2012 Oakland Athletics Playoff Preview Q&A
To prepare the masses who didn’t watch the A’s this season, I talked to SB Nation and Athletics Nation founder Tyler Bleszinski about his beloved green-and-yellow team. Take a look and learn about one of the most unlikely playoff teams in recent memory.
Will Robinson: Let’s be real: Many people haven’t seen the Athletics this season. No one believed they could compete this season, much less win the AL West. To simply ask: what happened? How did they do it?
Tyler Bleszinski: Wow that's a tough question without a simple answer. If I was forced to give one simple answer I would say the potent combination of power and pitching. The team turned around once they started to lead the majors in home runs. Guys like Brandon Moss and Chris Carter started to give the A's the long ball. It wasn't just Josh Reddick and Yoenis Céspedes hitting home runs. The pitching was seemingly there all season but once the power came along, the team had the record follow. There's a lot of other reasons, but I'd probably say those were the most important.
WR: The easy comparison to make of this team is to the 2002 Moneyball A’s. But they aren’t very similar, as they are without the AL MVP and Cy Young winners. How do they differ, pitcher- and batter-wise? What facet of this 25-man roster really stands out?
TB: My feeling is that this team has depth beyond what the 2002 team did. And everyone knew that the 2002 still had a chance because they had the name pitching. Billy Beane has been a fan of loading up on young, quality pitching for a while now but to have all these rookies come together and pitch well enough to win 94 games? This isn't [Tim] Hudson, [Mark] Mulder and [Barry] Zito. But seemingly whoever the A's put in there they pitched well. Travis Blackley, for goodness sake, came through with some huge efforts because the staff suffered so many injuries. Billy is fond of saying, "you can never have enough pitching." This season proved that belief 100 percent correction.
WR: The team lacks star names. But what about this rag-tag group is special and strong that sets it apart from the other seven postseason teams? Alternatively, what could be Oakland’s Achilles’ heel in a series?
TB: It may lack star names right now, but Jarrod Parker is on his way. Cespedes is definitely on his way. Reddick is on his way. But you're right, there's no one on the roster that's a household name like [Jason] Giambi, [Miguel] Tejada, Hudson, Mulder and Zito. And they might never be even if they win the World Series. This could possibly be just a fluky season from a bunch of guys at the same time. From everything I've read and heard, this is a team that simply believes it's going to win every time it steps on the field. They rally around being disrespected and the underdog. It's why I keep saying to myself, even as an A's fan, I'm just going to keep doubting this bunch and hoping they keep proving me wrong. I've never been so happy to be so wrong about a team...over and over and over again. As for an on-the-field Achilles' heel? Tired pitching. We're in uncharted territory here with rookie starters. Who knows what we're going to see from them in the postseason? Also, power is great, but I think the level of pitching you face in the playoffs is usually the cream of the crop. Teams go to four-man rotations and you're facing a quality pitcher every night so getting a "mistake" pitch to take out of the yard becomes more rare.
TB: Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss. Moss was a monster down the stretch and Reddick hit 32 home runs during the season. Moss had a 1.109 OPS during the month of September. And there's been a Stephen Drew sighting as well. He hit five home runs in September and is starting to look like the Drew pre-injury. Coco Crisp has also come to life after a battle with a severe eye infection (no confirmation whether Jonny Gomes farted into his pillow to cause the episode).
WR: Going in against the Tigers, what are some keys for Bob Melvin’s group to make it to the ALCS? How do they match up?
TB: I tweeted this the other day but on paper, the A's don't match up well with Detroit at all. Thankfully, paper is flimsy and tears easily. Detroit has name players all over the place and a ridiculously expensive crew. Detroit has [Justin] Verlander and [Max] Scherzer and [Anibal] Sanchez (pitching really well of late). They have Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
WR: Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown is the talk of the league. Is the A’s rotation strong enough to limit his effect?
TB: If you go by small sample sizes, then no. Cabrera hit .500 against the A's this year and had a 1.377 OPS against Athletics pitching. Cabrera is going to get his hits. The key, IMO, to beat the Tigers is to limit his damage by not allowing the other players on the Tigers to do the damage. If Cabrera is going to go deep, have it be a solo shot.
WR: How do you see the ALDS playing out?
TB: Again, on paper, the A's don't seemingly have a chance. And by that I mean, the "name" players everyone knows. Cabrera, Fielder, Verlander. They have MVPs and Cy Young winners. Even though the Athletics had a better overall record than the Tigers, the reward for that is to start the first two games of the series in Detroit. They face Verlander in the first game of the series and the A's rotation doesn't have Brandon McCarthy or Bartolo Colón. But this A's team seemingly doesn't know any better. They won 94 games somehow with everyone, including this guy, doubting them every step of the way. The only time all year that I was confident they were going to win was the last day of the season when they were down 5-1 to the Rangers. They've defied my low expectations all year, so I'm going to say the Tigers are going to roll them. And that's how this team has thrived. Why stop now?
WR: Realistically, what are the A’s World Series’ chances? Can they take down the Yankees or one of the National League’s elite teams?
TB: I don't know. I know it's the fan in me talking, but this just feels like a team of destiny right now. If they get the playoff experience beating the Tigers, it wouldn't surprise me to see this group go all the way. Then again, as we all know, Billy Beane's s$^t doesn't work in the playoffs, especially since he co-authored that book with Brad Pitt about fat catchers and throwing chairs so many years ago.
Check out the rest of our MLB playoff Q&As.