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How Oakland Athletics Match Up Against Every Potential AL/NL Playoff Opponent

Nick HouserCorrespondent IISeptember 11, 2013

How Oakland Athletics Match Up Against Every Potential AL/NL Playoff Opponent

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    In hopes of avoiding a jinx, there's a strong indication that when it comes to the Oakland Athletics and the 2013 postseason, it's a matter of when and not if.

    If the season ended today, the team would be the AL West champions for the second consecutive season.

    And if it weren't enough to repeat, they'd be playing the Detroit Tigers in the first round yet again. But based on the fact they played out all five games of last year's ALDS and look to be even stronger this year, we're going to challenge the jinx further by examining potential matchups throughout the playoffs.

    After all, why stop at the ALDS? The sky's the limit here, and in this case the proverbial sky would be the World Series.

    The standings are tight.

    The Boston Red Sox appear to have locked up the AL East. The Tigers should be AL Central champs. We'll hope the A's remain in place in the West. Beyond those three teams, another six teams are vying for the last two spots.

    On the other side, the Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers lead their divisions. But the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates are right there with them. It's likely all five teams make the postseason, it's more of a matter of in what order.

    Who knows how the postseason will shake out. So just in case, we'll take a brief look at all of the teams involved in the rat race.

    Stats were acquired via MLB.com, FanGraphs.com and Baseball-Reference.com.

    Agree? Disagree? Let me know via Twitter.

Vs. Kansas City

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    2013 Results: 5-1, 27 runs scored, 16 runs allowed

    Let's start with the least likely first. The Kansas City Royals only have a 1.8 percent chance of making playoffs according to MLB.com. If the A's do meet up with the Royals in playoffs somehow, they stand a pretty good chance of advancing.

    Kansas City's offense hasn't been awful. It's the pitching that hasn't been up to snuff.

    "Big Game" James Shields has been pretty average. He's 10-9 with a 3.43 ERA in 30 games. Ervin Santana has won just eight games in 28 attempts. The other three-fifths of the rotation have ERAs of 4.11, 5.36 and 5.50.

    In September, though, Royals hitters have combined to hit .282. In the same span, the A's are hitting .286.

    Oakland hits just slightly better, but when it comes to pitching, there's no contest. With the offense heating up, the A's should find it easy to take the Kansas City staff, with a 4.16 ERA in September, out. Meanwhile, the A's rotation, with a 2.59 ERA in September, should likewise stifle the Royals.

     

    Where They'd Likely Meet: ALCS

    Worst-Case Scenario: A's in 5

    Best-Case Scenario: A's in 4

Vs. New York Yankees

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    2013 Results: 5-1, 23 runs scored, 16 runs allowed

    The New York Yankees are a lot like the Kansas City Royals in that they too have a small chance of making the playoffs (6.9 percent). And like the Royals, the Yankees haven't fared well against the A's this season either.

    This isn't the same Yankees team we're used to seeing.

    They're all kinds of banged up. Only five guys have been able to play in over 100 games. It's not good when Lyle Overbay is one of them. Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson have combined for a total of 103 games.

    Beyond Robinson Cano, there is no other superstar on this team.

    On the pitching side of things, CC Sabathia is having a poor year by CC Sabathia standards (13-12, 4.82 ERA). Andy Pettitte sports an average 10-9 record with a 4.03 ERA. And Phil Hughes nearly got traded at the deadline. He's 4-13 with a 5.11 ERA. With ERAs of around 3.00, Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda have been the lone, true bright spots.

    In September, though, the pitching has been terrible. In fact, Jason Keidel of CBS New York says the pitching will spell doom for the team's postseason hopes:

    "To reach the presumed 90 wins it would take to bag a Wild Card spot, the Yankees would have to finish 14-4, which is impossible with their current pitching."

    The Yanks own the second-worst staff ERA in the league. Conversely, they have the second-most runs scored in the same month. That's a good stat alone, but in conjunction with poor pitching, scoring five runs per game is reduced when the team allows six per game.

    As mentioned in the last slide, the A's have an offense that is heating up, so seeing a handful of runs put up on the Yanks would be likely. And the pitching staff is doing well too, so containing the Bronx Bombers to fewer runs is doable especially against all of the injury replacements.

     

    Where They'd Meet: ALCS

    Worst-Case Scenario: A's in 6

    Best-Case Scenario: A's in 4

Vs. Cleveland Indians

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    2013 Results: 2-5, 19 runs scored, 33 runs allowed

    Talk about ownage. The Cleveland Indians have done just that to the Oakland A's.

    It started with a four game sweep in which the A's were outscored by 13 runs. In a second series, the A's took 2-of-3, but only scored 11 runs compared to the Indians' 10.

    So what changes now?

    Oakland's offense is igniting and their pitching staff continues to improve. Oakland is ranked No. 1 in September ERA, but Cleveland is close at No. 6. But where the A's might get the Indians in the early days of fall is in hitting. Cleveland's team batting average is .251 in September.

    Fluke?

    Post All-Star break that team average is still just .241.

    Two quality pitching staffs. One offense on the rise. One standing still.

     

    Where They'd Meet: ALCS

    Worst-Case Scenario: Indians in 7

    Best-Case Scenario: A's in 5

Vs. Baltimore Orioles

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    2013 Results: 2-5, 26 runs scored, 48 runs allowed

    The A's have the same record against the Baltimore Orioles as they do against the Cleveland Indians. They even scored seven more runs, which is OK. The problem is, they've allowed 15 more runs against the O's.

    On paper, the two teams are built similar.

    The A's have power-hitting Yoenis Cespedes, and the O's counter with basher Chris Davis. Both squads boast phenomenal third basemen, and both have quality players at center field and shortstop.

    Pitching-wise, again on paper, the A's have the edge.

    Baltimore has one double-digit winner whereas Oakland has only one starter who lacks double-digit wins (and he's only one win off too). In terms of long-term (post All-Star break) and short-term (September only), the Orioles aren't far off in team ERA. Baltimore's 3.97 ERA is just over Oakland's 3.55 in the second half. In the first 10 days of September, the ERAs are separated by 0.65 in the A's favor.

    Side-by-side, this one's close. If judged by the regular season, the Orioles have the advantage.

    Baltimore has a 10.6 percent chance of making the playoffs, so maybe the problem will be avoided all together.

     

    Where They'd Meet: ALCS

    Worst-Case Scenario: Orioles in 5

    Best-Case Scenario: A's in 6

Vs. Texas Rangers

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    2013 Results: 7-9, 66 runs scored, 66 runs allowed (3 more games)

    Dead even.

    That's the best way to describe this rivalry so far in 2013. The A's have scored 66 runs. The Rangers have scored 66 runs. And they're about even in wins and losses.

    Down the stretch and with playoffs on the line, it might be a different story. You could make an argument and point to three straight years of collapse on the Rangers' part. You could treat baseball seasons more like roulette in that what happened "last time" is never a guarantee to happen again. It's always 50-50.

    But there is one large stat worth noting.

    In their last 10 games, the Rangers have won just three. Oakland won seven of its last 10.

    On September 11, 2013 FOX Sports MLB Insider Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) said via twitter, "Is any team in playoff position looking less postseason-worthy than the Texas Rangers?"

    There's a chance Oakland continues to roll into playoffs while Texas makes the postseason as a wild card.

    They'll have some pressure on them to outperform the last three years worth of disappointment, and they'll have to do it in a position of less power.

    If all of that happens... advantage A's. If not, we're closer to even. The comparisons grow even closer with the news that if the Rangers make the postseason, Nelson Cruz will be on the roster according to T.R. Sullivan and Master Tesfatsion of MLB.com.

     

    Where They'd Meet: ALCS

    Worst-Case Scenario: Rangers in 4

    Best-Case Scenario: A's in 6

Vs. Tampa Bay Rays

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    2013 Results: 3-3, 15 runs scored, 22 runs allowed

    The Tampa Bay Rays are yet another team who, at least on paper, look very similar to the A's.

    Both have the veteran catcher who hits for average (Kurt Suzuki, Jose Molina). Both have hot-hitting and slick-fielding third basemen (Josh Donaldson, Evan Longoria). Both fill out the rest of their lineup with contributors of even distribution. The A's boast a Bartolo Colon; the Rays counter with a Matt Moore. Both squads have two studs who aren't having the best of years but are very talented regardless (Jarrod Parker, David Price).

    The list goes on.

    Tampa Bay and Oakland have a similar team batting average. The pair steal about the same amount of bases, walk about the same amount and produce similar amounts of RBI.

    If they played today, how would you decide?

    In the month of September, the Rays are 3-6. The A's are 6-3. In a longer span, the Athletics are winners of 11-of-15. The Rays have won 4 of 15. So for now, the A's are trending upward—the Rays downward.

     

    Where They'd Meet: ALCS

    Worst-Case Scenario: Rays in 6

    Best-Case Scenario: A's in 4

Vs. Detroit Tigers

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    2013 Results: 4-3, 42 runs scored, 40 runs allowed

    This is another team better than the A's on paper. Yet, Oakland is the winner of the season series, barely, outscoring the Tigers, barely.

    All of the Detroit starters have double-digit wins. In fact, Max Scherzer has 19 wins. He's lost three this season. That's three times in 29 games. But they've been a bit inconsistent as of late.

    Detroit beat Cleveland in a three-game set. Then they lost to league-leading Boston Red Sox. Finally, they lost two-of-three to the Royals.

    If you look at the late August matchup against the A's, the Tigers squeaked out one win on a walk-off. Three of the four wins for Oakland came at the hands of A.J. Griffin, Tommy Milone and Dan Straily, too, the team's backend of the rotation. More over, one of those wins was against Justin Verlander.

    Last year it was "get past Verlander, stand a chance." This year it may very well be "get past Scherzer, stand a chance."

     

    Where They'd Meet: ALDS

    Worst-Case Scenario: Tigers in 4

    Best-Case Scenario: A's in 4

Vs. Boston Red Sox

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    2013 Results: 3-3, 32 runs scored, 21 runs allowed

    At this point, the Boston Red Sox have to be a heavy favorite for a World Series berth. They own the major league's best record and are winners of 13 of their last 16.

    Furthermore, Clay Bucholtz—owner of a 10-0 record on the season—returns from injury to add even more punch to an already quality pitching staff. Without Bucholtz, the A's can hold their own matched up with Boston's rotation. We'll have to see how Bucholtz's return factors in.

    It's the Boston offense that should be feared most, though.

    The unit is at the top of the game, leading all of MLB in RBI and walks. The Red Sox own the second-best team average too. Lastly, they're high on the list in terms of home runs and stolen bases. So they're doing just a bit of everything from hitting for average to stealing bases.

    The two teams haven't played since mid-July.

    With a month left in the second half, the Red Sox are 30-19 while the A's are 27-22.

    Things are close here, so maybe defense should factor in here. Boston has turned 25 more double plays and committed a dozen less errors. Against a hot-hitting team like the Red Sox, there's no room for error.

    Dan Shaugnessy of The Boston Globe seems to think Jacoby Ellsbury's health will make or break the Sox this postseason though, so be on the lookout for those updates.

     

    Where They'd Meet: ALCS

    Worst-Case Scenario: Red Sox in 4

    Best-Case Scenario: A's in 7

Vs. Pittsburgh Pirates

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    2013 Results: 2-1, 4 runs scored, 7 runs allowed

    There's not much to go on outside of one series in early July. So how did they match up? The three-game series saw a 2-1 victory, another 2-1 victory and a 0-5 loss.

    Overall offensively, Oakland tops Pittsburgh in hits, home runs, RBI, walks and batting average. On the pitching side, A's starters have logged more innings and won more games, depending on the bullpen much less. Pittsburgh starters have a lower ERA as a unit and strike out more batters, but they also walk more. Oakland allows more home runs.

    There is even pitching between the two, but the A's offense is more dominant now than they were in their first meeting. Looking at the last 30 days, the Athletics rank No. 6 in batting average while the Pirates are No. 22. We'll soon see how much of an effect Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd have though.

    If there's one small benefit, it's that the A's have home-field advantage in this matchup.

    While the Pirates dominate at home, their road ERA is 3.76 as of this writing (h/t: Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports).

     

    Where They'd Meet: World Series

    Worst-Case Scenario: Pirates in 6

    Best-Case Scenario: A's in 5

Vs. Cincinnati Reds

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    2013 Results: 2-2, 18 runs scored, 12 runs allowed

    The A's played the Reds in a four-game series early in the season, splitting the wins but outscoring the Reds in the process.

    Looking at Cincinnati's roster, it has a few guys hitting around .230-.240, a few hitting near .300 and the rest around .255-.265. If you look at Oakland's roster, it looks somewhat similar. Except that more players are hitting in that bottom range and the higher range guys aren't as close to .300.

    A slight leg up goes to Cincy for hitting a bit more consistently all around.

    The two teams have similar records as well. However, the Reds play in a tougher NL Central, where they're battling the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates frequently. The only real divisional challenge the A's have is the Rangers and an occasional headache from the Seattle Mariners.

    You can make a solid argument in favor of either pitching staff too.

    The only Reds pitcher without double-digit wins is 23-year-old Tony Cingrani who in 22 games pitched has a 7-3 record with a 2.80 ERA. Oakland's only non-double-digit winner is Dan Straily (9), but his ERA is 4.15.

    In the last 30 days, the Cincinnati starters logged 20 more innings than Oakland. A 3.11 ERA is the second-lowest in the same span. Both rotations secured 18 victories in the last month.

    They were about even when they met, and they're still quite even today, but Cincinnati may be the better team overall because they slightly outdo Oakland in hitting and pitching. It might sound small, but if the pitching allows one less than normal and the offense scores one more than normal, that's a two-run ballgame.

    Barry Federovitch of NJ.com is already touting the Reds as this year's sleeper pick for postseason success.

     

    Where They'd Meet: World Series

    Worst-Case Scenario: Reds in 4

    Best-Case Scenario: A's in 6

Vs. Atlanta Braves

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    2013 Results: Have not played the A's

    The Atlanta Braves, shown above, have the best record in the National League. Not only have they not had a losing record in any month this season, they dominated in August going 20-7. A 14-game win streak that began on July 26 certainly helped.

    So who do the Braves have? Who's the reason for this success?

    First baseman Freddie Freeman is hitting .306 with 19 home runs. The kid is just 23 years old. Across the diamond is Chris Johnson, the heir to Chipper Jones' throne who is hitting .330. Brian McCann has hit 19 home runs and Dan Uggla's added 21 more. Justin Upton tops them both with 24 home runs.

    This team hits the ball out of the yard.

    The top of the rotation is pitching well enough. Mike Minor, Kris Medlen and Julio Teheran have a combined 38 wins amongst them, and Medlen's ERA is highest at 3.46. Then there's closer Craig Kimbrel who—with 46 saves notched—holds an incredible 0.91 ERA.

    Their offense is full of guys who like to swing hard. That results in a lot of home runs and a lot of strikeouts. Unfortunately, the A's rotation strikes out the fifth-fewest batters and allows the 11th-most home runs. That's not a good combination.

    If this is the World Series matchup, it'd be a tough task for Oakland.

    Still, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, the Braves have their fair share of holes. In fact, there's three of them. Crasnick lists the lack of a proven ace, an inability to manufacture runs and vulnerability against top-tier pitching as items that will stifle the Braves sooner than later.

     

    Where They'd Meet: World Series

    Worst-Case Scenario: Braves in 5

    Best-Case Scenario: A's in 5

Vs. St. Louis Cardinals

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    2013 Results: 2-1, 14 runs scored, 13 runs allowed

    Back in June, the A's beat the Cardinals 6-1, lost 1-7 and won 7-5. Two blowouts—one by either side—and a close one. If they met in a three-game set, it'd be a barn burner again for sure.

    The Cardinals started the season going 15-11 in April and 20-7 in May. Then they came back down to earth, posting a 14-14 record in June and going 13-12 in July. As of this writing, they're very streaky.

    First they took 3-of-4 from the Braves. Then they won a series against the Reds. They followed those two impressive series wins up by losing 2-of-3 to the Pirates and 3-of-4 to the Reds. Of course then they swept the Pirates in three games.

    It's hard to tell what you're going to get.

    Fortunately for St. Louis, they finish the season against the Brewers, Mariners, Rockies, Nationals and Cubs. They should take care of them, and as they do, they should build steam. And if there's one thing the Cardinals do well, it's turn themselves around just in time for serious World Series runs.

    With solid hitting from everyone not named Pete Kozma, and equally solid pitching, this matchup may favor the Cards.

     

    Where They'd Meet: World Series

    Worst-Case Scenario: Cardinals in 4

    Best-Case Scenario: A's in 6

Vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    2013 Results: Have not played against the A's

    Yasiel Puig is a beast. Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez are dangerous hitters. And Matt Kemp may return for the postseason too, according to Steve Dilbeck of the LA Times. There's plenty of other solid contributions made up and down the lineup too.

    Oh, then there's the pitching.

    In 30 starts, Clayton Kershaw's ERA is a ridiculous 1.92. Zack Greinke is 14-3. Hyun-jin Ryu is 13-5. Ricky Nolasco is 8-1.

    Do these guys lose?

    Well, they did go 1-4 in a recent five-game stretch. Then again, that came directly after a six-game win streak.

    The Dodgers have some of the best pitching in the entire league. The A's, already at a disadvantage as such, haven't had an opportunity to face them this season either. If the first time is in the World Series, that could spell trouble.

     

    Where They'd Meet: World Series

    Worst-Case Scenario: Dodgers in 4

    Best-Case Scenario: A's in 7

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