The Oakland A’s are tired of mediocrity and spent the offseason putting the pieces in place to capture the AL West title. After finishing second behind Texas last year, the A’s won the offseason battle by adding three big bats and four dependable arms. Billy Beane has always been able to find pitching talent, but his ability to find the right blend of sluggers has been an issue. The A’s finished no better than 16th in any hitting category last year (23rd in Runs, 17th in Batting Average, 16th in On Base Percentage and 26th in Slugging Pct.), which was a major reason why the Rangers beat them out last year since Texas was top 10 in everyone of those categories. Fortunately, Billy Beane went out via trades and free agency to acquire Hideki Matsui, a perennial 90-100 RBI man, Josh Willingham and David Dejesus. Willingham and Matsui will fit in the middle of the line-up and add much needed firepower for this squad. More importantly, Dejesus and his .318 2010 batting average will set the table at the top of the order to give the big bats of Willingham and Matsui plenty of opportunities to inflate their RBI totals.
The biggest impact that these three bats bring to the A’s is the depth that they provide. Last year, the A’s hitters were forced to bear much more of a burden than they should have had to. Kurt Suzuki and Kevin Kouzmanoff had great years respectively, but they cannot be solely dependent on to generate a high powered offense. Fortunately, they will not have to and will be able to see better pitches as they will bat behind Matsui and Willingham. Also, the new acquisitions move Ryan Sweeney and Conor Jackson from starters to reserves, allowing the A’s to have a well-rounded offensive attack and dangerous hitters to come up in key pinch-hitting situations. Finally, the A’s pitching should benefit greatly from the added offense. The rotation of Gonzalez, Anderson, Cahill, Braden and possibly Rich Harden will not have to feel like they have to throw a perfect game to earn a win (Although Dallas “Get Off My Mound” Braden’s perfect game to shove into ARod’s pre-Madonna face was hands-down the number one moment of the 2010 regular season). They will pitch much more relaxed and have a giddy-up in their step because their win totals should significantly increase from last year. Plus, the bullpen added two arms that should preserve any of their efforts. Beane went out and signed Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes to go along with J. Blevins and B. Ziegler in order to set-up more save opportunities for the 2009 Rookie of the Year, Andrew Bailey. According to sources, Bailey’s rehab has been successful and he should not miss a beat coming off of his back injury that he suffered last season.
These new acquisitions combined with their core group from last year should overpower the other stagnant AL West teams. The Mariners won 61 games last year, so unless Hell freezes over, Natalie Portman stops being insanely sexy and Lady Gaga gets swallowed forever by that egg she entered the Grammy’s in, then A’s should not have to worry about them. The Angels could pose a problem this year because they still managed to win 80 games last year despite everything going wrong from them, especially losing Kendrick Morales all year. This year, Kendrick Morales is back, Vernon Wells is poised to redeem his 2010 shortcomings and Torii Hunter is feeling like this is the Angels’ time. Well, hopefully Hunter is wrong and Matsui went up north because he knew better than Hunter. Lastly, even though the Rangers are the defending AL champs, they have a great deal of problems coming into this year. They lost their ace/Giants World-Series punching bag Cliff Lee and have no decisive number one in their rotation. Also, their team leader, Michael Young, has been seeking a trade, so the chemistry in the clubhouse is as copasetic as the relationship between Milton Bradley and any other owner who has signed him. Thus, the Rangers’s inactive offseason has left the door open for the other AL West contenders. A’s fans can only hope that Moneyball will finally pay off in 2011.
Oakland A’s – Primed For Postseason