You would think that on a day that saw one of baseball’s best pitchers traded to a legitimate contender, all of the buzz and focus would be on that team which is, in this case, the Detroit Tigers. But it isn’t.
Detroit struck a three-team deal with the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners to acquire Rays’ ace David Price, and the addition of Price makes the Tigers’ rotation a juggernaut. Detroit will boast a rotation of Price, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez, making the Tigers’ staff one of the best in recent memory. But guess what? It might not even be the best staff in their own league.
The Oakland Athletics made a major statement Thursday before the trade deadline, acquiring Jon Lester in a deal with the Boston Red Sox. The Athletics also added Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs just weeks earlier, making for a stellar one-two punch with Lester. But we’re forgetting one thing — two things, actually. Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir. Gray has a ridiculous 2.65 ERA across 139 innings this season, and Kazmir has actually outdone the rookie, posting a 2.37 ERA and recording 12 wins in 129.1 IP.
So, it was already tough to beat Oakland before Samardzija and Lester arrived. Now? It’s nearly impossible.
Lester (2.52) and Samardzija (2.92) also have sub-three ERAs, meaning that each of the first four starters in Oakland’s rotation have earned run averages below three. Most major league clubs are lucky to have one guy with numbers like that. The A’s have four.
Well, if Oakland’s starters are that good, they must have a weaker bullpen, right? Wrong.
The Athletics’ bullpen is absolutely shutdown, boasting five relievers who have at least 34 innings pitched while having an ERA under 2.65. Fernando Abad and Luke Gregerson don’t get much recognition, but the dynamic duo boasts 1.87 and 1.93 ERAs, respectively. The two middle relievers have been a huge part of Oakland’s success. And if you happen to stay in the game long enough to reach Oakland’s closer, you might as well count the game as lost. Sean Doolittle has been incredible out of the A’s bullpen, posting a 2.59 ERA with an even more impressive 0.64 WHIP. He’s struck out 69 and walked four over 48.2 innings. This is video game stuff, people.
And just when the AL West, and all of baseball for that matter, thought it couldn’t get any worse, they forgot that Oakland has one of the best offenses in baseball. The A’s rank first in all of baseball in runs scored (535 — 18 more than any other team) and run differential (plus-162), seventh in total bases (1510) and fifth in home runs (112). On the rare occasion that an Oakland starter has a poor outing in the future, there’s a really good chance that the Athletics’ offense will be able to erase it.
Anything is possible; that’s why they play the game. But it sure looks like we have a really good idea who should be hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy when October baseball draws to a close. A match-up with the Tigers in the ALCS seems imminent, and that series will feature some of the greatest pitching on both sides in recent memory. But Oakland is great, and even though the Tigers just landed Price, the Athletics will still rule not only the American League, but all of baseball.