Let's Go Tribe's American League Preview: Oakland Athletics

Our look at the Tribe's competition around the American League continues with the Athletics, two-time defending champions of the West.



Between now and Opening Day, we'll be taking a look at each of the other American League teams, to see what they've done during the offseason, and examine their outlook for 2014.

Find other entries in the series here

- - - - - -

Oakland Athletics

2013 Record: 96-66 (2nd in AL West), 2-5 vs. Cleveland

767 runs scored (3rd of 15 in AL), 625 runs allowed (3rd of 15 in AL)

The Athletics missed the playoff five straight years from 2007 to 2011, and never finished with a winning record during that time. In 2012 they exceeded expectations by winning 94 games and taking the AL West. Entering 2013 there were those who thought they'd contend again, while others figured their higher payroll competition in the division would push past them. I'll admit, I was among those who didn't expect them to win 90+ games again.

In mid-May the A's had a losing record and had already fallen 7 games out of 1st, but they went on an 18-3 run that pushed them atop the division, which then remained tight until the final couple weeks of the season, when they stepped on the gas and pulled away from Texas and finished with the second-best record in the American League. They took a 2 games to 1 lead in the ALDS against Detroit, but couldn't get that third win.

Oakland was no fluke contender either, they were legitimately a very good team, with solid pitching and defense, and one of the top lineups in baseball. Incredibly, the 40-year-old Bartolo Colon was their ace, while the rest of the rotation was made up of guys 26 or younger, each of whom was something close to league average as a starter. The offense was led by Josh Donaldson, who would have gotten some serious MVP consideration in a lot of years. Brandon Moss and Jed Lowrie also had big years, and there wasn't a weak hitter anywhere in the batting order.

The A's were one of the most successful teams in baseball in the early years of this century, and after a few down years, they appear to be back as a regular contender.

Key offseason additions:

Scott Kazmir (SP), Jim Johnson (RP), Luke Gregerson (RP),

Key offseason departures:

Bartolo Colon (SP), Grant Balfour (RP), Chris Young (OF)

2014 Payroll: ~$79 million

Projected 2014 Starting Lineup (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

C

John Jaso

3

1B

Daric Barton

2

2B

Alberto Callaspo

2

3B

Josh Donaldson

4

SS

Jed Lowrie

2

LF

Yoenis Cespedes

3

CF

Coco Crisp

3

RF

Josh Reddick

3

DH

Brandon Moss

2

TOTAL

24

Indian who has killed the Athletics:

Nick Swisher - .307/.408/.636, 1.044 OPS, 15 HR in 206 PA

Athletic who has killed the Indians:

Josh Donaldson - .358/.424/.566, .990 OPS, 3 HR in 60 PA

Projected 2014 Starting Rotation/Bullpen (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

1

Sonny Gray

3

2

Scott Kazmir

2

3

Dan Straily

2

4

A.J. Griffin

2

5

Tommy Milone

2

RP

Bullpen

4

TOTAL

15

2014 Outlook:

Oakland had a fairly straightforward Hot Stove season, adding Kazmir to replace Colon, and Johnson to replace Balfour. Neither of those is an upgrade, but neither really moves the needle down much either. The lineup looks almost identical to what it was a year ago. Based on all of that, Oakland looks like a serious contender for its third consecutive division title. In the last few days though, some storm clouds have appeared. Jarrod Parker, who would have been in the rotation, is headed for a second Tommy John surgery, A.J. Griffin is nursing a sore elbow, and Scott Kazmir was scratched from his last start with triceps tightness. Parker is of course out for the year, while Griffin is expected to be ready by mid April, and Kazmir is scheduled to start on Saturday. If Griffin and Kazmir are alright, their pitching staff looks solid, but few teams can overcome three injuries, so if those two have a hard time staying healthy, things could get dicey.

Oakland, Texas, and Los Angeles all look like they contend (and Seattle sees itself as a contender too, though I don't), and it should be a good race in the West.

PECOTA Projection: 88-74 (1st in AL West), 704 runs scored, 642 runs allowed

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