A’s Look to Follow Giants’ Model of Success


New free agent outfielder Hideki Matsui, is introduced to Bay Area media A’s General Manager Billy Beane.

Conor Volpe, Staff Writer

The A’s and Giants have languished in Bay Area baseball futility together for going on four years. They were both mediocre clubs, with strikingly similar rosters. They had great young pitching staff, and below average hitting. Then, out of nowhere, the Giants squeaked into the playoffs and came out on top after a magical postseason ride.

There the A’s and their fans were, looking across the Bay at the 2010 World Series Champs, who just a couple months ago were almost the same team as the A’s. The big question the A’s have to ask themselves, is why not us? Why can’t we be the small market team, loaded with young arms and some serviceable hitters, who makes a run in October?

The A’s brass knew that their offense, or lack thereof, would be their downfall. For the 2010 season, the A’s ranked 23rd in runs scored, 17th in batting average, and 28th in home runs in Major League Baseball. They finished 81-81 even though they had a pitching staff that was third in runs allowed, fifth in opposing batting average, and third in ERA. The A’s were fantastic on one side of the ball, and decidedly mediocre to terrible on the other.

The A’s boast a pitching staff that lacks the star power of other rotations, but is just as deadly. Ace Trevor Cahill was a major reason for the dominance of the starting pitching last year, boasting a 2.97 ERA and winning 18 games as a 23 year old. Dallas Braden earned 15 minutes of fame for his feud with A-Rod, and then went out and pitched a perfect game on Mother’s Day. Gio Gonzalez won 15 games and had a 3.23 ERA, and the rotation will be even stronger with Brett Anderson having healed from elbow and knee injuries.

Not only are the A’s loaded with starting pitching, but the bullpen is also very deep. Newly signed relievers Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes add versatility to an already deep relieving core. Michael Wuertz, Brad Ziegler and Craig Breslow are returning from last year’s stellar unit, and Joey Devine is supposed to come back from right elbow surgery.

The A’s also brought back Rich Harden who should compete for a spot in the starting rotation but ultimately could end up in the pen. Also, Andrew Bailey has quickly become one of the best young closers in the league, saving 25 games while compiling a 1.47 ERA.

With this embarassment of pitching riches, the A’s can look to make some deals during the season if they’re in the playoff hunt. If they could add an infielder with some pop, (maybe undervalued Michael Young, Stephen Drew, Orlando Hudson, or maybe even Prince Fielder who the Brewers have been shopping), they could be a whole new team.

During the offseason General Manager Billy Beane and the front office were active, though under the radar. They signed Hideki Matsui, a solid hitter who should offer some production in the top half of the line up from the designated hitter spot.

The A’s also traded for outfielders Josh Willingham and David Dejesus. Willingham is an outfielder with underrated hitting prowess, and Dejesus was having a career year before going down with an injury.

If the A’s can stay healthy, their offense should improve. The new additions should add some versatility to the lineup, and allow Manager Bob Geren to have some much needed depth. Kurt Suzuki had a down year last year, but should improve. Coco Crisp proved to be a dynamic leadoff man, something the A’s haven’t had since the days of Johnny Damon, and Daric Barton is quickly becoming one of the best first basemen in the game.

Finally, with young studs Chris Carter, Michael Taylor, Grant Green, and Adrian Cardenas waiting in the wings, the A’s have an offense that could surprise some people.

The A’s are following the Giants’ winning formula exactly. They are going to rely on their young pitching and deep bullpen throughout the year, and hope their offense can score enough runs to keep them in games.

Although this has been their formula in recent years, they haven’t had the balanced offense the A’s put together this year. With some minor tweaks, and the possibility of a midseason trade, the A’s will be contenders, and maybe even the Giants of 2011.