With the Seattle Mariners in town for a three game set beginning this evening at 7:05PM at the O.co Coliseum, the Oakland Athletics sit two games ahead of the Texas Rangers atop the American League West standings. The team has ripped off 18 wins in the last 25 games, is fresh off a sweep of the New York Yankees and has a record of 41-27. Grant Balfour has led a bullpen that has been nearly untouchable, Bartolo Colón has anchored a resurgent starting staff, and for the first time since 2004 the team might actually have a position player in the All-Star Game this summer.
It’s been a solid start for the Athletics in 2013, and it got me thinking; where was the team on June 14 of last year?
Let’s start with Brian Fuentes. At this time last season, the veteran lefty was still hemorrhaging runs out of the back-end of the Athletics’ bullpen. June 14 was his third to last appearance with the team, and even though he let in a pair of runs in one inning of work, the Athletics still held on for an 8-2 win over the Colorado Rockies. The win was their third straight over Colorado, but even with the sweep the team sat at 29-35.
Josh Reddick starred that day as he deposited his 15th home run of the season into the seats at Coors Field. Coco Crisp also had an impressive day at the plate as he was three-for-six and drove in a run. But what is perhaps more noteworthy is that even after that performance Crisp was hitting .186. The center fielder had missed a majority of the month of May on the DL and was only starting to round into form in June.
Crisp took off in July as he hit .342, and in August he clubbed four home runs and scored 21 runs. So maybe Crisp’s 2012 can serve as a road map for Reddick and Chris Young in 2013: struggle early with injuries and inconsistency only to come alive as the season wears on.
Coincidentally, Yoenis Céspedes was also out injured at this time last season with a tweaked left hamstring. The left fielder was hitting .273 on the campaign but had only managed six home runs. The most profound turnaround, however, belongs to a man who wasn’t even in the box score that day.
At this time last year, Josh Donaldson was planted firmly on the bench as the owner of a .153 batting average and a rather remarkable .395 OPS. The young third baseman was due to be optioned in a week, and it wouldn’t be until the middle of August that he would return. Now, Donaldson leads the team in hits, RBI, doubles and average.