REGULAR SEASON FINISH:
1st Place in AL West
AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES OPPONENT:
The Oakland Athletics came out of the 2013 regular season in the same place they miraculously finished in 2012, atop the American League (AL) West. The back-to-back AL West Champions had 96 wins this season and only 66 losses, tying Atlanta with the third best record in the Majors.
The A’s will have home field advantage hosting the Detroit Tigers at O.Co Coliseum in Oakland, CA – in a rematch of the 2012 American League Division Series (ALDS). Last season the Tigers players told the press it was the “loudest” stadium they’d ever played in. This year, the removal of the tarps from the Coliseum’s third deck will add another 12,000 fans into the mix. About returning to Oakland, the Tigers players have been paying the outlandish fanatics in the East Bay some compliments telling The Detriot News:
“It was the loudest and craziest venue I’ve ever played in as far as baseball. It was an absolute madhouse; it was pretty fun to play in,” catcher Alex Avila said. “It was definitely one of the loudest stadiums I’ve ever been in and one of the rowdiest and craziest.”
“Last year, I remember it being loud — and they didn’t even have the third deck then so I’m sure it’ll be louder this year,” relief pitcher Drew Smyly said. “I felt the atmosphere. It was the loudest of the playoffs, all three stops (Oakland, New York and San Francisco) we made.”
Being loud — that’s what really sticks out in my head,” center fielder Austin Jackson said, “It’s the atmosphere being unreal and playing against a really tough team that didn’t want to give up.”
So will the hometown crowd help the A’s? The Oakland Athletics “fAnily” as the regulars call each other are prepared to rattle the bones of even the most stoic pitcher (good luck playing the A’s tonight Mr. Scherzer). Says one Season Ticket Holder (STH) from 128:
“We ARE practically family. We like to say ‘fAnily’ and with the advent of social media we’ve connected STH and diehard fans from all areas of the stadium. We take trips and have get-togethers. One thing we do very well is organize. With what we have planned for the Tigers this year, well, loud is going to be an understatement!”
An obvious key will be Bartolo Colon. At 40 years old, Colon is listed as 265lbs but appears to be well over 300lbs. Also at 40 years old Colon finished the season with 2.65 ERA (second in the AL), 18 wins (also second in the AL), the league’s fewest walks, and a legitimate case to be considered for the CY Young Award. Moreover, Colon’s done it all with a smile on his face. A strong start in game one and his presence in the clubhouse will help guys like rookie starting pitcher Sonny Gray remain confident.
All season long the A’s bullpen has been one of the team’s greatest assets. With Jerry Blevins, Brett Anderson, and Jesse Chavez the A’s are well-covered if in need of long relief, but the A’s real weapon is the one, two, three punch of Ryan Cook, Sean Dolittle, and the famously foul-mouthed Aussie and A’s all-time consecutive saves leader Grant Balfour. Cook and Balfour might have had a few recent struggles but if all three of these guys bring their A game along with five or six solid innings from an Oakland starter the A’s could be all but unhittable.
Because of such stellar pitching, the A’s have the ability to win on the long ball alone. On some days they can only muster one three-run shot but most of the time it’s enough. Another key to the A’s postseason success is that guys who have really stepped up offensively this season need to stay hot. Coco Crisp has the most home runs of his career, Brandon Moss became the first Athletic since Josh Reddick last season to hit 30 plus home runs in a single year, the only two Athletics to accomplish that feat in over a decade (Eric Chavez hit 34 home runs for the A’s in 2002) and Josh Donaldson managed to end the season with a batting average of .301 and 24 bombs.
On the A’s there are many platoon positions so this team is experienced just coming off the bench offensively and defensively. Catchers Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt are both known for their pinch hitting heroics and Eric Sogard, now known not just for his glasses but for his quick glove and outstanding defense in playing both short stop and second base, often platoons with Alberto Callaspo and Jed Lowrie at those positions. All three of those guys are experienced in coming off the bench at any time in the game. Having this extraordinary depth for a team with the league’s third lowest payroll, the Athletics will be hard to beat.
For the A’s to be able to lock down the whole show here in 2013, players like 2012 Rookie of the Year runner up, Yoenis Cespedes, and 2012 Gold Glover, Josh Reddick, need to step up and bring their A games to the yard this weekend. Both have been plagued by injuries during the season and never really got on an offensive track, yet both are very capable of going deep or getting a key hit. Cespedes is the reigning Home Run Derby Champion but all that power hasn’t quite translated to the field this season. But this is now the postseason time to see a little more of the “Cuban Missile” if the A’s want to win it all. Both Cespedes and Reddick need to take their games to the next level. Regardless, Tigers will no doubt find out why the slogan is “Don’t Run On Reddick.” These two guys have what it takes. They just need to remain healthy and play more consistently in the postseason.
Although the A’s are known for their stellar defense, they have been plagued by errors in 2013. The errors seem to come in clusters making the Athletics look flat out sloppy, even lazy at times. Though they are far above sloppy and lazy, one sloppy game could cost them an entire series and it would be “see ya next season,” something almost every member on this team has heard before and doesn’t want to hear again. Just ask the Angels’ Josh Hamilton about errors in important games and he’d surely note his debacle in Oakland in the season’s final game, giving Oakland the insurance runs they needed to solidify their place as the 2012 AL Western Division Champions.
This year the Athletics are a more mature group of experienced players, not an entire team of rookies even though there always are a few new guys. They have the depth, power and pitching to potentially go all the way to the World Series but they can’t let any little errors get in their way.
MLB 2013 PLAYOFF PREDICTION:
Oakland Athletics – 11 Wins; 2013 World Series Champions