Bartolo Colon

Mid-season Progress Report: Despite dearth of talent, A's could be contenders

It is the traditional midpoint (even if it isn’t the mathematical midpoint) of the season, which means there is no better time to give both Bay Area teams progress reports. We’ll start by looking at the A’s.


based on wRC+ data from

The A’s have scored the fewest runs in the American League and third fewest in all of baseball. That isn’t too surprising considering that over the first half, they get only average or better production out of 4 positions. On the flip side, they posted the lowest wRC+ in all of baseball at catcher and third base. They also posted the third lowest wRC+ at short stop. When you have some of the worst hitters at three positions, you are bound to have a pretty bad offense.

At catcher, Kurt Suzuki is having a career worst season. Before this season he had never posted a wRC+ lower than 83. It currently sits at 40. He isn’t hitting for power, he isn’t walking very much, and he hasn’t had many of the balls fall in for hits. The worst part is that looking at his peripheral numbers, this hasn’t all been bad luck either. Luckily for the A’s, they have another catcher who has been hitting (albeit in a small sample of MLB games) in Derek Norris.   Expect Norris to take over more of the responsibility as the season moves along.

At third base, the Josh Donaldson/Eric Sogard experiment went so badly that the team signed Brandon Inge, who was released by the Tigers due to a lack of hitting. Inge has rebounded a bit, posting a 78 wRC+ with the A’s. Add in his usual solid defense, and Inge has pushed the position from black hole to just below average.

At short stop, Cliff Pennington has had the worst season of his career. The bright side for Pennington is that, unlike Suzuki, his peripheral numbers suggest that he has had some bad luck and that he should hopefully bounce back more towards his career norms.

Overall, the A’s have had three positions fail to meet reasonable expectations. Only Josh Reddick is performing much better than expected. With the two biggest position problems manned by guys that should help boost production and a hopeful bounce back from Pennington, this team should hopefully move from the bottom of the AL to maybe the quarter on offense.

Starting Pitching:

based FIP data from

The A’s starters have done pretty well, considering the injuries they have had to deal with this season. As a staff, they have posted a FIP 4.02. For comparison, the league average AL starter is 4.26.

The bright spots have been Jarrod Parker (who has been worth the same as Trevor Cahill this season in 20 less innings) and  Bartolo Colon and Brandon McCarthy when healthy. Colon would likely be available via trade, but I am really hoping that McCarthy, who is also a free agent after this season, will stick around.

Travis Blackley, who the A’s picked up after the Giants released him, has done very well as a starter. The numbers haven’t been dominate, but he has kept the free passes to a minimum, which helps when you pitch in a home ball park that is favorable to pitchers. I’ll be interested to see how he does in the second half.

The two guys that were below average were Tyson Ross and Graham Godfrey. Both pitchers were killed because of free passes and a lack of strikeouts to balance it out. Both are currently in Sacramento, so baring injuries or a trade, they shouldn’t see too much time in the major league rotation.

Relief Pitching:

based on FIP data from

The relief pitching for the A’s has been one of their strengths, posting the second best bullpen ERA in the AL. Looking at Defense Independent Pitching statistics like FIP, the A’s have still been above average.

Ryan Cook (one of the other pieces of the Cahill trade) has developed into the ace of the staff. Cook possesses some pretty nasty stuff that has been nearly unhittable (.103 batting average against this year). The one concern is the walks, a problem that dates back to his minor league experience.

The two worst members of the bullpen are no longer with the team. Pedro Fiueroa is back in the minors, and Brian Fuentes was released. Their subtraction should help solidify the bullpen.


The A’s came into the All-Star break at .500, which is better than I would have guessed at the beginning of the year. At times, they have looked like a pretty bad team, while at others like they could possibly hang with some of the lower rung contenders in the AL.

This inconsistency is expected with the young roster, but it sure can be frustrating at times to watch. Despite being just 2.5 games out of the second Wild Card, I am not convinced this team is good enough to make the playoffs.  Still, this team has some young players who could get the team back into contention. If not this year, then definitely soon.

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