If only the A’s didn’t play in the American League West…
If they didn’t (and still had the same record) – they would be 2nd in the AL Central by about a game, 2nd in the NL West, and about a half-game out of first in the NL East.
Instead – they are 10 games back of the Astros and 7.5 games back from the upstart Seattle Mariners. The problem, of course, is that the Red Sox and Yankees are hogging the first wild-card spot – making the Mariners the real villain for the A’s assuming they can’t take out the Astros for the top spot in the AL West.
The A’s sit at 48-40, with their best hitter being Jed Lowrie hitting .290. Khris Davis has 20 home runs and Matt Olson with 19, but neither of those numbers even crack the AL Top 10 for home runs. Lowrie is 5th in the AL in RBI with 59, but with the A’s the question is always about if those players are going to stay – or simply be used for trade bait for Billy Beane’s wild plan for the following season.
Blake Treinen is the newest “Build-A-Closer” who seems likely to be traded after his value is built up by 22 saves – after he failed as the Washington Nationals closer just a year ago. The A’s ERA is 18th in the majors and they are 20th in Quality Starts – so it’s not the starting pitching that is bringing home the bacon.
Perhaps that is the A’s biggest conundrum as always: go for it or build up stronger? The team has a great young core with Matt Olson and Chapman, and while the rotation is thin enough that Edwin Jackson made the A’s his 13th major league team – he pitched a gem his first time out and like most can benefit from the large confines of Oakland Coliseum.
This is not like 2014: where Beane went ALL in by trading for Jon Lester, trading away Yoenis Cespedes and going in big for the wild-card game. He also brought in Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel hoping to play the odds. That team was 10 games behind the Angels for the division and held off the charging Mariners (1 GB) and Indians (3 GB) for the second wild-card spot, ceding the first to Kansas City.
This team keeps on fighting – but July 31st simply might just be a countdown to another promising team torn down to be built back up again. The A’s are ranked 7 in Farm System rankings at least pre-season, and so they fight to keep this group together or perhaps get a few pieces to make a run.
The Mariners continue to win – but by low margins. The A’s have a +8 run differential on the season, the Mariners are +19, while the Astros lead everyone in this category with a whopping +181. While not a proven formula, certainly the assumption is that in 162 games the Astros will continue to widen their lead over the Mariners, not shrink it.
So the A’s fight on with a record that in nearly any other division would put them right in the middle of the race, but because of the one they are in, they are a footnote following the Astros and Mariners. It’s too bad, but A’s fans shouldn’t be too surprised.