Oakland A's Batting Trending Up, Pitching Already There
After spending two weeks stuck in a bit of a tailspin, the Oakland A’s finally put together a week of solid performances. Going 5-1 against the Royals and Rangers seems to have the A’s back on track, at least for the moment.
Part of the team’s resurgence is credited to the return of Coco Crisp and Chris Young from the disabled list, but Oakland has also seen its starting pitchers begin a progression to the mean after a very slow start to the year.
Stronger at the Mound but Not the Plate
To this point in the year, the A’s starting pitching has been decent, but certainly not the dominant force that it was in 2012. The AL average runs allowed per game by starters is 4.43. Sitting at 4.35, Oakland has sported an average rotation for most of the year. That worked during most of April (when the rotation was actually below average) but started to take its toll on the team when the lineup sustained a rash of injuries.
However, over the last several weeks the rotation has begun to return to the form it showed last year in allowing only 3.79 runs per contest. The last week, the A’s allowed a mere 1.67 runs per game. Granted, three of those performances came against Ned Yost’s horrific Kansas City lineups, but Oakland’s pitching staff also shut down the Ranger lineup, which ranks a respectable ninth in baseball in runs per game.
Meanwhile, how are the bats who returned from the DL contributing to the A’s recent success? It’s a little tough to say.
Chris Young has an on-base-percentage of .200 since coming off the DL, and has yet to record an extra base hit. Coco Crisp’s post DL OBP is .269 in six games. It is important to note that Crisp began his return by getting on base only once in his first three games. In the last three, he has five hits and a walk, certainly a positive trend.
Of course, there is also Yoenis Cespedes, who returned from the DL at the end of April, but only now seems to be finding his way at the plate. Mired in a rut for several weeks since his April 28 return to the lineup, Cespedes had an OPS of just .682 a week ago. Since then, he’s collected three walks and six hits (including two homers and two doubles) to lift his OPS to .744, still much lower than he should be, but he’s certainly moving in the right direction.
There is a chance that this was simply a good week for Cespedes, but given the way he swung the bat all of last season, there is more than a little reason to believe that he is finally shaking off the rust from an injury that prohibited him from even swinging a bat for some time.
Still, none of the A’s to return from the DL has exactly ignited the offense. With the exception of a nine run outburst last Monday, the A’s haven’t scored more than four runs in a game this past week. Still, with Cespedes emerging from his post injury slump, there is hope that the offense can remain decent, if not potent. Should the pitching approach last year’s performance, decent might be good enough to contend for the postseason.
Playing in the same division as Houston also helps playoff aspirations, and the A’s will get a chance to improve upon their 6-0 record against the Astros this weekend. With a four game set against the cross-Bay rival Giants coming up, after that, Oakland will also make its first foray into interleague waters this year.
Matt Keith covers the Oakland A's weekly for numberFire. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @mattlkeith.