Right around a month ago, on May 15th, the Oakland Athletics trailed the Texas Rangers by a full seven games in the American League West. Fast forward to today and the Athletics are now alone atop the division, leading the Rangers by a game following their 5-2 win over the Yankees late Wednesday night. Oakland’s .597 winning percent only trails Boston in the American League.
If you recall, last season the Athletics surprised a lot of baseball folks by edging out the Rangers in the final days of the season to win the West. Left for dead in the middle of the year, Oakland found the right combination of young pitching and timely hitting mixed with a lively crowd at the O.co Coliseum. That the A’s were able to carry some of last year’s success into this year, considering the youth of the roster, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Oakland is now 8-3 in June and ended May with 12 wins in their final 14 games of the month. The Athletics have already spent more days in first place this year (17) than all of last season (3). Last season the A’s were nine games under .500 on June 9. Since that turnaround, they haven’t stopped winning.
Over past calendar year, the Oakland A’s are 108-60, 10 1/2 games ahead of next best AL team (NYY, 97-70).
— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) June 13, 2013
Some of the Athletics’ current success can be chalked up to playing the right teams at the right time. After a 3-1 loss to Texas on May 22, which kept them 5.5 out in the division, the A’s went on to sweep the woeful Astros. The A’s followed that by taking 3-of-4 from the defending World Series champion Giants.
The scheduling gods have been even kinder to the A’s in June, with their first nine games against the White Sox and Brewers, who are a combined 55-73. (The Astros check in at 23-44.) That said, the A’s have taken two straight from the Yankees, who entered Oakland 11-games over .500. This weekend Oakland hosts Seattle before traveling for a four-game set in Texas next week.
Statistically nothing jumps off the page at you about this A’s, aside from 40-year-old Bartolo Colon being 8-2 with a 2.92 ERA. (Really, even with his history with PEDs, how the hell is Fat Bart pitching this well? It can’t all be attributed to walking only 10 batters in 83+ innings, can it?) You’d have thought the young arms (Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, Dan Straily and A.J. Griffin) would lead the club instead of a journeyman.
The only offensive category Oakland falls into the Top 5 is drawing walks, no surprise on a Billy Beane team, where they are fifth. If it wasn’t for Miguel Cabrera, you could make a case for Josh Donaldson starting the All-Star Game for the American League. In his first full season Donaldson is posting a .317/.385/.512 line with nine homers and 42 RBIs.
Quietly, Coco Crisp is putting together another fine season by the Bay, slugging an even .500 with eight home runs from the leadoff spot. The A’s have also had to make due with Yoenis Céspedes in-and-out of the lineup with injuries, but they’re still winning by getting contributions throughout the lineup from guys like Seth Smith, Jed Lowrie and John Jaso.
However they’re doing it, Oakland’s +46 run differential is nothing to quibble with. Manager Bob Melvin has the A’s winning and with regularity. The race in the West might not come down to the final days of the season like it did last September, but it figures to be a good one down to the wire again. It’s also a season’s worth of data, so Oakland seems to be legit.
[Photo via Getty]