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MLB Oakland Athletics

Oakland Athletics: First-Half Report Card 2014

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Oakland Athletics: First-Half Report Card 2014

Josh Donaldson Oakland Athletics
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics aren't sneaking up on anybody anymore. The MLB-leading A's have surged to a 59-win first half on the heels of stellar starting pitching and an explosive offense, headlined by Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes. The A's are just 1-8 in playoff series since the turn of the century and haven't won an ALCS game since 1992. There's no doubt that 2014 has the chance to be special for the A's.

5. Offense

Josh Donaldson Oakland Athletics
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

5. Offense

Josh Donaldson Oakland Athletics
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The A's flaunt one of the most potent lineups in all of baseball, ranking second in total runs scored (466) while averaging a gaudy 4.91 runs per game. Oakland also ranks fifth in on-base percentage (.328) and eighth in slugging percentage (.400). The A's have bashed 98 first-half home runs to rank seventh in baseball. Brandon Moss, Donaldson and Cespedes have combined to smash 54 jacks (56 percent); each received All-Star honors. Grade: A

4. Defense

Yoenis Cespedes Oakland Athletics
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

4. Defense

Yoenis Cespedes Oakland Athletics
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The A's defense has been mediocre through the first half, ranking 10th in the AL, which could hurt them in the playoffs. Pie-thrower Coco Crisp often enables base runners to stretch singles into extra-base hits whereas Donaldson has been iffy at third base (.953 percentage). Cespedes has been a lethal force in left field, though. The Cuban native made highlight reels in June with a pair of rocket throws to nail runners at the plate. Grade: B-

3. Starting Pitching

Sonny Gray Oakland Athletics
Kelley L. Cox-USA TODAY Sports

3. Starting Pitching

Sonny Gray Oakland Athletics
Kelley L. Cox-USA TODAY Sports

No team has pitched better as an all-around unit than the A's. Oakland ranks second in team ERA (3.09), second in WHIP (1.16) and second in batting average against (.231). The A's also rank fourth in quality starts (61), recording nine shutouts in the process. Oakland pitching staff is anchored by Sonny Gray, a Cy Young Award candidate. Gray has registered a 10-3 record with a 2.79 ERA with 108 strikeouts in 19 starts. Grade: A

2. Relief Pitching

Sean Doolittle Oakland Athletics
Kelley L. Cox-USA TODAY Sports

2. Relief Pitching

Sean Doolittle Oakland Athletics
Kelley L. Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland faced immediate turmoil in ninth inning relief at the start of the 2014 season. Offseason trade acquisition Jim Johnson has been a total bust, creating an opportunity for Sean Doolittle to excel. The A's new found late inning stud has been rock solid in the clutch, recording 14 saves since taking over the closer role. He owns a microscopic 0.664 WHIP in 43.2 innings of work to lead Oakland's shutdown bullpen. Grade: A

1. Coaching

Bob Melvin Oakland Athletics
Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

1. Coaching

Bob Melvin Oakland Athletics
Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland manager Bob Melvin doesn't get enough credit for job he does. Melvin has seemingly made all the right moves for the A's, minimizing the potential for disaster. Melvin handled the Athletics' early season bullpen troubles with ease. He's displayed nothing but confidence for his guys throughout the season, enabling players like Eric Sogard and Jed Lowrie to gain confidence. Melvin is a concrete difference-maker from the bench. Grade: A