Oakland Athletics: What Went Wrong in 2011 and Looking to 2012
Friday September 23, 2011
Sam Evans (Intern – MLB reports): Going into this season, the Oakland Athletics were perceived by some as a dark horse AL West contender. They had one of the best starting pitching rotations in the American League and a lineup filled with role players. At the end of May, the A’s record sat at 27-29 and only 3.5 games out of first place. However, the team proceeded to go 9-17 in June and their season was pretty much over.
Confirmation for A’s fans that their team likely wouldn’t have a shot at the playoffs was when they learned Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden were going to be out for the year. These two lefties were key parts of the A’s rotation. To have them out for the year was a big blow to the team. To add insult to injury (literally), there is a chance that Anderson will not recover from his Tommy John surgery by the end of next year.
The A’s five starters next year most likely will be Gio Gonzalez, the aforementioned Braden, Brandon McCarthy, Trevor Cahill, and Rich Harden or Guillermo Moscoso. This is depending on what happens in free agency during the coming offseason, but I think Billy Beane will be aggressive in trying to keep his pitchers in Oakland. McCarthy and Gonzalez have had breakout years, and Cahill has been mediocre. Even with the injuries, the rotation is definitely far from the team’s biggest worry. Pitching at the Oakland Coliseum for half of the schedule unquestionably makes these pitchers look better than they are, but regardless at the end of the day, the A’s still have one of the best rotations in the American League.
The A’s bullpen is solid and reality is that major league bullpens are often easy built with minor league arms. Fautino De Los Santos has stood out to me as a great future cornerstone for their ‘pen. He is a hard-throwing righty, who missed parts of the 2008 and 2009 seasons due to Tommy John surgery. De Los Santos came from a mediocre Oakland minor league system. The A’s farm system is headed by Grant Green (1st round pick in 2009, shortstop), Chris Carter (huge power bat, first base), and Michael Choice (1st round pick in 2010, athletic outfielder).
The A’s infield situation is very complex. Since being called up, Jemile Weeks has hit .303 with 21 stolen bases to earn their second base job for next year (and likely next decade). Although, his power stroke hasn’t quite developed like his brother Rickie’s, he has been hitting the ball hard to all fields. Cliff Pennington has had the year everyone expected him to have. He is hitting .264 with 8 home runs, however he is .304 since the all-star break. My opinion though is that Pennington is a slightly below-average ML starting shortstop. If the A’s decide to keep Grant Green at shortstop, which they should, Green could be their starter as early as July. Even if they’re not sure if Green can play shortstop, the A’s should at least give him a chance.
Since coming over from the Tigers on May 27th, former top prospect Scott Sizemore has been a pleasant surprise for the A’s. He has hit 10 home runs, which is more than any of his seasons in the minors or majors. Despite a low batting average and a shaky glove, it’s not like the A’s have anywhere else to go for a new third baseman. Holding down first base (or trying to at least), is Brandon Allen. Chris Carter though will be battling Allen in spring training in an attempt to take over the job for next year. Hideki Matsui turned out to be an average signing at best for the A’s. They needed offense and he provided decent numbers at the cost of $4.25 million for the year. My guess is that Godzilla will probably return next year at a fraction of the cost.
In the outfield, the A’s got a career high 27 homers from Josh Willingham. What is even more impressive is that The Hammer did it with such a weak lineup around him, that he likely did not see many strikes during the season as in past years. Willingham will be a free agent this offseason and the A’s will have to decide if they are willing to pay to retain him. Willingham will likely qualify as a type “A” free agent as one of the best outfielders on the market. Coco Crisp as well had a pretty productive year, hitting .270 with 42 stolen bases. He also will be a free agent this offseason, but I believe that he is very likely to stay in Oakland. As for right field, David DeJesus, 32, will be a free agent this offseason as well. He had a pretty rough year, and I’d be surprised if the A’s still wanted him on their roster. Next year, Michael Taylor and Ryan Sweeney will probably come into camp to compete for a spot in the outfield. Overall, the A’s clearly have a lot of decisions to make regarding their outfield this offseason.
I think the A’s are going to make a huge splash this winter. I’d be surprised if they didn’t try to ship out some of their excess arms for bats. If they don’t make significant improves to their offense, the A’s will likely be the worst team in the AL West next year. What do the A’s have looking up for them, you might ask? Well, they have one of the best general managers in baseball and when need to improve a team quickly, that’s not a bad place to start.
***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Sam Evans. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Sam on Twitter.***
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Posted on September 23, 2011, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged anderson, athletics, baseball, beane, braden, cahill, carter, choice, crisp, dejesus, gonzalez, green, harden, matsui, mccarthy, mlb, moneyball, moscoso, oakland, pennington, sizemore, sweeney, taylor, weeks, willingham. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Oakland Athletics: What Went Wrong in 2011 and Looking to 2012.