The wheels keep turning in the 2013 baseball season. Teams are now getting into that summer stretch where we find out who the contenders and pretenders are.
There have been quite a few surprises in Major League Baseball as we head into the middle of June. The Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers have been two of the single biggest disappointments this season. While teams like the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox have given solid runs while losing key players in the offseason. The New York Yankees are one of the top teams in baseball while having Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter on the DL for the entire season.
Then there are the Oakland Athletics. Who, as of today, have 37 wins. Which is tied for first in all of the League with the Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves. Manager Bob Melvin has taken advantage of the strengths of his young roster. The A's are a half game behind the Texas Rangers for first place in the American League West despite having two more wins than the Rangers. Even though a few baseball experts had the A's finishing fourth behind the Rangers, Angels, and Seattle Mariners, the A's have lived up to the expectations the fans have had for them this season. How they have done it has been the unexpected part.
The offense has been a solid part of the A's, being unexpectedly led by third baseman Josh Donaldson. Donaldson leads the A's in hitting this season with a .330 batting average with 8 home runs and 37 runs batted in this season. He also leads the A's in RBIs and hits with 75. He also has a .399 on base percentage which is top on the team. He has been the surprising leader of the offense this season.
The rest of the team has picked up the slack for the A's as well. The top of the order combo of Coco Crisp and Jed Lowrie have been table setters this season for Yoenis Cespedes. Lowry and Crisp are second and third respectively in hitting. The combination of the top three, and timely hitting from the rest of the line up, are fifth in the majors in runs this season with 295. Although the team average is .251 (17th), they are fifth in the league in OBP (.334). If right fielder Josh Reddick gets the bat going, this A's line-up could become very scary!
Although the pitching staff started slowly, the A's schedule to begin the season was a big help for the young starting staff (four starters in their second season). The A's rank in the top half in the league in the top four team pitching staff. Bartolo Colon is 7-2 this season and has been a key factor in the starting rotation. The bullpen has once again been fantastic behind the closing combo of Sean Doolittle, All-Star Ryan Cook, and of course closer Grant Balfour. Balfour has converted 28 straight saves dating back to last season and has 14 saves and a 1.42 ERA this season in 25 games. The most runs given up by a bullpen pitcher on the active roster is 9 (Doolittle).
The young A's have sent waves through the baseball world. Experts had this team finishing fourth in the West this season. And as of today they sit a half game back with the most wins in the Majors. The team who brought the Bernie Lean to baseball is also bringing the bash back to Oakland. Bob Melvin has his team playing red hot. The A's also have a pair of nine game win streaks this season.
The baseball season is a marathon. But if the standings continue to be the way they are, the American League West will be a two team race between the New Bash Brothers and the Texas Rangers.