MLB Playoffs 2012: Why Oakland A's Are Legitimate World Series Contenders

Derek PiperCorrespondent IOctober 5, 2012

MLB Playoffs 2012: Why Oakland A's Are Legitimate World Series Contenders

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    The Oakland A's stunned the baseball world on Wednesday, completing a three-game sweep of the two-time defending AL champions Texas Rangers and clinching the AL West title.

    It was the first time since April that the Rangers weren't in at least a tie for first place.

    General manager Billy Beane has been up to his old tricks this season, assembling a World Series contender with a Dollar General payroll.

    Thanks to his young, talented pitching staff, Oakland won 94 games and sported the second best ERA in the AL. However, some have questioned whether the A's are legitimate World Series contenders because of a lack of star power.

    Despite having a payroll below the MLB-worst Houston Astros, the A's have shown that dollars don't buy wins.

    Here are three reasons this is a squad capable of winning the Fall Classic.

Strong Pitching

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    A large portion of Oakland's success can be credited to their pitching, which is comprised of a new "Big Three" with Jarrod Parker (13-8), Tommy Milone (13-10) and A.J. Griffin (7-1).

    The A's also sport one of the best bullpens with Grant Balfour (24 saves), Ryan Cook (21 holds) and Sean Doolittle (60 strikeouts in 47.1 innings).

    A first round matchup with the Detroit Tigers will be a challenge as outpitching Justin Verlander is a difficult task. However, the A's have a deeper rotation and a shutdown bullpen to counter.

    Pitching becomes crucial in the postseason and no one is better in this regard than Oakland.

Know How to Win Close Games

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    The playoffs are certain to bring close contests, which is perfect for the A's who thrive in the clutch.

    Since the All-Star break, Oakland is 15-5 in one-run games, which is thanks to their opportunistic hitting and strong performances by their relievers.

    This is a team that is accustomed to performing under pressure, coming back from a 13-game deficit in June to claim the division crown.

    The A's are one of the youngest teams in the postseason, but don't expect them to fold under the bright lights. This team is for real.

One of the Hottest Teams in the Postseason

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    In baseball, the hottest teams—not necessarily the most talented—have the advantage in October.

    Last year, the St. Louis Cardinals were on the brink of missing the playoffs but were red-hot in September and October, never cooling off until the champagne party after hoisting the trophy.

    No one in baseball had a stronger finish to the 2012 regular season than the A's, who won 10 of their 14 games.

    Forget the fact that only two Oakland hitters hit above .290 this season, the only stats that matter anymore are wins and losses.

    This team has a flare for the dramatic and won't be scared of any prospective opponent.

    No need for Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, Moneyball 2 has now hit the big screen.