What, me worry? Not yet.

Seth Smith is happy. You should be, too. - USA TODAY Sports

As play begins after the doldrums of a four-game MLB schedule on Monday, the A’s find themselves one game out of first place. Is there cause for concern?

June has been a strange month for the competing AL West teams. The Rangers started out cold, and the A's were rolling through hapless AL Central opponents, and then sweeping the Yankees in three games. After that, the tide started to turn. The Rangers took 3 of 4 from the A's in a frustrating series, and then rolled over the Cardinals (who again proved their worthlessness) in three games. Starting play today, the A's went from 2 down to begin the month, to one down as it winds to a close. What's more, Seattle continues to haunt the A's for winning the 2006 AL West banner on their backs, and play the A's tough no matter what.

Let's pull back, though. First, to be clear, if the season ended today, the A's would be firmly in control of the WC1 spot, and playing Baltimore for the final playoff spot. Despite the fawning over the all-over-.500 AL East, the A's have a better record than all but the Red Sox in that division. Tampa Bay is only three games over .500, and Toronto needed this recent winning streak just to get back to one game over .500. Indeed, those teams all have warts, as does Texas. If we rearrange the standings by Pythagorean W-L , we see something different:

Team

Actual

Pythag

OAK

44-34

44-34

TEX

44-32

41-35

LAA

33-43

37-39

SEA

34-43

32-45

HOU

29-48

29-48

Yes, the A's have their warts, too. Middle infield is not settled out, with Adam Rosales and Eric Sogard not really being starters worthy of a contending team. One starter is seemingly always on the fritz, with Griffin seemingly being that guy as of late. Most recently, it's been the bullpen that has failed, as they compiled 4 of the team's 5 losses on the road trip. Then again, the A's just finished a marathon of games that has clearly taxed the bullpen, and these three off days in an 8 day span should help to rest the relief squad, having been without an off day since Monday the 10th.

This is without even going into last year yet. While it is true that the A's had epic run down the stretch, the truth is that this year they won't need it. After 78 games last year, they were 37-41, in third place, and 12 games back. This required them to win 57 of their final 84 games to finish with 84 wins and a division crown. That's crazytown stuff right there -- .679 baseball over that period of time is no small feat - that won't be necessary this year. Should the A's remain at their current pace, that's 91-92 wins, and a down-to-the-wire finish for the AL West crown, with the loser almost assuredly taking the WC1 spot.

Again, let's keep things in perspective here. The A's are a playoff-caliber team. Factor in some upgrades at deadline, and the team is pushing 94-95 wins again. Let's not all jump off the bandwagon at once.

The Cincinnati Reds come to town today to do battle, bringing with them a 45-32 record and third place in the NL Central. Not to mention the stench of flopping against the Giants last year when it really mattered. Thanks a lot, redlegs. Baseballgirl will have your game thread for the 7:05 start.

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