Last year, the Oakland A's went on a run for the ages and almost snuck into the ALCS.
The A's won their last six regular-season games to stunningly capture the AL West, before rallying from down 2-0 to force Game 5 of the ALDS. They lost Game 5, but it let Oakland experience a run for the ages.
However, the A's haven't done much in the offseason. They signed Hiroyuki Nakajima from Japan, but only to replace Stephen Drew. They re-signed Bartolo Colon and traded for Chris Young, but that's really been it.
Oakland isn't expected to do as well in 2013 because of its lack of big names. However, the offense went on a home run spree in the second half, and while Brandon Moss won't be smashing 21 homers in 265 at-bats, he, Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes could provide pop for the middle of the lineup.
Coco Crisp and Nakajima will likely be table-setters, while Young will be relied on to provide pop from the bottom of the order. The offense looks fine right now, because it was in the top half of the league in runs scored, and the pitching staff will look to protect that.
A good season may not be realistic to expect from Travis Blackley, but Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone can only be better in their second seasons. Brett Anderson finished the 2012 season with a bang, and Colon did a good job before being suspended for steroid use. So, the pitching staff has talent, and they can be one of the league's best.
Factor in a mean bullpen with Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour and you have a good team. Unfortunately for the A's, a complete team just isn't enough.
How Will the A's Fare in 2013?
On paper, the Rangers, Angels, Blue Jays, Tigers, Red Sox and Yankees all look more talented than the A's. Texas has Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus on the offense and Matt Harrison and Derek Holland on the pitching staff, and the Angels have Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, Jered Weaver and others.
Both are in the division, and if games were won on paper, Oakland would finish third. However, the A's pride themselves on being a resilient team which doesn't win games on paper, and they are wound up around the middle of the pack in the AL.
Baseball is about getting hot at the right time, but in a 162-game season, the best teams almost always find their way into the postseason. The A's have some talent, but there are still question marks on the pitching staff.
Teams like the Angels and Blue Jays are fine with the pitching staff, as the Blue Jays practically have a new team due to some offseason spending and dealing.
Detroit didn't dominate Oakland, although it would have won the ALDS in four games with a better closer. Justin Verlander overwhelmed the A's and Yankees, while Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez did the same to all three teams that Detroit faced in the playoffs.
Even though baseball is unpredictable, it won't be easy for the A's to sneak into the playoffs. The AL is great this year, and it will be harder than ever to win the AL West. Even if they do make the playoffs with a wild-card berth, they will be down to a one-game playoff without a true ace (yet).
Oakland is definitely a talented team, and I wouldn't be surprised if it reached into its bag of tricks and pulled out more magic to find its way to the playoffs. But the A's are still unproven, and there are question marks. With all the talent around them in the AL West and the AL in general, I'm not seeing them in the playoffs.
The only thing that I think could get them into the playoffs is some more magic, which the A's sure know how to provide.