So I'm not saying that I'm on the postseason bandwagon. Gun to my head, I don't think our offense is good enough to sustain the necessary record for two more months, but I want to be wrong. And obviously with a second Wild Card spot opening up this season, this might be a year when a previously-shut-out team could squeak in. It's funny; if this had been 2001, I'd be furious at the Wild Card addition; the A's win 102 games and have to play a one game playoff against a team who only won 85 games? Although I'd be just as mad if the Wild Card didn't exist that year; the A's would have won 102 games and missed the playoffs. So I guess I like whatever works for the A's. I'm not biased.
This year could work for the A's. It's August 10th, not even really "early" August, and the A's are leading the Wild Card race; a half game up on Baltimore and Detroit and hotly pursued by Tampa Bay and Los Angeles. Boston and Toronto are within shouting distance, so we are looking at 2 spots for maybe 7 teams. And the season is less of a crap-shoot than the playoffs; it's likely that the "best" teams will eventually sort themselves out in the last two months of the season. So how do the A's snag one of the two spots?
The A's rotation, with the notable exception of Bartolo Colon, is made up of rookies who are now pitching in uncharted territory. Parker and Milone are struggling, A.J. Griffin is hurt, and Dan Straily is untested, having made just two major league starts. The A's need veteran production from Brandon McCarthy (and it goes without saying that he has to stay healthy); McCarthy is slated to start today against the White Sox, in what is a big series for the A's. Who are we kidding? Every series is now big. When is the last time we said that in August? The A's could also use a boost if/when Brett Anderson comes back; he's the other fresh arm. According to MLB.com, it is unlikely that Dallas Braden returns this year.
The Middle Infield
Don't look now, but Jemile Weeks seems to be picking things up a bit; instead of swinging for the fences, he is putting together some singles, doubles, and triples. On the other hand, the shortstop Frankenstein combination of Pennington, Sogard, and Rosales is probably the biggest black hole in baseball; the A's are getting less than zero production there. I'm serious; Tommy Milone could probably put up similar numbers. Is there another shortstop anywhere?
Hitters 3, 4, 5
It's been a long time since the middle of the A's lineup scared anybody, but with Reddick, Cespedes, and Carter hitting homeruns like it's 1988, the A's are scoring some real runs via the long ball. The A's surpassed their homerun total for all of last year the first week in August, with no signs of slowing down. If these three can continue production, things might get interesting.
If he really wants the coveted "Manager of the Year" spot (and he is likely a frontrunner right now), Bob Melvin has to decide on what to do with Ryan Cook in the ninth inning. Grant Balfour struggled in the closer role, as well, but he has been very effective in the set-up role since. Doolittle could probably close some games, too, but he takes more the Jeff Brantley approach; load the bases and strike out the side. I'm not sure we can take 8 weeks of that.
So, what do YOU think the A's need to do to close this season out and play in October (even if it is only one game)? Obviously, I want a longer series than a one-game playoff, but in order to do that, the A's can't squeak into the Wild Card; they would have to play a lot better than that; overcoming the 5.5 lead that Texas has built. But considering where we started the season, even if "postseason" means one game, I think I'll take it. So, how do the A's become one of the lucky two teams to battle for the playoff spot? Is it even possible? And who will win the other spot?
A's play the White Sox tonight at 5PM; Brandon McCarthy vs. Gavin Floyd.