Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"They Were Who We Thought They Were"

Best record in the AL? How about them Oakland A's? Moving to 17-10 with their 14-2 win over the Angels, Oakland got major contributions from their latest pick-up. Frank Thomas went 3-3, and missed the cycle by a home run. That was Thomas' first triple since 2002. Billy Beane may not be quite the genius he is sometimes made out to be, but he got the Big Hurt's comeback year (2006 - 39 HR and a .926 OPS) for cheap, let him go to the Blue Jays for a lot of money (and got a draft pick for losing him), then resigned him for the minimum when Toronto let him go. Thomas moved right into the middle of the A's line-up and is hitting 313 / 476 / 500 so far for them. Oakland is scoring nearly 5 runs per game due to a .344 OBP (almost 30 points higher than Seattle despite similar batting averages), and that's with Emil Brown leading the team in HR (3) and RBI (25). By the way, the guy who replaced Brown in Kansas City (for $36 million), Jose Guillen, is hitting 177 / 202 / 323. Oakland's starters are giving them solid innings, so they are employing an 11 man pitching staff. That means that they have an extended bench, so they can play match-ups on offense, get platoon advantages, make pinch-running and defensive substitutions, and generally fully utilize their roster. Now that's a smart front office.

Teams I thought would be better than expected:

O's: 15-10 (first place in the AL East)

Rays: 14-12 (second in the AL East)

A's: 17-10 (first place in the AL West)

Braves: 12-14 (have scored 23 more than they've allowed so should be 15-11 and in first place in the NL East)

Marlins: 15-11 (first place in the NL East)

Brewers: 14-11 (second place in the NL Central)

Not bad, so far.

Teams I though would be worse than expected:

Blue Jays: 11-16 (last in the AL East)

Tigers: 12-15 (last in the AL Central)

Angels: 16-11 (second in the AL West - in fairness, I did pick them to win the division)

M's: 13-14 (third in the AL West)

Phillies: 15-12 (second in the NL East)

Cardinals: 17-11 (second in the NL Central - if you had Ryan Ludwick with a 1.006 OPS then raise your hand; or Skip Shumaker having a .390 OBP; or Kyle Lohse with a 2.36 ERA. So many surprise on this roster.)

It's still early, but I'm feeling pretty confident about most of my picks. I thought the Yankees would be better than they've been, but I did say "other than Cano and A-Rod, that offense is susceptible to some age/health issues." Woops on A-Rod there. And Cano has been pretty bad. And "Hughes is going to be really good" could still end up being true, but it isn't looking good so far. So yeah, why not the O's? They've been playing above their heads (third order wins via BaseballProspectus of 13-14 (it's in between), which is last in the East but still better than the M's) but it's not completely crazy to think that they could get lucky for another five months.

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