2013 American League Preview: Oakland Athletics

Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

Let's Go Tribe's look at the Indians' competition around the American League continues with the Oakland Athletics, who stunned baseball by winning the West last year.

Oakland Athletics

2012 Record: 94-68 (1st in A.L. West), 8-2 vs. Cleveland (you're welcome, Oakland)

713 runs scored (8th of 14 in A.L.), 614 runs allowed (2nd of 14 in A.L.)

After eight straight winning seasons between 1999 and 2006 (including five playoff appearances), the A's entered 2012 without a winning record in the previous five years. Expectations were fairly low, as the A.L. West seemed a two-horse race between the Angels and Rangers. For the first couple months, Oakland seemed content to stick to the script, compiling a record of 26-35. Billy Beane must have been just about out of chairs to throw. Then, without many noticing at first, Oakland began to win. After a decent June, Oakland caught fire in July, winning 18 of 21 games at one point and trimming Texas' lead from 13 games down to 3.5 games.

On September 5 the Athletics lost their third straight game and fell five games back with only four weeks left in the season. To make matters worse, Brandon McCarthy, Oakland's best pitcher to that point, was struck in the head by a line drive, necessitating emergency brain surgery and ending his season. But instead of breaking, the A's won their next six and refused to go away. They entered the final series of the season two games behind Texas, needing a sweep in order to to become baseball's most surprising division winner. They got the sweep. They went five games with Detroit in the ALDS, then had their season ended by Justin Verlander. Still, it was a far more successful season for Oakland than just anyone expected.

How did they manage it? With strong pitching, mostly. In addition to McCarthy, all five of the other pitchers who started at 15+ games for the A's were better than league average, a group notable for its youth (give or take a Bartolo Colon). The bullpen was strong as well, with great middle and endgame relief. On offense, there weren't many standouts, as only four A's played often enough to compile 500+ PA. Many hit well in limited playing time though, and the newly signed Yoenis Cespedes had a great first season in American baseball.

Key off-season additions:

John Jaso (C), Jed Lowrie (SS/3B), Chris Young (OF)

Key off-season departures:

Stephen Drew (SS), Jonny Gomes (OF/DH), Brandon Inge (3B), Brandon McCarthy (SP), Jim Miller (RP), Cliff Pennington (SS)

2013 Payroll: ~$60 million

Projected 2013 Starting Lineup (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

C

John Jaso/Derek Norris

3

1B

Brandon Moss

1

2B

Scott Sizemore

1

3B

Jed Lowrie

2

SS

Hiroyuki Nakajima

2

LF

Yoenis Cespedes

3

CF

Coco Crisp

2

RF

Josh Reddick

2

DH

Seth Smith/Chris Young

2

TOTAL

18

Indian Killer:

Josh Reddick - 65 PA, .317/.338/.556, .894 OPS, 4 HR, 9 R, 8 RBI

There hasn't been a lot of damage done against the Tribe by Oakland's projected lineup.

Projected 2013 Starting Rotation/Bullpen (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

1

Brett Anderson

2

2

Jarrod Parker

3

3

Tom Milone

2

4

A.J. Griffin

2

5

Daniel Straily/Bartolo Colon

2

RP

Bullpen

4

TOTAL

15

The A's had the run differential of a good team last year, so it's not as if they made the playoffs behind smoke and mirrors (which Baltimore did... and should be congratulated for), but looking at their roster, I don't see a playoff team. The projections you see below both view them as a bit short of that too, but even those figures (Cairo at least) seem optimistic to me (though of course they are cold calculations, devoid of emotion).

I see an offense that will struggle to score many runs, because beyond Cespedes, is there anyone you'd characterize as better than an average hitter? I see a rotation with the potential for growth, and probably one that keeps the team from getting blown out many times, but not one that carries a weak lineup into the postseason. I admire the success Oakland has had with such a modest budget over the years, but I'm not seeing it in 2013. I didn't see it coming last year, and of course that didn't stop it from coming all the same. Feel free to prove me wrong again, fellas.

PECOTA Projection: 83-79 (3rd in West), 717 runs scored, 695 runs allowed

Cairo Projection: 87-75 (3rd in West), 731 runs scored, 675 runs allowed

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