The A's are not just a September flash. They're 34-30 since the All- Star break, and entered Monday's play ranked fourth in the AL in runs per game during that time.
The increased offense is a surprise; left fielder Matt Holliday is gone, and Adam Kennedy's .767 OPS is the highest among the remaining A's with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.
While the team lacks above-average offensive players, its young pitching remains the envy of most clubs. The emergence of rookie shortstop Cliff Pennington, a gifted defender who is hitting better than expected, should end any talk about the A's bringing back Orlando Cabrera as a free agent.
I picked the Athletics to win the West this season. They're going to finish last. Nevertheless, their recent solid play does make me feel a bit better about my prediction ... Maybe I was just a few months off!
I'm afraid I'm not yet to the point of long-term optimism, though. The A's are last in the American League in slugging percentage, and I don't see how they do much better next season. At 33, Kennedy is enjoying his best season since 2002 (and isn't signed for 2010 anyway). Rajai Davis is hitting better than he's ever hit before. Jack Cust might bounce back some next season, but then again he might not (he's 30). Pennington seems to have finally arrived, but he probably can't maintain these numbers next year.
As well all know, Rajai Davis, out of nowhere, is now batting .318 on the season in 335 at-bats. Suzuki is having another solid season, Kennedy has been a great pickup for the A's, and Sweeney is batting .289. But Neyer is right; the A's are missing the power numbers.
We've talked a lot about the future five starters for the A's (feel free to list your preferred rotation in the thread), but what are we going to do about the offense? If they A's won't play Travis Buck in a meaningless game even with an injury to Hairston, is he even going to be a factor next year? Can Cust rebound from a fairly awful season to be a productive hitter next season? Realistically, how many hitters will the A's have to pick up next season to compete? And who are these hitters?
Are these A's for real in September? Is this a positive sign for next year, or are these truly pressureless and meaningless at-bats?