The A's and Diamondbacks square off tonight at 7:00pm PDT, in a game broadcast on the A's radio network...
It's difficult to make A's predictions with any confidence, due to the glue & duck tape factor that is Oakland's collective health prognosis. Certainly, the team will perform better if Harden's fastball is being skied to Bradley in CF than if Halsey's nothingball is being lined to Bocachica.
But given the current roster, I am probably feeling more optimistic about the A's offense than the average fan is feeling. Now don't confuse that with delusions of overall grandeur, as I am not necessarily as bullish on the post-Kotsay defense (forcing Swisher to the outfield, among other things), or the back end of the rotation. However, I do think the 2007 A's can outscore last year's team despite the loss of Frank Thomas. Today I offer two bases (that's the plural of "basis," not "first and third") for this optimism.
* I believe that the "not wearing down by catching factor" will trump the "changing leagues factor," and that Piazza will put up better numbers than he has in the last couple seasons. And remember, a normal season for Piazza yields a .300+ average and .400 OBP, with good power and great RBI production. With the additions of Piazza and Stewart to join Kendall and Bradley, the A's have at least four hitters who are capable of hitting .300. Overall, I really like the depth and punch from a healthy 2-6 of Stewart-Bradley-Piazza-Chavez-Swisher. Ultimately, I don't think this team will rely on one hitter as much as last year's team did, and that's always a good thing.
* I suspect that Geren will help the A's avoid hitting into so many double plays. The problem I had with Howe and Macha is that they seemed to view bunting or stealing only as means to "play for one run". Bunting (especially with two on), stealing, and the hit-and-run can be used not so much for "small ball," but rather to avoid the rally-killing DP. I have a feeling that Geren believes in this, and is just generally more committed to finding many different ways to score runs. You don't have to abandon a basic philosophy to build on it and add on to it. You can score four runs the way you always have and create another run by being creative or resourceful. I see Geren as the "four plus one" manager; I hope I'm right.
The A's aren't going to win that many games 3-2 this year. Blanton and Loaiza are more "innings eaters" than consistently dominant pitchers, meaning they are guys who can win if you give them a little offense but will probably post a mediocre ERA. Add Kennedy and you have 60% of the rotation in need of the ability to figure out how to score that extra run or three. I think this lineup and this manager may be up to the task.