need to turn any heads, only play well enough to be solid, consistent contributors.
Stability in the Rotation
For the most part this season, the A's rotation has been quite reliable. Young players like Tom Milone and now Jarrod Parker have emerged as very good options in a rotation that had a lot of question marks heading into the year.
What the A's can't afford to have happen, though, is to watch all their older, proven starters perform poorly, or not at all. Brandon McCarthy going down was a big blow, and Bartolo Colon in his recent starts hasn't performed as well as he's accustomed to.
Getting great starts from guys like Travis Blackley are nice, but not something you can rely on. If the A's are to stay in the race, then the experienced arms are going to have to carry the load and pitch like the veterans they are.
The Rest of the Division
Perhaps the only reason why the A's found themselves in contention earlier this year was the horrid play of Los Angeles to start the season. Now that Albert Pujols and the Angels have started playing up to their potential, they'll need some serious luck to remain with the pack.
Let's be honest. The A's aren't going to be able to catch Texas, but the Angels may still be vulnerable, especially if the injury to Jered Weaver is serious. For the A's to overtake Los Angeles, the young starters must continue to pitch exceptionally well for their age, and the Angels must continue to under-perform.