Once upon a time, after the Los Angeles Raiders beat the Washington Redskins in Superbowl XVIII 38-9, a reporter asked Raiders owner Al Davis how his team was able to be so successful with all the distractions they had. Al Davis smiled and said, “When you’ve got great coaches, and after you’ve got great coaches you get great players, you have a great organization and, you tell them one thing, just win baby!” These iconic words of Al Davis are the law that all team sports abide by.
Winning is something the Oakland A’s have been doing a lot of lately. Only time will tell if any of these players are great but, they are consistent. They’ve got a great coach in manager Bob Melvin. His team came out of nowhere and has pulled off some stunning victories. The A’s lead the league with 12 walk-off wins after all. The organization is great, the general manager Billy Beane still runs the ship and he’s still finding great prospects and other under the radar assets to his team. All that’s left to do with all of these people is to win, and do they ever win.
The Athletics are second in the AL West behind the Texas Rangers with a record of 57-48. They finished off the month of July hotter than any A’s team ever with a 19-4 record. If Oakland is anywhere near winning a game in the waning moments of a game the find a way to pull out a victory. Even Tim Tebow thinks 12 walk-off wins is a lot. There aren’t many big name guys on the roster, if any at all, so just how is Oakland winning?
Let’s first look at pitching. For the Athletics it’s very solid. Their team ERA is 3.44, which is fourth best in baseball right now. The A’s have also had a combined 9 shutouts which is fifth best in the majors. Yesterday Bartolo Colon pitched 8 scoreless inning against the Toronto Blue Jays. Tonight Oakland will call up right-handed pitching prospect Dan Straily to start against the Blue Jays. Straily has a whopping 175 strikeouts in 138 1/3 innings in the time he has spent pitching in double-A and triple-A. According to foxsports.com that is 21 more strikeouts than Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg. The A’s have good pitching and an abundance of it.
What makes the Athletics special is their hitting. It’s underwhelming in every category. They’re 24th in runs scored, 27th in on base percentage, 25th in OPS, second to last in hits, and dead last in the league in batting average. Their team batting average is .229, which is flat out awful for those of you keeping count. Where are the A’s going with smelly numbers like this? Nowhere but up. The key to the A’s victories is timeliness they get the hits they need when they need it. They score just when it is absolutely necessary.
Timely hitting is a shaky place to build a home but, when you combine that with great pitching (in the American League no less), then it become a very stable combination. The pitching keeps Oakland in games that a batting lineup like that should be nowhere near and then late in games the clutch gene takes over and Oakland soars. If the they keep up their success don’t think for a second that they couldn’t wreak havoc in the playoffs.
It’s great to be the A’s. Wouldn’t you say?