5 Advantages Oakland Athletics Have over Texas Rangers in the AL West
It's been a surprising season for the Oakland Athletics to say the least. In what was supposed to be a throw-away rebuilding season for the small market franchise, the A's have created a matinee classic in Oakland by emerging as a bona fide playoff contender midway through the season.
As we approach the final stretch of the hunt for October, the A's sit just a handful of games out of first place behind the two-time defending American League champion Texas Rangers. While the Rangers possess ample high-stakes experience heading through the summer's latter stages, Oakland does have a bit of an edge in a few areas.
It'll be tough for the A's to dethrone Texas, but it is more than possible given these factors.
A Small Market and a Clean Slate
Sure, the Rangers are coming off two consecutive trips to the World Series, but those both ended in disaster for Texas and could give them a defeatist mindset during crunch time in the final leg of the regular season. The expectations for this team are through the ceiling, and the hype and scrutiny surrounding them could work against them in critical points of the season.
Meanwhile, Oakland can enter as the dark horse underdog as they scrap it out for their first playoff berth since 2006. The small-market Athletics really have nothing to lose, as the nation expects a team with relatively unknown players to fall to the titans of the league. This could work in the Athletics' favor, as they can play without having to deal with the media barrage that a large-market team like the Rangers would.
The Youth of the A's
With an average age of just 28 years old, the A’s are the eighth-youngest team in baseball. They’re already playing at a playoff-caliber level and still have a lot of raw talent that needs to develop.
Meanwhile, Texas is one of the older teams in the bigs at with a 29-year-old average. The Rangers don’t have the same type of upcoming rookie stars that the A’s do and have likely peaked talent-wise. While the Rangers have more experience, Oakland has the energy of their youth to carry them through their playoff run.
Run, Baby, Run
It’s a relatively hush-hush statistic in Oakland, but the Moneyball-inspired Athletics have turned loose the shackles on the basepaths and quietly rank sixth in the American League in stolen bases with 23. The Rangers are just a few off the pace with 17 steals, but what should be taken into account when looking at these statistics is the efficiency displayed by the clubs.
Oakland has been caught stealing just three times this season, tied for tops in the league with Baltimore (though Baltimore has just eight attempts to the A’s 31) and a stealing percentage of 82 percent (fourth). The Athletics trump their division rivals in terms of stolen base efficiency with the Rangers at 72 percent.
Guys like Coco Crisp and Jemile Weeks have proven themselves in this league already as base stealers, and the adroit speedster Yoenis Cespedes gives the A’s multiple threats on the basepaths.
Living by the Long Ball
Texas might have the reputation around the league as the biggest deep ball threat in the majors, leading the league in total home runs on the season as well as having the league’s current home run leader in Josh Hamilton.
However, despite the team’s explosive firepower talent from behind the plate, they rank just 14th in the league in homers since the All-Star break. Which team sits atop the big league blast rankings? Well, the Los Angeles Angels, but right behind them sit the improbable Oakland Athletics.
Josh Reddick is having a breakout year from behind the plate, emerging as one of the best young left-handed power hitters in the league. He’s complemented by many, including Cuban home run maestro Cespedes and one of the A’s top power-hitting prospect-gone-pro in first baseman Chris Carter.
Oakland might have trouble hitting regularly with the lowest team batting average in the majors, but they are more than capable of hanging runs on the board with their living and dying by the home run ball.
Trademark Dominant Pitching
The Oakland-branded dominant pitching is their bread-and-butter franchise trademark, and this year is no different with the A’s ranking second in the American League in ERA. A dominant and deep starting rotation—highlighted by unlikely aces Bartolo Colon and Brandon McCarthy and rookie sensations Dan Straily and Jarrod Parker—gives the A’s a dominant punch that absolutely trumps their Texas counterparts.
It hasn’t just been dumb luck for the Athletics, either. They reign atop the majors in defense-independent ERA and are top-10 in component ERA. The A’s pitchers are legitimately this talented and should keep posting numbers near their current marks (provided they don’t see a storm of bad luck).
The Rangers made all the headlines this offseason with the Yu Darvish import, but it’s Oakland putting up the winning numbers from atop the hill in 2012. Oakland’s bullpen is one of the deepest in the majors with an even split in right-handers and left-handers (four right and three left). The A's are capable of completely shutting down any lineup in the league with their arms.