A's ST Game Thread #12: Oakland A's vs. Chicago Cubs

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics face off with the defending NL runner up Chicago Cubs today at 1:05 MST (also 1:05 PM PST due to our friendly "spring forward" time change last night, set your clocks folks). The diamond of play will be the Athletics spring home Hohokam Park in Mesa, Arizona, coincidentally the long time spring home of the Chicago Cubs prior to the A's taking over the facility in 2014 as the Cubs moved cross town to their new facility, Sloan Park.

The Oakland A's enter the contest with an even 5-5-1 record in their first 11 spring games, while the Cubbies bring the second worst Cactus League record of 3-9. As all observers in the know are prone to remind their friends, Cactus League records mean very little, as clubs focus on various elements of preparation for the real deal - for the A's a Monday, April 4th duel with the "other" Chicago team, the White Sox. So while the competitive spirit and basic fundamentals are key to evaluate, these relative "friendlies" should be seen for what they are: opportunities for a much-expanded spring roster to hone their skills, their approach and work on their craft individually and as a collective group.

The Cubs enter the 2016 season as the Las Vegas favorite to win the World Series, which would be their first World Series banner since 1908 (yes, 1908). According to, the Cubs are the odds-on favorites to end the drought, at 4-1 to win the whole shebang. This compares to the 2nd highest odds of 10-1 going to the "other team in the Bay Area that shall not be named herein" followed by the Mets at 12-1. For our hometown Athletics, the oddsmakers see a more unlikely path to a 2016 World Series title, with the Athletics' odds currently at 80-1, which tops just 6 other ballclubs and feels like a good value to your friendly guest AN analyst.

The starting pitching match up features one of the Athletics' many boom-bust starting pitchers, as 26 year old towering 6 foot 5 inch righty Jesse Hahn takes the hill for the Oakland A's. Hahn features a hard fastball, a good change up, and a very exciting curve ball, which is considered the key to his success, along with his velocity and overall command. Hahn scrapped a slider in the offseason, as the Virginia Tech product and former Rays 6th round pick believed that pitch may have factored into his forearm discomfort that ended his solid 2015 season prematurely. Hahn had Tommy John surgery in 2010 and hopes to avoid any additional injury challenges. Hahn's injury-shortened 2015 featured an impressive ERA of 3.35, FIP of 3.51 and WHIP 1.17 as well as a K/BB ratio of 2.56, highlighting impressive control. The A's also plan to have expected closer Sean Doolittle on the hill today, as well as all 3 new potential setup men (Ryan Madson, John Axford and Liam Hendriks), and #2 LHP prospect in the system, Dillon Overton. The expected pitchers today are certainly some interesting players to watch for 2016 and beyond.

The Cubs counter with their own 26 year old right hander Kyle Hendricks (no relation and actually not quite the same spelling as our Hendriks), who comes off a very impressive first full major league season, where he carried a 3.95 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 1.16 WHIP and very impressive 3.88 K/BB ratio. The A's lineup will get a nice look at a good young righty to hone their skills at the plate.

The A's look to bounce back against Hendricks and the Cubs after a very uninspired Saturday road loss to the division rival Texas Rangers 14-5. The A's Saturday lineup featured more-than-usual non-regulars behind RHP Kendall Graveman and the A's looked like they were a bit roiled by the debilitating Friday news that fellow Athletic Jarrod Parker suffered his third arm injury in three years, as he fractured the medial epicondyle in his right arm for the second time in two years. Parker, the former first round pick of the Diamondbacks, played a key role in the A's playoff runs in 2012 and 2013 and has been a guy who has persevered through so much, but whose arm has simply not cooperated. The injury left many players in the A's clubhouse stunned and saddened. Many veteran leaders expressed their sentiments and support for Parker.

Today's Athletics lineup features an increased veteran presence, as they look to rebound collectively from the challenges of the week and refocus on attaining a high level of play in 2016:

The Cubs counter with:

Keep it locked here at AN and please give your thoughts in the comments as we lead up and go through the game. Also be sure to swing back after the game for the recap and again share any thoughts you have on the game and the state of our beloved Athletics.