Could this be? The A's are actually looking like a functional baseball team for the first time since early 2008. In fact, they have the best record in all of baseball during September at 17-8. Sure it's a small sample size, and sure not all the teams are playing for the same goal at this point, but I've been watching the team the whole year, and any bright spot is something to write home about at this point. But how does a team go from looking like its going to earn a top three pick in next years draft to playing above .500 ball after the All Star break and dominating in the final month of the season? Let's check it out.
To start, I think we should look at what everyone focused on to start the year, the rookie pitching. It hasn't been all that great, but considering the youth and inexperience, I think the rotation is doing exactly what any logical person could have expected. Trevor Cahill, Vin Mazzaro, Gio Gonzalez, and Josh Outman (before he needed season ending surgery) looked brilliant at times, and terrible at others. But from what I've seen, there is nothing to suggest these 21 and 22 year olds can't put it together with a little more seasoning. Brett Anderson, on the other hand, is going to be an Ace, maybe as soon as next year. He looks better and better every time he takes the mound. All in all, it was an encouraging year for Oakland's baby faced rotation and it only appears to be getting better.
While the starters have been ok overall, the bullpen has been lights out. The back end plays for team shut it down with Michael Wuertz striking out 100 batters this year and Andrew Bailey in a two horse race with Detroit's Rick Porcello for American League Rookie of the Year. And with the emergence of guys like Craig Breslow, Brad Kilby, and the ever effective Brad Zeigler, getting to the back end of the rotation is no problem. Going forward, the bullpen is a real strength for the A's and more help is on the way in the upper levels of the minors.
And now to the lineup. It's been bad all year. Really bad, and the only thing the A's have done to change that is trade away or release established stars (Matt Holliday, Orlando Cabrera, and Jason Giambi). And yet in September, the A's are channeling historic Athletics of old and are going doubles crazy and knocking in runs with serious authority. Much of this is due to what I think will prove to be inflated play by players such as Rajai Davis and Cliff Pennington and so I don't think this incredible September is an accurate indicator of things to come in 2010. Pennington has never hit this well in the minors and Davis has never hit anywhere, and the rest of the offense is inconsistent. But if they can come close to this month's production and Ryan Sweeney can hit the ball like a man a bit more next year, then things are looking up.
Still, A's fans should be excited none the less. This is the first wave of good young offensive players to crack the A's roster (and there are many more to come) and they are showing they are ready to compete. The Oakland A's are not going to keep this pace up next year, but with all the promising things we've seen this month, 2010 can't come any sooner.
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