Oakland reveals strengths through pitching and offense in 2014 season [Opinion]

Will Mathis, Staff Writer

The Oakland Athletics have picked up right where they left off with the best record in the American League and the second best record in baseball, lead by one of the best pitching staffs in Major League Baseball.

The starting rotation had a lot of question marks going into the season with the losses of staff ace Jarrod Parker and third-year starter A.J. Griffin, but Sonny Gray and Jesse Chavez have filled their shoes much better than expected.

Offseason acquisition Scott Kazmir has also pitched past his expectations.

All three newcomers have ERAs in the top 10 in the American League through their first four starts. Gray has the best at 1.80.

While Parker won’t pitch this season, Griffin will, so the rotation will only get better.

One of the problems for the A’s is Jim Johnson. He is absolutely abysmal out of the bullpen and Bob Melvin made the right call taking him out of the closer role sooner rather than later. Opponents are hitting well over .300 against him and he has given up 12 hits and seven runs in just nine innings pitched. He’s a reliever who shouldn’t be coming in with a lead right now.

However, Johnson’s struggles show how deep the A’s bullpen is. Melvin has turned to a closer by committee and can use Luke Gregorson, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook at the end of games however he sees fit.

Don’t think that moving Chavez from the bullpen to the starting rotation has thinned out the A’s middle relief. Dan Otero has only given up one run in over 10 innings pitched this year, and Fernando Abad has only allowed two hits in over eight innings pitched and hasn’t given up a run.

The A’s pitching staff has what it takes to win a World Series. The offense also gets the job done. Put those together with some of the league’s best pitching, they’ve gotten off to a 13-6 start.

The A’s offense ranks fourth in the American League in runs (90), third in home runs (22) and sixth in batting average (.254).

They have the prototypical leadoff hitter in Coco Crisp, who is hitting .324 and has six stolen bases through 19 games.

They have a consistent middle of the order in Jed Lowrie, Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss. All of them are hitting .270 with multiple home runs.

Sprinkle in Yoenis Cespedes’s four home runs and Alberto Callaspo’s .300 average and you have an offense that scores runs on a consistent basis.

Melvin and General Manager Billy Beane have proven to be a perfect fit. The A’s are tied with the Atlanta Braves with the most wins in baseball since the start of the 2012 season; since the start of the Athletics’ run atop the American League West.

The A’s are well on their way to their third straight AL West Championship. Now all they need is to finish the season with the AL’s best record so they can avoid playing the Tigers in a five-game series and face them in the American League Championship Series.