The Indians are quite possibly the hottest team in baseball right now. After winning six of their past seven games, they have propelled themselves back into contention in the AL Central and have reminded everyone what they may be capable of in 2013. When the offense is firing on all cylinders they’re hard to beat. Next on the list of teams looking to slay this behemoth, the Oakland Athletics.
The A’s come to town for a four game series set to begin tonight. Heading into play, they find themselves in second place in the AL West and trailing the Texas Rangers by 2.5 games. Admittedly, there is no way they’re worried about the Rangers right now. Last season they came out of nowhere thanks to an offensive eruption (and a bit of a choke job on the Rangers’ part) to usurp the Rangers for the AL West crown.
Perhaps the best reason for the A’s hot start to the season, has been the offensive eruption that helped carry the A’s to the playoffs last season. There has definitely been a carry over effect. Right now, the A’s have scored the most runs in baseball despite the fact they play in a stadium that is typically one of the worst in baseball in terms of offense and has enough foul ground in play to take away somewhere between 20 and 4,000 at bats (a rough estimate) from A’s hitters each year.
The primary reason for the continued offensive success has been primarily thanks to the surprising play of several key members of the A’s everyday lineup. Coco Crisp suddenly looks like the player every one thought he would be for the Indians, a combination of speed and power that can change a game in an instance. Third baseman Josh Donaldson has been another pleasant surprise, hitting .302/.383/.491 and leading the team in RBI. He also leads the A’s in total number of spiked base runners during Spring Training. Jed Lowrie, Seth Smith, Brandon Moss and even Jon Jaso have all helped make the A’s a legitimately dangerous team offensively.
There is also the constant threat of Yoenis Cespedes in the middle of the A’s lineup. It’s become apparent, even early on, that Cespedes has all the makings of a potential MVP candidate. His only real problem thus far in his career has been staying on the field. A variety of injuries have caused him to miss time. And while the A’s have found a way to persevere during his absences, this team could be that much better if he could stay healthy for a full season.
Lastly, and perhaps most confusing of all, has been the regression of Josh Reddick. We all remember how well Reddick looked in 2012. That player appears to have vanished. Instead, the A’s have been left with a player who struggles to put the ball in play and when he does he fails to get on base. Heading into tonight’s game, Reddick has an atrocious line of .148/.267/.250 with 14 RBI and only one home run to show for his troubles. This is a guy who led the A’s in most offensive categories last season with 32 home runs and 85 runs batted in out of the three-hole.
With all of that good, there has been some bad. In terms of pitching, the A’s have yet to assert themselves. Their young talented pitchers have struggled a bit early on, as indicated by Bartolo Colon leading them in almost every major pitching category. Perhaps the most disappointing of them all though has been Jarrod Parker. In his debut season as a full-time starter, Parker was great. His sophomore campaign? Not so much. Until they can get him turned around, all signs are beginning to point to that happening, the A’s may struggle to find a foothold in the AL West.