By John Shea @real_johnshea on April 18, 2014
The Oakland Athletics have quietly put together one of the best starts to the 2014 MLB season, registering a 10-5 mark to take an early 1.5 game lead over the division rival-Rangers in the AL West. The A's aren't surprising anybody anymore. They flaunt one of the most dominant pitching staffs in baseball, led by Cy Young Award candidate Sonny Gray. They've mounted a plus-20 run differential in 15 games, signifying that Oakland is for real.
Oakland's pitching staff have been a scary kind of good through the first few weeks of the 2014 MLB season, ranking as the most efficient team in several critical statistical categories. Entering the weekend, the A's had posted the most quality starts (12), best collective WHIP (1.08) and lowest batting average against (.211). They also rank second in team ERA at 2.57. Their success isn't a fluke. They're really that good.
Cespedes' average plummeted 52 points below what he was able to accomplish in his rookie season (.292) in 2013. His struggles getting on base have dragged into the 2014 MLB season, as he's managed to post a dismal .213 average in 61 official at-bats. The A's were ousted in the ALDS last season in part because of their inability to hit for average. Cespedes won't continue his descent. He's too talented to not hit for a decent average.
Reddick's horrid start to the new season is alarming. He's recorded just four singles in 41 official at-bats, failing to find any sense of consistency at the plate. Reddick was a catalyst for the A's in 2011, when he bashed 32 home runs and drove-in 85 runs. While he won't enjoy that type of success in 2014, he's entirely capable of helping the A's produce on offense. Reddick owns a respectable .716 OPS in six big league seasons.
The most pleasant surprise Athletics fans have enjoyed in early action is Callaspo, who is off to a torrid start in Oakland. The 30-year-old veteran has registered a .357 average in 42 at-bats to lead the team. Callaspo owns five extra-base hits, including a home run, in 11 games this season. He's a career .274 hitter, which means he likely won't be able to sustain a .300 average for the entire season, but he's capable of helping the A's score.
The biggest pitfall the A's have endured thus far is Johnson's late inning struggles. General manager Billy Beane acquired Johnson, who registered more saves than any other reliever from 2012-13 (101), via trade during the offseason. Johnson has been horrendous in 2014, allowing seven runs in 8.1 innings. His track record shows that he's capable of rebounding from a bad start, though, which is important for the Athletics' bullpen.
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