by user JumperjhOakland Athletics appear to be showing signs that this team could live up to the hype given to it by many experts this year. They finished the month of April at 12-12, but the AL West has yet to show a truly dominant team.
The A's have been carried by two somewhat unexpected offensive performances in the month of April. The first came from Eric Chavez, known for his slow starts. Through May 3rd, Chavez is hitting .300/.396/.689 with 10 homers, 23 rbis, and 15 runs scored. He could be seeing this increase in performance due to his being put on the final 60 man roster for the U.S. in the World Baseball Classic. As a result of this, he would have been getting ready to play earlier than usual, and difference in production may be the result.
Also a pleasant surprise on the offensive side has been Nick Swisher. Through May 3rd, Swisher is leading the team with a .318/.398/.716, and is tied for the team lead (with Chavez) with 10 homers, leads the team with 25 rbi and 23 runs. Swisher is definitely not looking the same at plate as he did last year when he hit .236.
Also a strength has been the depth of the bullpen. Having acquired Brad Halsey right before opening day, the A's started with Saarloos and Halsey in long relief, Kennedy as a lefty specialist, Calero, Witasick and Duchscherer as setup men, and Street closing games out. The fact that the bullpen has been this deep has been a huge help due to injuries (Harden) and ineffectiveness (Loaiza).
The biggest weakness thus far for the A's has been their inconsistency on both sides of the game. With the exception of Esteban Loaiza, all of the starters have shown flashes of brilliance, and have also been ripped asunder in other starts. Zito pitched extremely well against Detroit, Seattle and the Angels, but was extremely ineffective against the Yankees on Opening Day. Harden pitched well against Seattle, but has shown issues with his control and is currently on the DL. Haren pitched very well against Kansas City and Texas, but gave up a lot of runs in an inning-eating outing against Minnesota on the 11th. Blanton threw 8 shutout innings against Seattle in his first start, but then gave up 7 runs in back to back starts.
The offense has not been particularly consistent either. Dan Johnson spent the first half of the month without a single hit, and finally starting hitting better on the last road trip. Frank Thomas is hovering around the Mendoza line, but has infused the team with some much needed power (5 homers, 13 rbis). Marco Scutaro started the season hot, but has since cooled to a .222 average in a backup role. The starter in front of him (Mark Ellis) isn't doing much better either, hitting below .200.
The injury bug has already hit the A's pretty hard, but with the depth that GM Billy Beane set up this year they have been able to stay near the top of the division. Injuries have forced Bobby Crosby, Huston Street, Rich Harden, Esteban Loaiza, Milton Bradley, and Mark Kotsay have missed time this year. Thankfully, their greatest injury risk has been playing every day, despite the Big Hurt not hitting well. Just his presence in the lineup can definitely have an impact on the rest of the lineup.
The A's started the month of May with a 2 game sweep of the Angels. Although Kendall is probably looking at a suspension due to the brawl he helped to start, Melhuse will probably provide an infusion of offense, specifically power, that the A's could definitely use during his expected absence. How the team handles the current injuries to Rich Harden and Esteban Loaiza will determine whether they finish the month of May at .500 or better, or at 17-32 like last year. The schedule is fairly strong, with Cleveland, Tampa Bay, and the Giants coming into the newly cozy McAfee Coliseum, and the team travelling to Toronto, the Yankees, White Sox and Rangers. Series against Seattle and Kansas City in the Coliseum should be fairly easy, but every game gets played for a reason. If Zito, Haren and Blanton can help carry this team until Harden and Loaiza are healthy, they can hang around near the top of the division.
Wed 05/03/06, 7:42 am EST