2017? Never hoid of it. Seems like so long ago that the A’s played baseball in the 2017 season. I’m all about 2018 and I’m all about being Pollyanna. Why? Because baseball, and its predictable unpredictability, practically demands it.
No doubt the A’s holes, some of which they will aim to address this off-season. No doubt they have some exciting talent, most of which happens to be named Matt. Here are some reasons why it could all add up to a wild card berth next year:
The Minnesota Twins
The Twins, losers of 103 games in 2016 and owners of the second wild card spot with 85 wins in 2017, are the latest example of a team confounding the pundits. Before you scoff at the idea that a team could improve by 26 games without splurging on payroll or signing a big star, look no further than this year’s Twins for proof that it absolutely happens. The Arizona Diamondbacks, the Colorado Rockies, and the Milwaukee Brewers, are three more examples of teams not widely picked to compete for the post-season this year but who did.
The Second Half
The A’s were not a great team in the second half of the season, but they were solid and solid is all you need to be a contender these days. Oakland was 40-40 over its final 80 games. Considering that the roster was so radically different between the first 80 and the last 80, it is fair to characterize the later roster as being the “real A’s team” moving into the off-season, and the real A’s team is a .500 team over a fairly large sample.
The Home A’s
Remarkably, considering that the team played half a season with Trevor Plouffe, Rajai Davis, Adam Rosales, with no Kendall Graveman, no Sonny Gray, no Ryan Dull, then played the last two months absent its two best relievers, nonetheless the A’s managed to go 46-35 at home for the season.
Granted, you don’t expect a team to play as well on the road as it plays at home, but you’re talking about a team that – despite all the injuries and months spent putting place holders on the field – won so much at home that if they just replicated that record in 2018, and played .500 ball on the road, you’re looking at an 86-87 win team. That gives you the second wild card most seasons, including 2017.
The over arching point here is that as bad as the A’s were in the first half, and as mediocre as the team’s record was overall (75-87), even the 2017 team wasn’t that far away from hitting the low bar that is wild card contention. Flipping that 75-87 to an 87-75 could be as simple as having, all year, the roster the A’s had in the second half, playing reasonably well — basically just “not terribly” — on the road, and adding a key piece or two (hello, pitching) to strengthen their roster over a full season. Heck, arguably with the roster as is just a true breakout season as a SP from one of Daniel Mengden, Jharel Cotton, Chris Bassitt, or Andrew Triggs (in approximately that order of likelihood) could position the A’s well, and you know they will be bringing in at least one veteran SP to aid the cause.
We’re talking about a 12 game jump if you look at this 2017 A’s overall record, or a mere 6 game jump if you accept these current A’s as a .500 team. The bulk of the returning team is so young that they are still getting better and not yet at their prime. Get psyched.
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What did this article tell you?
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That I should be excited about the 2018 team’s chances to contend
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