How many games will end in high fives?
The Oakland Athletics are going to win fewer games in 2013, but fear not—they'll only miss equaling 2012's mark by a few games.
Predicting a regular season record can be difficult.
First, there's 162 games to think about. Then, there's variables to consider, such as injuries and suspensions. And that's just for one team. Factor in injuries and suspensions for the 20 teams the A's will face this season and this task becomes ambitious.
So how does one predict a team's record?
Taking an initial look at the schedule is a good place to start.
There's a certain sense that the A's typically start slow and build up steam around the All-Star break. Toward the end of the season, the team gets hot and finishes strong.
Look at 2012 for example.
Oakland had a losing record in April and May. In June, the team barely finished above .500. But from July forward, the Athletics earned a 57-26 record.
Luckily, they'll start the season with four games against the Seattle Mariners. They also play the Houston Astros six times, the Boston Red Sox—who are in a state of flux until they prove otherwise—and the evenly-matched Baltimore Orioles at home. April may treat the A's well.
May through August is filled with balanced series against a mix of bottom-feeding teams and playoff-caliber squads.
September should be a win-filled month, though.
How many games will the A's win in 2013?
Oakland will make a playoff push with a 10-game homestand against the Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers and Astros. They also have the luxury of seven games against the Minnesota Twins and three against the Mariners as well.
Wins in the 90s should come easy.
What else is there to consider? The team's biggest competition in the AL West of course.
Last season, Oakland got a jumpstart over the Angels. Mike Trout missed almost a month of baseball, and Albert Pujols hit .217 in the same span.
The A's shouldn't count on that to happen again.
Then throw in games against likely playoff teams including the New York Yankees, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays and the Rays. For the A's to repeat and capture one of the coveted playoff spots, they're going to need to dig deep.
A lot must happen.
Brandon Moss must prove 2012 was not a fluke. The winner of the second base competition must thrive. Hiroyuki Nakajima must make a smooth transition to Major League Baseball. Josh Donaldson has to build on his 2012 finish. Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick have to at least perform equal to last season.
It is also imperative for Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone and A.J. Griffin to avoid taking any steps back in their development.
And everyone must stay healthy.
There's plenty of hope for this to happen.
The team is still incredibly young. The cast members of the 2012 drama that was Oakland's season overcame adversity and proved they should be taken seriously as contenders when few believed. Most of the faces returning for the sequel are familiar ones. They know the field, each other and the coaching staff.
And they know the opponents.
For every Angels team that poses a dangerous threat to the record, there's a Houston team that offers sweeping amounts of triumph.
Last year it was 94 wins. Too many of them were built on magic. They musn't rely on late-inning comebacks—as fun as they were—too often.
That's how many games the A's will win in 2013 to finish 92-70.
Brett Anderson is capable of a 15-win season (if healthy). If Parker wins 15 and Milone adds 12 more, that's a total of 42 wins. If Griffin and Bartolo Colon capture at least eight each, we're up to 58. Five more each to two spot starters and that's 68 wins. That leaves 24 games to be won by the bullpen, who in 2012 won around 30.
The A's made trades which will make them better. But the competition got a bit tougher as well.
Getting into the playoffs is an entirely different story. One that depends on how eight other teams do.