Sports Outside the Beltway

Baseball Preview: Oakland A’s

This and next month, Outside the Beltway Sports will be taking a trip around the Major Leagues profiling the 30 major league teams. We continue today with the Oakland A’s, who finished atop their division for the fourth time in the last seven years.

Oakland A’s

Last season: 93-69 won AL West, lost in ALCS
Manager: Bob Geren

Meet the new guys

MGR Bob Geren, DH Mike Piazza, LF Shannon Stewart, RP Alan Embree, RP David Shafer, 2B Donnie Murphy

Gone and hardly remembered

SP Barry Zito (to San Francisco), DH Frank Thomas (to Toronto), RF Jay Payton (to Baltimore), SP Jerome Williams (to Washington), SP Kirk Saarloos (to Cincinnati)

And now your starting lineup

  1. CF Mark Kotsay
  2. LF Nick Swisher
  3. RF Milton Bradley
  4. DH Mike Piazza
  5. 3B Eric Chavez
  6. SS Bobby Crosby
  7. 1B Dan Johnson
  8. 2B Mark Ellis
  9. C Jason Kendall


OF Shannon Stewart
OF Bobby Kielty
IF Marco Scutaro
C Adam Melhuse
IF Antonio Perez
1B/DH Erubiel Durazo

There are holes no doubt. Jason Kendall had a nearly unredeemable season with the bat last year. Mark Ellis struggled at the start of the season. Bobby Crosby hasn’t had a healthy season since 2004. And Dan Johnson did not hit enough to keep his starting job. They can score runs. Swisher, Bradley, Piazza and Chavez are good run producers and Kotsay gets on base with enough consistency. The A’s could use more steady hitters, but as Billy Beane has noted, with his budget, you get flawed players. The bench is stocked with average to slightly better players. Some, like Stewart and Durazo, are coming off of injuries, and may be able to become difference makers given a clean bill of health and a chance to contribute. They aren’t going to score 850 runs, but they won’t need to.


  1. Rich Harden
  2. Danny Haren
  3. Joe Blanton
  4. Esteban Loaiza
  5. Joe Kennedy
  6. Brad Halsey


Closer Huston Street
Justin Duchscherer
Kiko Calero
Alan Embree
Dan Meyer
Chad Gaudin

Barry Zito took his consistent track record of success and durability to San Francisco. But the A’s still have a remarkably solid rotation. The biggest question mark is the health of Rich Harden. Harden’s arm is live and his skill is undeniable, but his fragility has frustrated the A’s the last several years. Danny Haren and Joe Blanton remain quality and inexpensive arms. Esteban Loaiza was injured early last year, and it showed in his ineffectiveness. He pitched well in August and September. Joe Kennedy has been used primarily in a bullpen role since coming to Oakland. Last year’s very good 2.31 ERA (2.57 RA) in 35 innings of lefty specialist work has given Oakland confidence in putting him into a starting role. The bullpen remains solid, anchored by setup man Justin Duchscherer, who filled in at closer for the injured Huston Street for a month and stabilized the pen. He battled a few injuries, as well. Kiko Calero had another good year in Oakland’s pen. His rising walk and hit rates are a little worrisome, but he also increased his K rates, and as long as Calero can continue to dot hat, he’ll be just fine. Alan Embree enjoyed a renaissance in ’06. His lost 2005 season may have been due to dead arm from all the innings he worked out of the pen in Boston’s World Series run the previous year. He inherits the lefty specialist role from Kennedy. The A’s figure to break in Meyer in the pen. He was battered in ten starts in AAA last season, and the notoriously hitter friendly Pacific Coast League is not as pleasant an environment as pitching in relief in a very pitching friendly ball park.

Help is on the way…

Top prospect Daric Barton figures to find his way to the other city by the Bay one of these days. He had a solid season in AA ball in 2005, but shoulder woes slowed him down last season. He’s healthy this spring, and while likely ticketed for AAA, a hot spring would make him an extremely attractive option at first base. Johnson’s difficult ’06 campaign was marred by injuries as well, but Barton figures to be the long term solution at first. It will be his job to lose next season, and maybe even by this year’s All-Star break.

Other prospects who may be called on
Kurt Suzuki is just as likely to supplant Jason Kendall behind the dish this year. Suzuki has posted great numbers as he has marched through the Athletics organization. His stop last season at AA showed improved defensive ability and that tantalizing combination of doubles power and excellent plate discipline. Outfielder Travis Buck has the highest ceiling of Oakland’s current minor leaguers. A sports hernia hurt him last year, but he still managed a combine line of .320/.385/.521 between advanced A ball and AA. Oakland’s outfield is crowded, but Buck’s progress will land him in right field fairly soon.


Oakland has slipped a little from last year’s division winner. But they had lots of room for improvement within last year’s roster. The defections of Frank Thomas and Barry Zito left gaps, but the A’s filled the Thomas gap with Mike Piazza. The Zito gap will be filled with Joe Kennedy, who while not as durable as Zito, profiles similarly. He relies on control and his defense getting outs for him. If Kennedy can take the success he has enjoyed in the bullpen and pitch effectively as a starter, then that gap will have been filled as well. Oakland can ill afford more injuries to key players like Crosby or Harden. Both have been bitten by the injury bug before and need full seasons to propel the A’s to a successful defense of their AL West title. How Bob Geren handles running Billy Beane’s team on a day to day basis is another question. If he works well with Beane, then it could be a very happy year for Oakland fans who would love to see a return to the World Series.

Predicted finish 95-67 first place AL West

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Not a bad preview, but I have to point out two things that aren’t really accurate.

One, Jason Kendall had a decent year last year. Many teams would be happy to get a .295 average and .367 obp with 23 doubles from the catcher position.

Two, Dan Meyer will not be in the Oakland bullpen this year. He’s a starter, and he’ll get another year in AAA to redeem himself.

Posted by Ryan Armbrust | February 16, 2007 | 04:17 am | Permalink

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