The A's have been a whole greater than the sum of its parts in the first half of 2013
Entering the second half of the 2013 season, the Oakland A's sit at a very respectable 47-34, good for second place in the American League West. The A's are on pace to match 2012's 94-win total in spite of some very key components either being injured (Brett Anderson) or flat out underwhelming (Josh Reddick).
And while the performances of players such as Jed Lowrie, Grant Balfour and especially Josh Donaldson have been fantastic, the room for improvement is what should give A's fans cautious optimism for the remainder of 2013.
So here's how I see the Oakland A's performing in the second half of the year individually. We begin with the reserves and bullpen.
Balfour has been mostly lights-out for Oakland
First-half stats: 0-1, 2.03 ERA, 18 saves, 32 strikeouts in 31 IP.
Balfour has quite simply been brilliant. Before allowing three earned runs to the Seattle Mariners on June 23, his ERA was 1.17. In spite of that hiccup, Balfour remains perfect in save opportunities (18 out of 18) and has been the rock in a mostly-brilliant A's bullpen.
That said, it will be exceedingly difficult for Balfour to go through an entire season unblemished. Expect his numbers to tilt towards his career averages.
Second-half prediction: 1-2, 2.95 ERA, 25 IP, 17 saves
Blevins has been steady in 2013
First-half stats: 5-0, 2.67 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 27-to-8 strikeout/walk ratio
Known as "Everyday Jerry" for his dependability, Jerry Blevins has been quietly effective for the second straight year. Somewhat overshadowed by the trio of Balfour, Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle, Blevins has nonetheless performed more than capably in 2013.
The anomaly with Blevins is that left-handed batters hit 66 points better than right-handers do (.260 vs .194). Assuming that changes, I expect Blevins to sustain his success in the second half.
Second-half prediction: 2-1, 2.36 ERA, 1.19 WHIP
Chavez has made the most of his opportunities with the A's
First-half stats: 1-1, 2.52 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 21-to-6 strikeout/walk ratio
One of the surprise contributors has been reliever Jesse Chavez. A pitcher who was sent down and had not done much in 2012, Chavez has been brilliant since his second tour of duty began on May 10.
The performance that may have opened the most eyes was his 5.2 innings of scoreless relief against the New York Yankees in the A's 18-inning win on June 13. I don't expect Chavez to sustain what have been outstanding numbers, but he should still be a solid contributor.
Second-half prediction: 3.62 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 19-to-9 strikeout/walk ratio
Cook's 2012 is proving to be no fluke
First-half stats: 1-1, 2.88 ERA, 10 holds, 34 strikeouts in 34.1 IP
Oakland's lone All-Star in 2012 was reliever Ryan Cook. While Cook has not duplicated his first half from last year, he has still been a key component of the bullpen.
Ultimately, when Cook gets hit, it is because teams get hits in bunches. To this point, he has not allowed a single home run, something that probably won't be duplicated in the second half. I see similar numbers going forward.
Second-half prediction: 2-0, 2.59 ERA, 7 holds
The A's hope Doolittle returns to form for the second half
First-half stats: 3-2, 3.28 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 35-to-6 strikeout/walk ratio
For the first two months of the year, Sean Doolittle looked like an All-Star. His ERA was 1.59 in April and 1.38 in May.
Then came June, and it has not been kind to the hard-throwing lefty. So far, he has gone 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA. To be fair, most of the damage came in three appearances against the Chicago White Sox. In 2.1 innings, Doolittle surrendered eight runs and seven hits. I have to believe he is closer to the pitcher Oakland saw in the first two months.
Second-half prediction: 1-1, 2.65 ERA, 1.01 WHIP
The slinging righty has provided depth in Oakland
First-half stats: 2-1, 2.10 ERA, 26 hits and 11 walks in 25.2 IP
Pat Neshek has been somewhat of an anomaly in 2013. While his basic numbers look good, Neshek has largely benefited from his bullpen mates getting him out of jams. In his 30 appearances, only 10 have been clean (no baserunners allowed).
Neshek's best role is that of a right-handed specialist. It is impractical to think that Neshek will continue to wiggle out of jams as nicely as he's done in the first half. But while regression seems likely, it should not come to an extreme point.
Second-half prediction: 2-2, 3.86 ERA, 1.35 WHIP
Otero is merely the last arm in the pen for now
First-half stats: 5 appearances, 5.79 ERA, 8 hits in 4.2 IP, 1.71 WHIP
The last member of the bullpen currently on the roster is Dan Otero. Called up on June 14, Otero replaced Hideki Okajima, who replaced Evan Scribner. Essentially, this is the last spot on the roster.
And while early returns are not positive, Otero may have the chance to prove himself in spot duties, though his numbers are largely in line with his limited career numbers (5.82 ERA, 1.71 WHIP).
Second-half prediction: 7 appearances, 4.70 ERA, 1.55 WHIP
Freiman has been very good in a limited role
First-half stats: .277, 2 HR, 17 RBI, .749 OPS
The Oakland bench begins with backup first baseman Nate Freiman. Freiman has been very good as Brandon Moss' backup and rode an impressive May to win AL Rookie of the Month.
His power has not been exactly what the A's hoped, but Freiman has shown a nice eye and ability to hit in the clutch. After hitting .351 in May, Freiman has backed that up with a nice .297 average in June. That bodes well for him in limited duty for the second half.
Second-half prediction: 117 plate appearances, .269 average, 3 HR, 19 RBI, .778 OPS
Norris has not produced so far in 2013
First-half stats: .188 average, 3 HR, 15 RBI, .602 OPS
I have made many predictions since I began writing professionally. Few have missed as large as my prediction for Derek Norris in 2013 thus far. I wrote this about Norris' fantasy potential in late March:
Even with a long, looping swing against his first taste of major league hitting, Norris still hit seven home runs.
The adjusted swing has done wonders for him this spring, so power numbers should see a spike as a result. But the sneaky element of his offensive game is that Norris is one of the rare catchers who can steal a base or two, as his five demonstrated in 2012.
Basically, Norris is worth next to nothing and will have a very high payoff if he plays relatively close to his ceiling. Posey is still the gold standard for catchers in fantasy and there is a drop off after him, but having a backup that can potentially usurp the position for next to nothing is highly desirable. Norris is primed to be that guy in 2013.
Uh, I missed. But I have to believe that Norris will be somewhat better in the second half. He almost has no choice.
Second-half prediction: .231 average, 5 HR, 20 RBI, .679 OPS
Rosales (aka Skolnick) might find himself out of a job if he continues to struggle
First-half stats: .195 average, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 30 strikeouts in 123 at-bats
Adam Rosales is the kind of player who is easy to root for and most everyone wants to see do well. But with all of his hustle and teamwork, the reality is that Rosales has not been very good in 2013.
It is not just his lack of production at the plate. For the man known as Skolnick, it isn't recent struggles, but the reality that no fewer than three players in Triple-A are vying for his spot with the big club (Grant Green, Hiroyuki Nakajima and Jemile Weeks).
Second-half prediction: .208 average, 1 HR, 4 RBI, demotion to Sacramento
Smith has quietly been one of the A's best hitters in 2013
First-half stats: .279 average, 6 HR, 32 RBI, .784 OPS
Seth Smith has been very good for the A's in the designated hitter/fifth outfielder role. A professional hitter, Smith is on pace to exceed his output from 2012, most notably raising his batting average 39 points thus far.
While Smith will not mash 30 home runs, he has the ability to knock runners in and is representative of the turnover the A's offense had in 2012. Smith is steady, and I expect to see that similar output happen in the second half.
Second-half prediction: .264, 4 HR, 33 RBI, .749 OPS
Young has not delivered enough in Oakland
First-half stats: .188 average, 7 HR, 27 RBI, .636 OPS, 47 strikeouts in 181 at-bats
Chris Young is the last of the A's bench reserves on this list, and while there have been flashes of prodigious power, far too often he has been unproductive in the first half.
Young's .206 average in June is actually his best in three months (.172 in April, .195 in May). Brought in for insurance for Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick, Young has had plenty of opportunities.
A saving grace is that Young has been very good against the American League West:
- vs. Houston Astros: .324, 2 HR, 9 RBI
- vs. Los Angeles Angels: .211, 0 HR, 3 RBI
- vs. Seattle Mariners: .375, 2 HR, 2 RBI
- vs. Texas Rangers: .313, 1 HR, 5 RBI
Those numbers account for five of Young's seven home runs and 19 of his 27 RBI in 2012. So there's still a chance for him to be a factor in the second half of the season.
Second-half prediction: .219, 9 HR, 25 RBI, .677 OPS
Another year, another injury for Anderson
First-half stats: 1-4, 6.21 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, .276 opponents' batting average
Now it's time to turn to the A's starting rotation. Pegged as the ace of Oakland's deep starting rotation, Brett Anderson had a couple of good starts before falling off the proverbial cliff in the first half. When he landed, it was on the disabled list for the third time in the last two seasons and the sixth in his career.
When Anderson is healthy, he is among the top tier of pitchers in the American League. That seems to be the common problem though: He can never stay healthy. Not since his rookie season has Anderson thrown more than 112.1 innings.
With his latest stint on the disabled list to keep Anderson off an MLB mound until August at the earliest, it appears as though that number will not be reached again this year. The silver lining is that Anderson showed himself to be a big-time pitcher down the stretch and could be huge for the A's for a postseason push.
Second-half prediction: 8 starts, 5-2, 3.29 ERA, 1.205 WHIP
Suspicions notwithstanding, Colon has pitched like a Cy Young candidate
First-half stats: 11-2, 2.79 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 13 walks in 106.1 IP
How much would you have won if you predicted that the likely All-Star starters for the American League included Bartolo Colon, Hisashi Iwakuma and Max Scherzer and not David Price, Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia?
I don't know, but what Colon has done is nothing short of historic. Second in baseball in wins to Scherzer, Colon will almost certainly be an All-Star and is positioning himself as perhaps the most unlikely Cy Young contender in history.
That said, Colon has had a recent history of tailing off in the second half. The only time in the last four years his numbers have sustained themselves from the middle of July on, he was suspended. That was last year.
I can't expect a 40-year-old to sustain historic numbers for 32 starts. And while I personally don't think Colon is dumb enough to be on synthetic testosterone again, a clean 40-year-old is almost guaranteed to regress. Just don't expect the fall to be as steep.
Second-half prediction: 8-4, 3.73 ERA, 1.135 WHIP
Griffin's June could be a springboard to a big second half
First-half stats: 6-6, 3.56 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 25 walks in 103.2 IP
A.J. Griffin has steadily improved, even though his win totals have not always reflected that improvement in 2013. In five June starts, Griffin posted a 2.60 ERA, which was good for a 1-3 record.
The last of those starts was a two-hit gem against the Cincinnati Reds on June 26, his first complete game shutout. While Griffin is better in Oakland versus on the road (3.06 ERA against 3.97 road ERA), the improvements have been seen both ways.
Griffin's biggest key in the second half will be cutting down on the long ball. He has already allowed 15 home runs after giving up just 10 in 2012. When Griffin keeps hitters in the park, he is very effective.
Second-half prediction: 9-3, 3.31 ERA, 1.06 WHIP
Milone's road woes continue to plague him
First-half stats: 6-7, 4.06 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 100 hits allowed in 99.2 innings
Another player I was high on before the 2013 season began, Tom Milone has had an up-and-down first half. His numbers are still very serviceable overall, but there remain telling trends when you look deep.
The biggest problem is Milone's struggles away from the Oakland Coliseum. In 2012, he had a 4.83 ERA in 16 road starts. This year, Milone's road ERA is 5.07 in nine starts.
When you contrast that to 2012's 2.74 home ERA and his current 2.82 home ERA in 2013, it is clear that no pitcher on the A's staff benefits more from playing in Oakland than Milone.
How will that bear out for the second half of 2013? Well, Milone is projected to make nine road starts out of 16 total. Without a vast improvement from over a year's worth of performance to evaluate, Milone's second half is liable to look just like his first.
Second-half prediction: 7-6, 4.15 ERA, 1.18 WHIP
Jarrod Parker's improved performance has paralleled the A's improvement
First half stats: 6-6, 4.27 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 15 HR in 97 IP
Jarrod Parker's 2013 began so poorly it was debated whether he should be demoted to Triple-A Sacramento to improve his mechanics. After his first six starts, Parker was 1-4 with a 7.36 ERA.
But since then he has steadily improved. In May, Parker posted a respectable 3.62 ERA. June, however, was the first time Parker looked like an ace in waiting.
Heading in to his final June start against the St. Louis Cardinals, Parker posted a sparkling 3-0 record with a 2.29 ERA in five starts (35.1 IP). His improvement has come as the A's have been 15-10 in the month overall.
Expect more of the same from Parker, who has actually pitched better away from the Coliseum than inside of it (4.88 home ERA vs. 3.67 road ERA). Parker's numbers will flatten out over the course of the second half.
Second-half prediction: 9-2, 2.88 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
Straily will remain the fifth starter until Anderson's return
First-half stats: 4-2, 5.00 ERA, 1.215 WHIP
Dan Straily has pitched better than his ERA would suggest, but five runs per game is still not an accident. When he's been good, Straily has been good enough to out-duel Yu Darvish in Arlington. When he's been bad, he's gotten rocked.
The truth likely lies somewhere in between. For Straily, that means a two-month opportunity to right the ship and stake his claim for a position with the A's once Brett Anderson returns. He has improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio, home runs allowed and strikeouts per nine innings. Most encouragingly, the A's are 10-4 in his starts.
That bodes well for an uptick in performance, but likely not enough for him to keep a spot in the rotation unless Milone implodes or Colon faces suspension. The A's would prefer to avoid both.
Second-half prediction. 4-4, 4.19 ERA, 1.193 WHIP
Cespedes will warm up with the summer. Book it.
First-half stats: .226 average, 15 HR, 41 RBI, .744 OPS, 69 strikeouts in 257 at-bats
The starting lineup begins with the player I still feel will be the most important to the A's hopes in 2013. That is Yoenis Cespedes. In spite of his struggles, he is still on pace for 30 home runs and 82 RBI in 2013.
Before the panic button is pushed, remember Cespedes came on strong in the second half of 2012. In 74 games, he hit .311 with 14 long balls and 46 RBI. He might not hit .292 overall, but he won't hit .225 either.
Second-half prediction: .285 average, 17 HR, 39 RBI, .844 OPS
Crisp has performed at an All-Star level in 2013
First-half stats: .280 average, 9 HR, 35 RBI, 13 steals, 35 walks to 28 strikeouts, .835 OPS
Coco Crisp has set the tone for the A's offense in 2013. As of this writing, he ranks in the top five among American League outfielders in six offensive categories. Only Mike Trout and Adam Jones can make that claim. They will both be starters in the All-Star game.
You could make a strong argument for Crisp, who has been a consistent catalyst for the A's. He is on pace to set career highs in home runs, walks and runs scored while posting a career-high OPS of .835 so far.
And in spite of his .263 average in June, Crisp still reached base safely in 16 of 21 games played. He also slammed four home runs and knocked in seven RBI. There is nothing to suggest his career year will tail off in the second half.
Second-half prediction: .277 average, 6 HR, 28 RBI, 10 steals, .797 OPS
Josh Donaldson. A's MVP. Simple as that
First-half stats: .312 average, 12 HR, 52 RBI, 20 doubles, .889 OPS
I'm out of superlatives to describe the first half Josh Donaldson had for the Oakland A's. He was the club's best offensive player hands down. Not only has he been great at the plate; his defense has been Gold Glove-caliber at third base.
Remember, the last time an A's regular hit .300 over the course of a full year was Rajai Davis in 2009. And he was a singles hitter. Donaldson has a slugging percentage and OPS both good for 10th in the AL. Not only is he taking a great approach at the plate, he's making his pitches count.
The best thing about his performance is, because Donaldson is sandwiched between power hitters like Cespedes and Brandon Moss, he will get pitches to hit. Barring injury, this will continue in the second half. Donaldson is no fluke.
Second-half stats: .301 average, 10 HR, 47 RBI, 16 doubles, .868 OPS
Jaso was heating up before an injury slowed his 2013
First-half stats: .276 average, 2 HR, 19 RBI, .376 on-base percentage, .745 OPS
After struggling in May, John Jaso showed exactly why Billy Beane traded for him in June. Jaso hit .349 and had an on-base percentage of .463 to raise his batting average 24 points to .276.
A hand injury has delayed the hot streak Jaso was on, but after about 55 games, he found his stride in Oakland. If his 2012 is any indication (.283 average, 7 HR, 28 RBI after the All-Star break), Jaso is another hitter who will only ascend in the second half.
Second-half prediction: .291 average, 5 HR, 22 RBI, .807 OPS
Lowrie has given the A's more than advertised
First-half stats: .306 average, 4 HR, 31 RBI, 22 doubles, .803 OPS
Another great Billy Beane move has been the acquisition of Jed Lowrie. All he has done is merit All-Star consideration and completely put to bed the issue of who the shortstop in Oakland is. A professional hitter from both sides of the plate, Lowrie has a chance to be the first A's middle infielder to hit over .300 since Mark Ellis in 2005.
More importantly, Lowrie has been the single biggest improvement on a lineup bolstered by Donaldson and Jaso. Shortstop was an offensive wasteland more than any position in Oakland in 2012. Lowrie has incredibly turned it into a position of strength so far in 2013.
If he stays healthy, there might be a slight dip in overall numbers, but not production. Lowrie is one of the two keys to the division for the A's, offensively.
Second-half prediction: .293 average, 7 HR, 34 RBI, 16 doubles, .786 OPS
The free swinging Moss must continue to be a power threat at first base
First-half stats: .235 average, 14 HR, 40 RBI, 81 strikeouts in 234 at-bats, .792 OPS
Brandon Moss is the next player on this list. His numbers are indicative to the kind of offensive player Moss is: a feast or famine power hitter. On pace to hit 28 home runs, Moss has put up numbers more in line with his career over 162 games.
That is not to say he has not been productive. A first baseman who projects to hit 28 home runs and 80 RBI is having a productive year. But in 2012, Moss had a regular season similar to Prince Fielder over 162 games.
This season, he looks like a left-handed Chris Carter. It may have been an overreach to expect similar numbers, but the silver lining is that Moss hit .309 with a .951 OPS in the second half of 2012. Anything remotely approaching those numbers would make for a huge season again. I don't see him blasting off to those heights, but production is on the table.
Second-half prediction: .266 average, 13 HR, 46 RBI, .811 OPS
Reddick appears to slowly be finding his swing of 2012
First-half stats: .219 average, 3 HR, 24 RBI, 6 steals, .633 OPS
Next, there is Josh Reddick. At the end of May, Reddick was hitting a putrid .158 with just a single home run and 15 RBI. If Brett Anderson was the biggest disappointment of the pitching staff, Reddick deserved that label for the position players.
But in June there were glimpses of the player who hit 32 homers and won a Gold Glove in right field in 2012. Reddick hit .284 with a respectable .746 OPS while making great plays defensively. Fully healed from his wrist injury, expect Reddick's numbers to rise in the second half to a respectable level.
Second-half prediction: .281 average, 11 HR, 27 RBI, .765 OPS
Sogard has been solid, if never spectacular, for the A's in 2013
First-half stats: .270 average, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 7 steals, .350 on-base percentage
Finally, we have Eric Sogard. A bit of a surprise to win the second base job outright out of spring training, Sogard has been steady for much of the 2013 season. He has only 12 extra-base hits and 18 walks in 174 at-bats, but he consistently makes contact and has been finding his way on base.
Entering the 2012 season, Sogard had a .190 career batting average in small parts of three seasons. A more conservative approach at the plate has limited his power but enabled him to get on base much more.
Sogard's biggest benefit to the club has been his glove, as he has been largely good at second base. The job is his to lose, and the way he continues to make contact, it bodes well for Sogard moving forward. I can see him running into a few snags in the second half, but the average likely sits around .260 overall.
Second-half prediction: .252 average, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 5 steals
Will Hiro Nakajima play in Oakland in 2013? I say yes.
So, there you have it. Assuming there are no major trades, and you can never put that past Billy Beane, this is the team the A's will ride with until the wheels fall off.
The one possible exception is Hiroyuki Nakajima. Currently hitting .272 with four home runs and 13 RBI in 36 Triple-A games, Nakajima has started to get comfortable in the field, both at second base and shortstop. I have a feeling if Adam Rosales continues to struggle, it will be Nakajima who gets the opportunity to step in.
That is based purely on finances. It is not in the A's nature to let money go wasted, and Nakajima not playing with the A's would be a waste. Eric Sogard has been steady, but Nakajima was brought in for a power element Sogard does not have. I firmly expect Nakajima to at least get a chance at the utility position.
Another bold prediction is that Oakland will outperform its first half. Part of this is due to my own hubris. I said this team would win 97 games and I am sticking with that number. This team won 94 games in 2012 despite being 39-42 at this point last season.
With a more mature staff, a healthier roster and an improved lineup from top to bottom, it wouldn't be a shock to see the A's approach their torrid 55-26 finish in 2012. Even if they don't quite get there, they will win enough. And that is the ultimate prediction.