Monday, July 16, 2012

The Oakland A's Are Above .500 And Shockingly Watchable

Here's a fun little baseball story that will escape the attention of, well, everyone: the Oakland A's are an honest to goodness wild card contender.

No, seriously.

The most punchless punchers in all of Puncherdom, the team that put the boring in unbelievably boring, the collection of dead-eyed weaklings and walk-free OBA losers... have put together a 9 wins in 10 games streak, with offense from the not to be ignored Yoenis Cespedes, and power to spare from past suspects like Chris Caster, Jonny Gomes and Seth Smith.

And of course we need to take this with the shaker of salt that is a three-game sweep of the Twins, the fact that the A's generally do better in the second half when teams with more pedigree than sense give up, and young guys who don't wear down and are just thrilled to be getting MLB per diem rise to the fore. Oakland's been very good at not giving up when it might make sense to; that's how you get on that 75 to 82 win teeter-totter to nowhere, and even after all of that hotness, the record is just 46-43. The division is still an 8 games out pipe dream, and the only reason they are within sniffing distance is the watered-down second wildcard. There's really only three teams that you can consider out of the American League race (Kansas City, Seattle and Minnesota); by the same standard, 7 teams are that far out in the NL. Anyway.

This is still a bad hitting team, of course, but being a bad hitting team has been true ever since the good time Moneyball teams ended, and at least they aren't last in runs, OBA or slugging anymore. They still somehow hit .228 while being over .500, which is plainly impossible, but the park has a lot to do with that as well; it's a nice staff, but certainly not the 4th best in baseball. But the single biggest difference is that first base is no longer making you think that maybe the pitcher should hit instead. Chris Carter's 5 HRs in 26 ABs is one more than Kila Ka'aihue managed in 102 more AB, and 4 more than Daric Freaking Barton, who really can just go play his trade in some other country by now. Some country where pitchers need encouragement.

I guess the thing that's actually providing most of the gold in this fools' green and gold parade is the simple fact that they are actually hitting for some power now. Josh Reddick has been that rarest of A's -- fantasy relevant -- with his 20. Cespedes has 11 in 212 ABs, and while I still think he's got holes in his swing that you could emigrate in, there's no denying that he's been fun to watch. Moss is at 11 HRs in 90 ABs - yowza! -- and the poor man's power platter of Jonny Gomes and Seth Smith are both into double digits as well. It's been a long time since you can say this, but there is some actual threat in the lineup now, and you don't just auto-stream pitchers against them.

Will it last? Well, of course not: this is the team that revenue sharing forgot, after all, and with Texas and New York coming to town this week, the party could end with a disquieting thud, followed up by the cheers of expat Yankee Fan enjoying the economy of their de facto home game. After that is the not nearly as soft as you might imagine roadie to Toronto and Baltimore to end the month. But if they can somehow get out of July with hope and good feelings intact, that would be two straight months of pretty good baseball, and an above .500 record for a team that dropped 9 in a row in late May while looking like the saddest waste of a credible pitching staff that ever walked the earth. For a fan base that's barely got a pulse, in a situation where everyone is just punching the clock until a new yard is produced, it could be a lot worse.

No comments:

Ads In This Size Rule