On Thursday, the A's lost arguably their best player to an injured thumb. Early estimates have Josh Reddick out for at least a month, possibly more. It's bad news for a team that wasn't looking so hot anyway, but there are reasons to think the A's can stay in the race until Reddick returns to the lineup.
Don't fret all the numbers
One of the most glaring cases against the A's case is their Pythagorean record. By a formula used to estimate how a team should do based on run differential, the A's grade out at 17-25. That means their position at the bottom of the division isn't bad luck, it's good suck.
Many hate on run differential, but truthfully, it does a good job most of the time. That said, I'm slightly skeptical of the A's as a 65 win team like Pythagoras himself would never actually suggest since he's never heard of baseball.
Why the skepticism? The A's went on a brutal nine game road trip to face a few powerful AL East teams, and their run differential took a 34 run hit. 34 runs. That's...a lot. And while I fully admit this is some form of picking cherries, I'm also skeptical the A's will trot Eric Surkamp out there in Fenway again or that Sonny Gray will pitch like a quad A guy all season long.
We definitely shouldn't ignore that stretch entirely, good teams typically don't go and lose a half dozen consecutive games by football scores. We can't just pretend those 34 runs don't exist, that the A's are really down only eight runs in that department. But the A's don't face a team of hitting gods playing in a shoebox stadium for a while, and the rotation shouldn't be that bad.
The rotation shouldn't be that bad
Remember early in the season when opponents weren't really scoring? We've done a 180 somewhere since then, but the talent remains.
It starts with Sonny Gray, a manchild whose Cy Young votes speak for themselves. The velocity is there, his stuff seems sharp, he just can't seem to spot anything yet. If Rich Hill has taught us anything, it's that stuff can turn into success in a heartbeat. The 2015 version of Gray would change the look of the rotation in a heartbeat.
Graveman is a question mark, but he's shown time and again he's good when he's on. The A's just haven't been able to find that switch yet, so it's unclear how consistent he can be.
Hahn, Manaea, maybe Alvarez? That's a solid middle of your rotation. Certainly not a group you'd expect to throw batting practice in Fenway every game. The same rotation the took the A's on its back and sprinted headfirst to the A's ugliest stretch this season could easily be an asset in a few short weeks.
Have Khris Davis and Danny Valencia alternate three homer games
Not sure why the A's aren't doing this yet. We'd get the added bonus of two players breaking the single season home run record by about 80% too. This one gets my vote though the A's don't seem to be on board.
This seems like an excellent point to break and watch Khris Davis take in game batting practice.
Have Chris Coghlan, Yonder Alonso, and Billy Burns stop being bad
This one is slightly more plausible. I'm not saying the A's have been unlucky, although it's possible they've run into some tough luck at times. Rather, I'm saying some A's have played like hot garbage doused in gasoline and topped with a lit match.
There's no denying losing a guy like Reddick is tough. Aside from maybe the dominant Cubs, is there a team out there that could lose a valuable two way player and stay afloat? Probably not. The A's came into 2016 expecting decent play across the board and instead have been met with five or so ballers and roughly four dudes who look like guys the A's found playing beer league softball.
Alonso is already on the comeback trail, and his success is definitely correlated with the A's scoring runs at a competent pace lately.
Coghlan hasn't joined Alonso yet, he's still off in the woods picking dandylions and whiffing on curveballs. There are reasons to doubt him, baseball is a finicky game where gray hairs can mean metaphorical falls off the OPS cliff. But it wouldn't be a surprise to see him come back strong, either. Khris Davis was equally hopeless earlier in the year, and we're still dealing with a small sample. Hope is still an available option on the dropdown of baseball emotions.
Hope the Mariners do Mariner, AL West things
You still can't predict baseball and while the Mariners are playing great ball with a well built roster, it's baseball. An injury could bring them down or they could be sucked into the division's mediocrity tractor beam. Early projections had this being a tight race culminating in a division winner with somewhere around 85 wins, and that's still very attainable for anyone in the division. Staying afloat is a lot easier when you're playing in the kiddy pool.
Don't give up, A's fans. Losing Reddick is tough, and even with Reddick this team was on the outside looking in. But it's an unpredictable game that's given us bigger miracles before, so we should have hope.
Plus, the A's play in the AL West. We'll always have that.