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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Breaking down baseball: Oakland Athletics

While the Oakland Athletics always seem to get more out of their players than any other team in baseball, I fear they do not have enough talent to contend in what has become a division with every other team projected to finish the season above .500.

Offense

Oakland does not have a single player on the roster that drove in 100 RBIs last year, and only one player who hit more than 20 home runs. When playing in the American League, this simply will not suffice.

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If the A’s are going to have any chance of winning this season, everyone in the lineup will have to significantly improve upon last year’s numbers.

When the case can be made that Kevin Kouzmanoff is the strongest bat in the A’s lineup (editor’s note: Kouzmanoff was incorrectly listed with San Diego earlier this week; he is now with the Athletics), opposing teams will not loose much sleep coming to the Bay Area.

Kouzmanoff will have to step up his game and set an example for this lineup. He hit 18 homeruns last year and drove in 88 RBIs, but he hit only .255 in the National League and is already suffering from a minor shin injury.

Jack Cust, the designated hitter, takes on the roll of the slugger for this team, trying to build upon the 25-home run, 70-RBI season that he had a year ago. The main question mark with the 31-year-old Cust is that in the three full seasons he has played in the majors, his numbers have dropped slightly each year.

Cust will need to not only maintain but also exceed his numbers from last year if the A’s are going to have a shot at the division.

Rounding out the lineup is Kurt Suzuki at catcher, who had a solid season (.275 average and 88 RBIs) last year, Mark Ellis playing second, Daric Barton (or whoever may beat him out) at first, Cliff Pennington at shortstop, Rajai Davis in left, Coco Crisp, who is looking to bounce back from an injury plagued 2009 season in center, and Ryan Sweeney in left.

Pitching

Never seeming too scared to take a risk on a veteran or recently injured player, the A’s picked up four-time all-star Ben Sheets off the free agent market with hopes that he can return to his 2008 form where he had a 3.09 ERA and started the all star game for the NL.

Whether Sheets can return to an elite level no one quite knows. Teams were scared to take a chance on him last year; hopefully the year off gave his arm exactly the rest needed to reach that level again.

Brett Anderson, a 22-year-old starting his second year in the majors, is looking to build on the 11 wins and 150 strikeouts that he rung up last season. He has good stuff, and if he can work on lowering his 4.06 ERA then he has the potential to be the A’s best pitcher.

It will be interesting to see how Justin Duchscherer returns after missing the entire 2009 season due to shoulder and back injuries. An all star in 2008, Duchscherer posted a blistering 2.54 ERA and won 10 games in 22 attempts. If he can bounce back, the A’s will have a much more realistic chance of being players in the AL West.

Rounding out the rotation will be Trevor Cahill and Vin Mazzaro, a 23-year-old in his second season in the majors.

Prediction

In the past few years the two western divisions have become the deepest in baseball. Nearly from top to bottom anyone can win the division. Unfortunately, the A’s fall in that ‘nearly’ category. They simply do not have what it takes to win more games than the Angels, an (as I said yesterday) improved Mariners team, and the Rangers, whom Nolan Ryan claims will win 92 games this year.

Every player on the A’s will have to play the best baseball of their careers if they are to get out of the cellar of the AL West, and such an effort would, sadly, not be enough for them to win the division.

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