After yesterday's 10-0 decimation of the AL Central leading Tigers, the A's stand at the summit of the American League with a record of 31-20. They have done this with a staggering run differential of +100; 57 runs better than their closest competitor, division foes Los Angeles. The Athletics' 258 runs scored are only two behind Colorado for the most in the entire Majors. Clearly, Oakland is not doing this with smoke and mirrors. Moss and Donaldson continue to tear the cover off the ball, each having 12 home runs as of today. The holes in Brandon Moss' swing so far have been filled. The first baseman leads the team with 42 RBI, a mark good enough to be tied for third in the MLB. His average also sits at .289, 32 points above his career level. His bash brother across the diamond, Donaldson, has fallen back just a bit off the pace from his breakout 2013, but just slightly. Though his average has taken the biggest dip, his RBIs (38) and walks (29) are both commensurate with his numbers from a year ago. If you are an advanced metrics kind of guy take note that Donaldson (3.9) and Moss (2.2) are first and fifth in the American League in WAR (Wins Above Replacement). It isn't just these two riding floats in Oakland's hit parade though. Catcher Derek Norris has cooled off moderately after a white hot first two months but is already having his best season as a Major Leaguer. He is also one of two Oakland regulars (shortstop Jed Lowrie is the other) to have more walks than strikeouts, a rarity in today's game. The outfield trio of Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, and Yoenis Cepedes have done their share with 65 runs scored and 66 driven in.
They have actually done more damage away from the Coliseum. (Sorry Overstock.com I don't recognize your sponsorship no matter how many orders my mother has placed with you!) Of the nine times they have scored double digit runs, six of those have been on the road. They not be Hawk, Animal, or even Mel Gibson but these A's are some road warriors. The A's haven't been discriminatory in their doling out of doomsday devices either. They are over .500 against every division with the exception of the AL East, which took a recent sweep from Toronto to send them under the dividing line. I guess Oakland's offense IS good enough to carry them.
I'd be remiss if I didn't highlight the exploits of the men trying to keep opposing hitters at bay. When Jarrod Parker had to undergo the second Tommy John procedure of his life during Spring Training, a strength was considerably weakened. Scott Kazmir, who had a career renaissance with Cleveland in 2013, was given the charge of taking the ace's role. He has done more than admirably going 5-2 with a 2.56 ERA. The rest of the staff has been just as stellar. Along with Kazmir, the four starting pitchers for Oakland who could qualify for the ERA title rank in the top 20 of the American League. Sonny Gray leads the entire league pitching to a 1.99 mark and was the AL Pitcher of the Month for April. Every one of Gray's starts in 2014 have been quality ones (6 IP, 3 ER or less). Converted reliever Jesse Chavez has been a godsend for the A's posting a 4-2 record, 2.61 ERA, and a team high 61 strikeouts in this his first season primarily as a starter. Chavez's output has been rather unexpected. The 61 K's are already a high for a season and his ERA is over two whole points lower than his career average. The "weak link" Tommy Milone has an even record at 3-3 and a 3.50 ERA. Former first round pick Drew Pomeranz has made the transition from middle relief to the rotation smoothly replacing the struggling Dan Straily, who was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento earlier in May. The bullpen has rebounded from incumbent closer Jim Johnson's early season trials.
The A's aren't going away. There will be surely more hurdles placed in front of them as 2014 trudges along but I can say now I don't see them tripping up. All of what I perceived to be their shortcomings have truly been the antithesis of the word. Reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer is today's test for the Green and Gold. Oakland has been acing such tests. If you were putting together report cards for the first trimester of the season, Oakland's would have quite a few references to the insignia on their cap as the summer begins. If I was getting one however, I think I'd be looking forward to summer school.
Trevor Utley is happy that the A's are doing so well. That other team from the Bay Area's success so far...not so much.