The A's are doing fine, but the month of May has started off poorly. I'm worried, that once we start playing stronger teams (as we have already seen with Boston), it will be more difficult to hold our own, unless we make some minor changes. Below are my suggestions of our problem areas and some solutions.
The biggest thing that comes to mind is the lineup. For some reason we are still playing Sogard and Punto quite a bit. They should never be starters, unless it's giving someone a day of rest. Losing their defense value probably costs us a win or 2, but having an offensive replacement for them probably gains us a win or 2, at least. Sogard and Punto should be used as replacement IF when needed and nothing else really.
Callaspo is a fine 2B. Average defense, but a much better hitter than both Sogard and Punto combined.
Reddick is another situation. He was once a great hitter, but that exists no more. He defense is still superb, but just like our 2B situation, how many wins does he really save with his defense? As opposed to how many wins could a different RF, who actually hits the ball and produces runs, make? I think Reddick should be delegated to a RF replacement role, coming in for a player that needs some rest, or as a PH vs RHP in late innings.
Gentry is hitting very well this year, and has showed consistently that he can hit well since 2011.
My everyday starting lineup with the current roster:
C- Norris/ Jaso
As you can see, we now have an issue, there is no DH. Besides the players listed above, no other A's players can hit. They can't hit RHP, and they can't hit LHP. Of course one of the catchers can be a DH, while the other plays the field. But do we really want Jaso as our everyday DH against LHP?
We are in need of either one great everyday DH who can hit both RHP and LHP. Or two great platoon DHs, who can hit RHP and LHP each. If this means sending down or DFA-ing some players, then go for it. I can think of 4 right now, who I'd be fine not having on the MLB roster.
So the A's should be looking hard for a trade partner for a strong hitter to put in our DH spot, and they should also be checking in on Kendrys Morales, who would be a great addition and a perfect DH (he hits both LHP and RHP great). The only issue is the A's will have to wait until after June 7th to sign him (so they don't lose a draft pick). So if the need for a DH is urgent (which I think it is), then finding a trade partner might be the best bet.
Looking at our AAA team, the only call up option to help at DH would be either Michael Taylor (.264, 4 HR, 9 2B in 87 AB), Jake Goebbert (.280, 5 HR, 7 2B, 1 3B in 93 AB), or Tyler Ladendorf (.356, 10 2B, 1 3B in 87 AB). Can any of them hit MLB pitching yet? Besides a "No" for Taylor, I don't know about the others.
Sonny Gray, Jesse Chavez, and Scott Kazmir are killing it. I feel much more confident in a win on days they're pitching, and all 3 of them are a Top 10 AL pitcher. The thing about baseball is, with 162 games, you can't only rely on 3 guys to start every game. This is where the A's fall short. We have a hole in our last 2 rotation spots for this year. We know for a fact that Parker and Griffin are out for the entire season. In their place we have Milone and Straily.
Straily is sporting a 5.01 ERA, but his 31Ks in 32 IP, and his 1.27 WHIP suggest he can rebound and go back to his dominant self.
Milone, on the other hand, might not have any hope. Or at least, I don't want him sticking around long enough for us to find out. With a 5.86 ERA. 1.55 WHIP, and a .274 Opp BA, he has had a terrible season.
If the A's really want a reliable and above average 5th man, they are going to need to go out and find one. AAA Rivercats don't seem to be holding any viable options, except for maybe Phil Humber. But a 31 year old, injury prone pitcher, with only 1 good MLB season (2011), may not be the answer.
They can look within their current bullpen for help, Drew Pomeranz is the best bet. But is he really ready for a rotation spot again?
I would rather not go with the unknown, and trade for a sure thing.
Yes, Johnson has been doing better as of late. Yes, maybe there won't be issues with the 9th inning going forward. But every outcome needs to be covered. The A's are a team that constantly finds themselves in close games. It's been this way since 2012 (hence all the walk-offs). We usually don't blow out opponents, and we usually don't have opponents blow us out. So we need to make sure that after we have a stellar (or not) outing from our SP, our relief can come in and close out a game.
I don't think relief pitching is an immediate need, but I do think it needs to be watched closely if we want to make a playoff run again. Abad, Cook, Pomeranz, and Gregerson have been stellar. While Otero, Johnson, and Doolittle have not. Of course the season is young, and out of the later group only Otero has pitched more than 14 innings. I can see Doolittle getting back to form, and I can only pray that Johnson does the same. But our relief pitching is something to keep an eye on, especially as we draw closer to the trade deadline this summer.
With a few tweaks here and there the A's can be a dominant team once again and cruise into the playoffs like they did in 2013. I trust that the management will get the job done, and hopefully some of my suggestions above are also on the minds' of the front office. Another successful year is slowly blossoming. It will be fun to watch it grow.