Once again the Oakland Athletics are competing for the division in 2014. Unlike division rivals like the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels they do not rely on big name players with large salaries to match. The old strategy of “Moneyball” where the team values players with high on-base percentages is still present, but it’s not the reason why the team continues to win. A successful team in Oakland has required a lot more than finding veterans with good eyes at the plate.
The Athletics are a team that benefits from all of the parts working together. Catchers Derek Norris and John Jaso have so far evenly split time behind the plate. Brandon Moss has played first base, the outfield, and has had a few easier days working as the designated hitter. Alberto Callaspo has primarily been the designated hitter yet has made himself available at first base and third base. Mixing and matching has benefitted the team. Their multiple talents have been utilized and it has kept players from getting overworked which has kept them fresh and healthy.
An inexperienced pitcher can be a death sentence. At the same time, it could just mean their arms are in better shape. Considering the A’s will be without A.J Griffin and Jarrod Parker, pitchers with fewer innings tossed in their career should make fans relax a bit on another season-ending injury. Youngster Sony Gray has been superb so far. Meanwhile veteran Jesse Chavez has suddenly become a great starting pitcher after spending most of his career in relief. After multiple injuries Scott Kazmir appears better than ever while adding a needed veteran presence. Even the unheard of Drew Pomerantz, who has joined the starting rotation, appears ready to contribute down the stretch.
One of the best ways to build a great franchise is having all of your best players reach their prime at the same time. Several players on the A’s have grown together over the last few years and 2014 might be the year they all breakout. Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes, and Josh Reddick are all in their late 20s; an age many consider to be the beginning of a player’s best days. Certainly they have weaknesses, Cespedes and Reddick going against the Moneyball theory of getting on base. The more seasoned veterans like Jed Lowrie and Coco Crisp are still top contributors and capable of getting on base lots. There seems to be no gap from one era of A’s baseball to the next.
With the Texas Rangers losing several top players for the season, 2014 is the A’s year to go far in the playoffs. The American League West will be a fight between them and the Los Angeles Angels now. Using their strategy for winning baseball, they have a good chance at coming out on top of the entire American League.