The Oakland A’s are 60 games into their 2021 season, which is a notable checkpoint because that’s how many they played last year in the shortened pandemic campaign.
In 2020, the A’s went 36-24, which was roughly a 97-win pace based on a .600 percentage. That was effectively the equivalent of the previous two seasons, when they also won exactly 97 games apiece.
And this year? They’re at 35-25 so far, just one off their final record from last summer. In the standings, they’re first place in the AL West division, with a two-game lead over the Houston Astros.
It hasn’t been a perfectly linear path to get here. There was a disastrous 1-7 start, followed by a thrilling 13-game win streak, and since then slightly over .500 ball (21-18) with a run differential around neutral during that span (164-161). But one-third of the way through the year, they’ve got themselves in a good position.
Looking deeper, the offense has almost exactly average in terms of run production, ranking 15th in the majors with 4.40 runs-per-game. But there’s a ton of upside beyond that, as their 109 wRC+ is fifth-best in MLB, their .330 xwOBA is seventh, their 77 homers rank sixth, their 9.7% walk rate is seventh, and their 23.5% strikeout rate is better than league average by nearly a full percentage point. Their .260 batting average with runners in scoring position is seventh-best, virtually tied with the Astros, and Oakland ranks third in the majors in sac flies.
On the pitching side, their big-picture output is around league average, placing 16th with 4.27 runs-per-game allowed, or 14th with a 3.98 ERA. But their starting rotation leads the AL at 5.6 innings per game, and their bullpen has only blown six saves, which puts them among the small handful of most reliable units in the majors so far. Statcast puts the staff’s .314 xwOBA 13th in the bigs, a few points better than average, split evenly between the starters and relievers as both groups have been equally solid. Perhaps their most impressive stat is their 2.7% walk rate, third-best in MLB, helping them to a 3.75 FIP that ranks 10th.
Oddly, their defense is not receiving good marks. They’re last in the majors at minus-24 DRS, and 18th with a minus-2.8 UZR. The eyeball test says their outfield has been spectacular, but DRS says the middle infield has been a trainwreck and UZR is only slightly less pessimistic about it. They have Gold Glovers on each infield corner, but the numbers say they’re each having an off-year in the field so far and the eyeball test grudgingly agrees (while the brain and heart say they’ll be fine long-term).
Of course, the difference from last year is that this season isn’t over. If it ended today like it did in 2020, but with the postseason structure back to normal, then Oakland would be in the ALDS next week. But really there are four months remaining.
It ain’t over. We should expect the A’s to be battling Houston all year, with the real chance that we could settle for a Wild Card or even miss out entirely. The roster has its fair share of flaws and questions and red flags, and it doesn’t have to go right.
But if you were wondering how they would do after a weird short year and then a high-turnover offseason, the answer is almost exactly the same, in a good way.