Regular Articles

Regular Season Record: 93-69,
1st in the AL West, 4 games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Home Ballpark: McAfee Coliseum

New Feet for the White Cleats
1B Erubiel Durazo (Minor League deal)
C Mike Piazza (one year, $8.5 million)
RP Alan Embree (two years, $5.5 million)
2B Lou Merloni (Minor League deal)

Trying on New Shoes
OF Jay Payton (Baltimore, two years, $9.5 million)
DH Frank Thomas (Toronto, two years, $18.12 million)
SP Barry Zito (San Francisco, seven years, $126 million)

The Skinny: Make no doubt about it: The A’s lost a tremendous amount of talent, which seems to be their offseason routine. Left handed starter Barry Zito bolted across the bay, signing with the San Francisco Giants. That’s 16 wins, 221 innings, and a 3.83 ERA the team desperately needs to replace. Even for a genius like Billy Beane, that’s a difficult task. Furthermore, Oakland also lost Frank Thomas, who was one of the only bats that opposing pitchers feared last season. They need to regroup and retool very soon, if they are going to return to the postseason in 2007.

Strengths: Perhaps the biggest strength of the Oakland A’s is their bullpen, which is deep and should rank among the best in the American League this year. Closer Huston Street is ably set up by Kiko Calero and Justin Duchscherer, both of whom had ERAs less than 3.50 last season. If Jay Witasick pitches like he did after coming to the A’s in 2005, new manager Bob Geren may have an easier time in his managerial debut.

Weaknesses: It seems weird saying this, but the A’s have two huge weaknesses next year: starting pitching and offense. As stated earlier, they lost Zito to free agency, and that leaves a gaping hole at the front of the rotation. Can Rich Harden stay healthy enough to patch it? That’s unlikely. Will Dan Haren and Joe Blanton step up and match up with pitchers like CC Sabathia/Cliff Lee, Mike Mussina/Chien-Ming Wang, or Daisuke Matsuzaka/Curt Schilling? That’s less likely. A lot of pitchers need to take huge steps forward if they’re going to contend next year.

Another weakness for this Oakland A’s team is the offense. Last year, they finished 9th in runs scored, barely edging out the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. And now they lost Thomas, replacing him with a player that couldn’t produce like that in his prime. It’ll be up to Eric Chavez to pick up the slack, and he really needs to after years of middling production.

Potential Lineup:

C Jason Kendall
CF Mark Kotsay
3B Eric Chavez
DH Mike Piazza
1B Nick Swisher
RF Milton Bradley
SS Bobby Crosby
LF Bobby Kielty
2B Mark Ellis

Keys to Success: The only way for the A’s to be successful next season is if their starting rotation produces above expectations. We know that Rich Harden can’t stay healthy, so Haren or Blanton need to step up and become legitimate aces. Furthermore, Esteban Loaiza and Joe Kennedy can’t perform like number five / long men types. Rather, the right and left duo need to put up numbers similar to guys in the middle of the rotation. It would also help if Eric Chavez thought it was 2004 once again.

Prediction: Billy Beane is going to make me look stupid, but put me down for the A’s missing the playoffs. Losing their best hitter (in terms of production) and best starter (in terms of production) from last season and replacing them with lesser guys is not a recipe for success. Combine that with a stronger Angels ballclub, and you’ve got a second place club that finishes somewhere between 6 to 8 games out, which means 88 or so wins.