In March, my take on the American League West favorites (in my estimation) concluded with this:
If the Rangers don't win this season, it'll be because they couldn't find enough good starting pitching. And if the Athletics win, it will be because their quartet of talented young starters were able to answer the bell at least 120 times.
First, that's not going to happen. Second, I wasn't exactly right. I was right about the Rangers probably, though I could have added something to that graf about Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz staying healthy. But it turns out that a discussion of the A's chances was incomplete without mentioning their offense.
Gonzalez (2.62 ERA) and Cahill (2.65) have been fantastic.
Braden made only three starts before being lost for the season with a serious shoulder injury.
Two pitchers who were not included in that key pre-season quartet -- Brandon McCarthy and Tyson Ross -- have both pitched well ... and both are currently on the Disabled List. Six good starting pitchers, and at the moment only two of them are actually able to pitch.
Through it all, the A's have continued to pitch well. Oakland leads the American League in overall ERA and starters' ERA. And through it all, it's essentially irrelevant because the A's simply can't (or haven't) hit. Now riding an eight-game losing streak, the club has fallen to 27-35, seven games behind the first-place Rangers.
As it's turned out, the key for the A's wasn't pitching; the pitching's been excellent, as expected. It might not stay excellent; considering the carnage in the rotation, that seems unlikely. But even excellent pitching just doesn't seem to be enough to balance a hitting attack that lacks power, patience, and all the other happy elements of a reasonably productive offense.
Regression to the mean will probably help some. Adam Rosales and Scott Sizemore and Jemile Weeks might help some. It's just too late, though. The offense needed to be decent while the pitchers were excellent. At best, now the hitters might finally be decent as the pitchers almost inevitably slide to goodness rather than greatness.
In March, almost anything seemed possible. In June, even second place seems unlikely.
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