The Oakland Athletics had an extremely successful season last year. Maybe you didn’t notice. In a discussion where the A’s were probably relegated to the kiddy table, while big-boys Texas and Anaheim were supposed to contend for the division, the A’s won it. LA of Anaheim missed the playoffs all together, and Texas went out in a pretty unceremonious way against Baltimore in the new-fangled one-game playoff.
The team’s supposed strengths going into the season were pitching and, well, pitching. Albeit in an enormously large ball park where a game of cricket can be played down the right field and left field foul territories.
Oakland’s strength ended up being not only pitching, but also a tendency to hit home runs. And lots of them. The A’s were one of the better teams at the art of the long ball (7th in baseball last year.)
Last year as well, the A’s got the bulk of their power from their first base/ corner outfield/DH spots from a mix-matched group of role players and journeymen.
(Sensing a theme?)
Safeco Field isn’t as massive as it once was, see the fences being moved in. Nor was its original state as big as whatever-the-heck-they-are-calling-Oakland’s-numerous-name-area/collesium/field. But Safeco will probably still be a large ball park when all is said and done.
The Mariners strength through this down period (or this century, if you take out the three anomaly winning years at the beginning of the millennium) has been pitching, if anything else. This probably should be the strength of the squad again.
The Mariners will look to get the bulk of their power production from the first base/ corner outfield/ DH spots. This group will be some combination of gasp- Mike Morse, Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay, Franklin Gutierrez, Michael Saunders, Casper Wells, Eric Thames, Carlos Peguero, Justin Smoak, Kendrys Morales, Mike Carp and Jesus Montero.
(Taking deep breathes as I step away from the keyboard and desk all-together.)
Getting back to the A’s, their other remaining strengths were/are the uncanny ability to pump out and proceed to hoard quality bullpen pitchers. I’ve written about this before; the A’s are part of the exclusive “Hoarders Club.” They, along with the Blue Jays and Rays, proceed to hoard good relief arms, and well, hoard them.
The Mariners have also seen a similar development with their own relief pitchers. Bullpen pitchers Tom Wilhelmsen, Stephen Pryor, Charlie Furbush, Lucas Luetge and Carter Capps have all been solid if not dominant at times in their respective young careers. The M’s don’t just develop good relievers. They also find them in the great land of obscurity. Oliver Perez was a former starting pitcher who struggled towards the end of his Mets’ career, Josh Kinney and Jamey Wright were/are two more players who Seattle plucked from that realm and turned into solid relief options.
What I’m getting at is that Oakland was a team last year that won because of its starting pitching, hoarded bullpen and a mashed up-middle-of-the-order pieced together with low-risk free agent signings and journeyman. Again, sound familiar?
That team won the division last year over a good Texas team and an underachieving Anaheim team. The potential is there for Seattle to do the same.