Oakland Athletics Predictions

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The Oakland A’s dominated the AL West last season, posting a 96-66 record, making it the second consecutive season they have taken the division crown.  The A’s were carried during the regular season by an outstanding rotation, but they failed to show up in the postseason, losing the American League Division Series 2-3 against to the Detroit Tigers for a second straight year.

With a couple of key acquisitions in the offseason, the A’s hope to get over that first round playoff hump in 2014.  However, the AL West is loaded with talent this year and getting to the playoffs for a third straight season could prove to be difficult.  Four of the five teams in the division will have a legitimate chance to contend for a title this season.

Projected Starting Rotation

Jarrod Parker (R) - Parker showed improvement in 2013, at least during the heart of the season.  He seemed to tire down the stretch, losing velocity on his fastball, and getting torched in the final month of the season.  It was the opposite trend from the prior year when Parker seems to get stronger as the season progressed.  His end of year stat sheet read like a fairy tale for A’s fans, posting a 3.97 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP.  You could make an argument both ways in regards to how Parker will perform this year.  In some ways he may regress, but in others he should be better.  I am going to go down the middle and predict another respectable season from the A’s ace.

Sonny Gray (R) – Gray made his major league debut last season. posting a 2.67 ERA in 64 innings.  While the sample size is not large, we did see enough to determine that Gray could be the next great Oakland pitcher.  His 9.4 K/9 in 2013 gives him the best strikeout rate of any A’s pitcher in the starting rotation.  There is not enough on the stat sheet to determine whether Gray will be a one season wonder, or a pitcher to be reckoned with in 2014, but based on what we saw in the ALDS last season I would lean towards the latter.

Scott Kazmir (L) – While Kazmir had a mediocre 4.04 ERA last season, his advanced stats are a good indication that he is his old self coming into 2014.  Last season Kazmir finished with a respectable 2.7 BB/9 and an impressive 9.2 K/9.  His BABIP allowed was slightly higher than league average, and he his FIP was a half run below his ERA.  I think it is safe to say Kazmir was a little unlucky, which is why his ERA suffered.  He should be a double-digit game winner in 2014.

Dan Straily (R) – Straily gave up an alarmingly high number home home runs in his short stint during 2012.  That was 11 home runs in seven starts to be exact.  The 2013 season proved to be a lot better with 16 home runs allowed in 27 starts.  Straily’s walk and strikeout rates remained relatively constant, and his ERA crept up slightly to 3.96 compared to 3.89 from the 2012 season.  He is a young pitcher with a lot of long term potential for the A’s, but he is going to need to broaden his arsenal of pitchers.  Straily is lethal with the slider, but this is the big league, and overusing a pitch is a surefire way to get torched by opposing batters.

A.J. Griffin (R) – Griffin proved to be one of the A’s most valuable pitchers last season.  Statistically he had a solid performance.  He led Oakland in innings with 200, and finished the year with a 3.83 ERA.  He increased his strikeout rate of 7.0 K/9 in 2012 to 7.7 K/9 last season.  I am not sold on Griffin’s stat sheet, and I think he is going to get torched this season.  He benefit from a BABIP allowed that was well below league average last year, and his home runs to fly balls rate is way too high considering the park he plays in.

Bullpen

The Oakland bullpen is going to be a very dangerous unit with the addition of Jim Johnson.  He has been a closer the last two seasons with Baltimore, and he led the league twice in saves with 51 and 50 respectively.  He is throwing half his games in a more pitcher friendly ballpark, so there is no reason to think he can’t match, and possibly even improve on his numbers from last season.  He joins a talented unit that could prove to be the best bullpen in the American League this season.

Projected Lineup

Coco Crisp (OF) – Crisp has been a consistent producer throughout his career in Oakland.  he is coming off another respectable season with a .261 batting average and a .335 on base percentage.  Crisp saw a decent boost in power last year, climbing from a .379 SLG in 2011 and .418 SLG in 2012 to a whopping .444 SLG in 2014.  He had 22 home runs, the highest of his career, and Crisp is showing no signs of slowing down coming into the 2014 season.

Josh Donaldson (3B) – It was a breakout campaign in 2013 for Josh Donaldson.  He finished the year with a .301 batting average, .384 OBP and a .499 SLG.  He was among the top players in the American League for on base percentage, slugging percentage and walks.  A BABIP that was almost 70 points higher than his 2012 number indicates some potential regression from the third basemen this year.

Jed Lowrie (SS) – It is not very often that a veteran player like Lowrie is just finishing the first full season of his career.  Lowrie played in 154 games, beating his previous high by 57 games.  It was the first time Lowrie has avoided the disabled list since 2008.  Staying healthy must be the key to putting up big numbers at the plate for Lowrie.  Last year he posted a .290 batting average and a .344 OBP.  Lowrie had 45 doubles last year, a feat that ranked second in the American League.  Assuming he stays healthy in 2014, Lowrie should continue to put up solid numbers.

Yoenis Cespedes (OF) – After posting breakout numbers in his major league debut, Cespedes finished the 2013 campaign in the gutter.  His .240 batting average was a 52 point decline from the prior season.  He also took big hits in his on base percentage and slugging percentage.   I am not willing to call last year’s results regression because of his decline in BABIP.  I think pitchers did a good job of adjusting to the young hitter, and a change in his approach will be needed in 2014 or we can expect similar numbers.

Brandon Moss (1B) – I think the stat sheet on Moss last season is very misleading.  The majority of his at bats came against right-handed pitchers, and the left handed batter has a serious divide in power depending on which arm opposing pitchers are throwing with.  Moss may have played in 145 games, but he only had 115 starts.  That being said, his numbers were still only mediocre at best.  His .256 batting average and .337 OBP leave a lot to be desired by Oakland fans.

Josh Reddick (OF) – A sprained wrist in the spring seem to hinder Reddick’s ability to get anything going at the plate last season.  He was also due up for some regression after the consecutive years of improvement.  Reddick’s .255 BABIP was quote a bit lower than the .318 he saw in Boston, and assuming that number lands somewhere in between those two seasons  I think we can expect a .255 batting average and a .300 OBP or slightly better for the 2014 campaign.

Alberto Callaspo (2B) – Callaspo gets the majority of his power from the right-handed side of the plate, but he put up very similar numbers in 2013 from both sides.  He proved to be the hardest player to strike out in the AL last year.  His nine percent strikeout rate in 453 at bats is impressive, not striking out and getting on base are two very different areas of concern.  Callaspo had a .258 batting average last year, but A’s fans have to be pleased since he hit .270 with them after joining the team from the Angels.  A league average BABIP is a good indication that we can expect another solid season from the switch hitter.

John Jaso (DH) – Jaso’s season was cut short last year after catching a couple foul tips on the face mask.  With Derek Norris likely to assume the catching role for the majority of the season, Jaso should see a lot of time at the DH spot since he is a talented left-handed hitter.  He was unable to match his career 2012 numbers last year, but Jaso still put up a respectable .271 batting average and .387 OBP.

Derek Norris (C) – The situational stat sheet on Norris is very favorable when he is up against a left-handed pitchers.  Last season he posted a .320 batting average and a .410 OBP against southpaws, while averaging a meager .149 batting average and .261 on base percentage against righties.  Norris and Jaso figure to split a lot of time depending on the situation, and with what should be another year of favorable matchups at the plate I like Norris to post a solid season of offensive production.

Betting Odds

  • To Win World Series: +2,000
  • To Win AL Pennant: +1,000
  • To Win AL West: +200

Win Total: 89

The under feels like a safe bet for the Athletic’s win total.  Last year Oakland won 96 games, and I think that performance has them coming into 2014 a little overrated.  I would be surprised if the team exceeds its talent level again, and I do not see a playoff appearance in the picture this year which makes the under an easy call.

Prediction: 4th AL West (79-83)

I’m predicting the Oakland Athletics will finish fourth in the American League West, with a 79-83 record.  The A’s have a history of exceeding expectations, but after back-to-back years of winning the division, I just don’t think they can get that lucky again.  Sonny Gray only has 10 MLB starts under his belt, and I don’t think the numbers posted last year will be sustainable over the course of a full season.  In fact, I think the entire A’s rotation is overrated coming in to 2014, and I think they will be one of the biggest downfalls for the team this year.

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