Heading into this weekend’s series against the Oakland A’s, I decided to reach out again to Sean Davis, editor of Swingin’ A’s. I wanted to ask him a handful of questions to find out about the A’s season so far and his expectations for how their season will play out over the final month and a half. I also took a second to ask him all about the emergence of Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes‘ sophomore slump, and the awesomness that is Grant Balfour. His answers were spectacular. You can follow Sean on Twitter, @SeanD25, and check out his work at Swingin’ A’s.
Wahoo’s on First: The A’s haven’t been playing all that well of late and as a result the Rangers passed them for first place in the AL West. Are you worried that the A’s have hit a wall or peaked too soon? Do you think they have a run left in them to bring home the division crown again?
Sean Davis: I don’t believe their problem is that they have peaked, because they had been incredibly consistent through the first four months of the season, winning 16 games each month. Their problem is that the offense has cooled considerably and their pitching staff has been inconsistent. The schedules of the A’s and the Texas Rangers favor the Rangers during the month of August, but favor the A’s during September. If the A’s keep the Rangers close through August, I like their chances in September.
Wahoo’s on First: Josh Donaldson has had a breakout year playing third for the A’s. Was this something A’s fans saw coming or are you guys as shocked by his performance as the rest of us?
Sean Davis: Donaldson is an interesting case. He wasn’t supposed to be on the roster last year, and it took Scott Sizemore tearing his ACL to get him there and he became the starting 3B by default. He hit about .150 through the first couple months of the 2012 season, and was sent down to Triple A. When Brandon Inge injured his shoulder, Donaldson was once again the default starting 3B, only this time it was for a team that was shockingly in contention. Something changed within Donaldson during his time in the minors, and he had a very solid final 6 weeks of the season, enough that Billy Beane had faith in him as the incumbent 3B coming into 2013. A’s fans were split on him, many thought he had figured it out, while others (myself included) simply weren’t sure which Donaldson from 2012 was the real one. I figured he’d be productive, but not spectacular, and there’s no doubt he’s exceeded my and everyone else’s expectations this year.
Wahoo’s on First: Yoenis Cespedes has all the talent in the world, but it feels like he’s been going through the motions this year. He’s been hot as of late and showing signs of busting out in a huge way, but are you at all worried that when you look back at this season his main highlight will be winning the home run derby?
Sean Davis: The biggest problem I have observed with Cespedes this season is that he appears to have reverted to some of the habits at the plate that made many baseball people skeptical of his ability before he came to MLB. Last year he showed a great ability to hit to all fields, lay off breaking balls out of the zone, and let his raw power do the work. This year he has been chasing pitches like crazy, and has often appeared to be trying to hit home runs in situations where simply solid contact would suffice. He has started to perk up a bit lately, and has hit the ball the other way a bit more, but he hasn’t been able to gain that consistency that made him so valuable in 2012. Will the Home Run Derby be the highlight of Cespedes’ 2013? Probably so, but that only worries me if his performance costs the A’s down the stretch.
Wahoo’s on First: Do the A’s have enough pitching? I mean how long can they continue to rely on Bartolo Colon to be the ace of the staff? Who is most likely to step up and raise their level of performance to the next level?
Sean Davis: I have been clamoring for the A’s to add veteran pitching help since about December of last year. I even posed the question to Assistant GM David Forst at a blog event during Fan Fest in January, and he told me that other than resigning Bartolo there would be no pitching help coming. I’ve continued imploring the A’s to add pitching during the season, and they still have not done so. I think this could be the downfall of this team. They are essentially hoping that the young starters who performed respectably last year will do so again this year. A.J. Griffin leads the world in home runs allowed, and Tommy Milone wasn’t far behind before being optioned to Triple A. Jarrod Parker has been nothing short of spectacular over the last few months, and Dan Straily has been great at times, and maddening at times. As for Bartolo, I’m very concerned that he is worn out. It was about this time last year that he was suspended for 50 games, so we never got to see how he fared during the dog days of August. His velocity has been down recently, and I fear that he won’t regain the effectiveness he showed for much of the season thus far. I think the key to the A’s success will be Thursday’s starter Sonny Gray. The A’s appear set to hope that he takes the baseball world by storm and shore up their rotation.
Wahoo’s on First: Is Grant Balfour as awesome as it seems or is his Australian-ness clouding my judgement?
Sean Davis: Yes and no. His fiery demeanor and all that comes with it is pretty amazing. The audible expletives are always a joy to hear. He does have the propensity to become a “cardiac closer” at times, but more times than not he works his way out of it. The Balfour Rage is also a very underrated arm workout, it is tough sometimes to keep it going throughout the entire song (Metallica’s “One”).
Wahoo’s on First: What is your prediction for this series?
Sean Davis: Obviously the last series didn’t go well for the A’s in Cleveland as they were swept in that 4 game series. I predicted a split back then, little did I know Angel Hernandez would rear his ugly head (that same crew denied Chris Young a walk-off home run Tuesday night vs. Houston). This time around I think the A’s will continue to scuffle against three quality pitchers for the Indians. I’ll give the A’s one game this series, but I expect the Tribe to leave Oakland with two more wins.