The first month of baseball has come and gone, and the Oakland A’s are sitting pretty atop the American League West. Besides a few bumps along the road throughout April, the Athletics have started off 2014 with a bang. With their sharp bullpen and strong bats, their current 18-10 record is the third best record in the MLB.
This success has a lot to do with their pitching. The Athletics bullpen has the second lowest ERA in the Majors with a 2.78. Youngster Sonny Gray is leading the bullpen with a 1.76 ERA. This past week, Gray pitched his first major league complete game against the Texas Rangers where he only allowed three hits and one walk. With 37 strikeouts over 41 innings pitched, Gray is on track to be the Athletics’ ace this year.
Then we have the surprise underdog Jesse Chavez. This right-handed pitcher has not started any games since 2012, but he has been doing much better than expected. His pitches curve, curl, and eventually hit the corners of the strike zone, and he is leading the A’s bullpen in strikeouts with 41 over 38 innings. Chavez also made franchise history when he became the first Oakland A’s pitcher since 1914 to pitched at least six innings while allowing only one earned run in each of his first four starts. This former long reliever is showing that his true calling is as a starter.
Even though the bullpen has been on point, the Athletics have not resolved the closer issue. They are still using the “closer-by-committee” approach after demoting Jim Johnson, which seems to be working for now. However, by having one specific pitcher appointed as the closer, it helps establish consistency and norm within the bullpen. The “closer-by-committee” will not be successful for an entire season and the Oakland A’s will soon have to figure out who will fill this role.
Besides the bullpen, the Athletics’ lineup is also holding their own. They are fourth in the MLB for runs with a total of 148, and second for on-base percentage with a .351 OBP. Josh Donaldson is leading the team with the most home runs, RBIs, and runs. He has proven that last year’s success was not a fluke, and that his talent is the real deal. However, he is also leading the team in errors with six.
Donaldson is not the only one messing up though. The Oakland A’s have committed 25 errors over this first month of the season. The majority have occurred in the infield while three occurred in the outfield. Manager Bob Melvin noticed this lack of defense and quickly made changes to their pregame schedule so that the infield could have more time to practice fielding before hitting the batting cages. This change seems to be helping since the Athletics have only incurred two errors over the past six games.
Even though there are still a few aspects the Oakland A’s need to work out, they have been playing some great Green Collar baseball. The Athletics are going to be facing some tougher teams in May including the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers, and the A’s will have to continue giving it their all for these games. But with such depth in both the bullpen and in the dugout, the Athletics will hopefully be able to stay well rested and avoid injuries throughout the season thus allowing their success to continue.