Over the course of 30 days (or so) I will be previewing all 30 MLB teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2015 season. This post is previewing the Oakland Athletics.
The A’s are coming off three straight playoff appearances and an offseason in which they made several moves to acquire big-name players in an attempt to again make the postseason. Among the new players wearing Oakland uniforms this season are 2B Ben Zobrist, 3B Brett Lawrie, DH Billy Butler and RP Tyler Clippard, who’s going to start the season as closer while RP Sean Dolittle is on the DL.
Focusing on adding to the offense is probably a good idea because the team’s .244 batting average last season was tied for the second-worst in the American League. They were right around the league average with a .700 OPS and 146 home runs. The team’s pitching was more impressive; the staff’s 3.22 ERA and 3.53 runs allowed per game were both second-best in the AL in their respective categories.
Zobrist and Butler each hit over .270 last season, and Butler’s career average is .295, so they should help boost the team’s batting average this season. And Zobrist, who has hit double-digit home runs every season since 2008, should help add to the offense’s home run total, replacing last season’s main 2B Eric Sogard, now No. 2 on the depth chart, who hit just a single home run in 2014. While the team didn’t make many changes to the pitching staff, the addition of Clippard — who can give a team quality innings late in a game — should help out a bullpen that had the fewest saves in the AL last season with just 31 (tied with the Astros, who had 18 fewer wins).
After finishing in second place in the AL West last season, 10 games behind the Angels, the A’s have some ground to make up if they want to win the division, but the offense they added in the offseason should help bridge the gap a little. With teams in other divisions also improving this winter, another second-place finish in the division might not be good enough for to get one of the wild card spots like it was last year, so the A’s may need to win the division — I’m just not sure if they have enough to do that.