At the last checkpoint, the Oakland A's were 39-42 at the midway point of the season. On pace for 78 wins, they have gone a blistering 16-3 since to move to 55-45 and are on the verge of taking the lead in the American League wild-card standings. For the month of July, they are 18-3 and show no signs of slowing down.
What is all the more remarkable about this turnaround is that is has happened without many of the cogs people expected the A's to need to have any kind of chance to contend for anything in 2012. For starters, Jemile Weeks, expected to be the catalyst for the Oakland offense, continues to languish around .220 for the year. The A's shortstops have combined for splits of .184/.244/.276 as of July 28th. That is by far the worst in baseball. Catchers have not been much better, performing at splits of .198/.250/.269 in 2012.
Meanwhile, the A's have the No. 1 pitching staff in the American League despite having three rookies in the rotation. The team ace Brandon McCarthy has missed chunks of the season with a balky shoulder and rotation stalwarts Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden have yet to make one pitch at the major league level.
So what have the A's done well? First off, they are getting great production from Yoenis Cespedes. Backed by a hot July, Cespedes currently has splits of .302/.361/.541 for an OPS of .902. Considering "The Cuban Missile" has missed about 30 games to injury, the production he has had is all the more remarkable.
Even more of a surprise has been the amazing play of Josh Reddick. Billy Beane looks like a genius for acquiring the right fielder for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney. All Reddick has done is lead the team with 22 home runs, drive in 50 runs and compile his own slugging percentage of .537 with an OPS of .885 in 2012. By far the A's most consistent hitter during the year, Reddick has helped the A's balance out their lineup over the course of the season.
Of course, Oakland's success could not happen without great pitching. The trio of Jarrod Parker, Tom Milone and A.J. Griffin has done more than just complement veterans Bartolo Colon and the surprising Travis Blackley. They have become the lead story in a rotation that continues to surprise.
Parker, while having some struggles in July, still sits at 7-4 with a 3.38 ERA on the season. Milone has been lights out in Oakland, going 9-7 overall, while Griffin has truly been a pleasant surprise. In six starts, Griffin has gone six innings in each, winning his last three decisions while posting an ERA of 2.25 on the year. Instead of being a warm body until other starters got healthy, Griffin appears to be firmly planted in the rotation.
Knowing how quickly the situation can change, it is important to note that the A's still have a tenuous schedule to navigate. The 10 games with Los Angeles and six with Texas will likely determine if Oakland has a position in the 2012 playoffs. But there are also six games with Tampa Bay, three more with the Yankees, three with another division/wild-card hopeful, the Detroit Tigers, as well as six with the always pesky Seattle Mariners.
Either way, to be on pace for 89 wins with this team, there is no doubt that Bob Melvin deserves more than just a little consideration for AL Manager of the Year. Whether he will merit it will depend on his team in the next few weeks.