It's a common thought: "The Oakland A's are a second-half team." But is the notion baseless, one simply created by fans, or are the A's truly better in the final 81 games? And if so, can they do it again this year and dominate down the stretch?
All indications—for both questions, historically and present day—point to yes.
First, let's look at the theory of being a second-half team. The idea didn't just arrive out of left field. But it very well could be that the A's had two or three runs in the final months of baseball, and now fans see the team as having that magical ability to do the same year in, year out.
There's an easy way to determine the validity of the perception. Look at the records.
|Oakland A's 2nd-Half Records 2004-2013|
|Win-Loss||Winning %||< = > 1st Half?||Best Month of Season|
|2013||40-27||.597||>||September (.704 WP)|
|2012||51-25||.671||>||July (.792 WP)|
|2011||35-35||.500||>||September (.538 WP)|
|2010||38-35||.521||>||May (.571 WP)|
|2009||38-38||.500||>||September (.631 WP)|
|2008||24-42||.364||<||June (.615 WP)|
|2007||32-42||.432||<||August (.586 WP)|
|2006||48-26||.649||>||August (.778 WP)|
|2005||44-31||.587||>||July (.769 WP)|
|2004||44-32||.579||>||August (.714 WP)|
Of the last 10 seasons, the A's have had a better second half in eight of them. Final records aside, they've also played their best single month of baseball in the latter half eight out of 10 times, too. In fact, stretching back as far as 2000 still sees more of the same results—better second-half records.
The conclusion? This theory is confirmed. The Oakland A's, statistically, play better after the turn.
That's great news for A's fans. But at 51-33 already in 2014, can they continue the trend and play even better from here? At the halfway point, the team was on pace to finish with a 102-60 record. All it takes is 52 wins to improve upon the first half, technically speaking. That means Oakland finishes with 103 wins.
SportingCharts.com shows that, in the history of the game, teams have finished with 100 or more wins in a season only 97 times. Coincidentally (or not), the A's have done it 10 times.
To win 103 games would mean something special, as Joe Giglio points out on Twitter:
But back to the original questions:
Is Oakland a second-half team? It appears so.
Can the A's be even better in the second half this year? It would take absolute domination on their part. Let's look at the schedule.
They've kicked July off in rocky fashion against the Detroit Tigers. Now they will return home, finally, to battle the Toronto Blue Jays and San Francisco Giants. Afterward, they'll play the Giants away, the Seattle Mariners and the Baltimore Orioles. This stretch should really show us how good this team is.
August and September are both extremely winnable months, as the A's square off against many opponents they've either beaten often this season already and/or teams with losing records. At a minimum, the Athletics should be able to finish with 43 more wins.
That's 94 wins total.
Of course, that's a guesstimate based on an eye-ball test and not factoring in injuries.
But let's say Jed Lowrie picks up his hitting, increasing his wins above replacement (WAR) from a 0.6 to a more reasonable number for starters like 1.5; Eric O'Flaherty returns and pitches more effective than the worst current reliever; and the A's make a trade for a starting second baseman, rotation guy or both. That's one win here, two more potential wins held onto by the bullpen and three or four more contributed to by new faces.
That's just about 100 wins.
Oakland has three potential starting All-Stars in Josh Donaldson, Derek Norris and Yoenis Cespedes. John Jaso and Stephen Vogt have forced themselves into the lineup with fantastic play, and guys like Craig Gentry have filled in nicely for injuries.
The starters play like All-Stars; the depth behind them is arguably the best in the game.
Oakland had one of its best first halves in recent memory. Historically, they play outstanding ball in the second half. Yet the team has set the bar so high, it'll be difficult to have a "better" second half. Still, they should be able to continue to be dominant and win near 100 games.
Outside of the one recent series in Detroit, the A's have shown they can prevail over anyone in the league.