2012 Player of the Year: Oakland Athletics

Christian Petersen

Maybe we should just call the Athletics 2012's TEAM of the Year, considering their historic comeback while fielding a bargain-basement roster.

It was an incredible season for the Oakland Athletics. In spring training, nobody saw them coming. On Opening Day, nobody saw them coming. In July, nobody saw them coming. But somehow the A's stormed from behind and captured the American League West flag on the last day of what was, for them, truly the championship season. And there's plenty of credit to go around. Which makes choosing the A's Player of the Year -- the player who best symbolizes a comeback for the ages -- so difficult ...

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There were a lot of things to like about the 2012 Oakland Athletics. After too many years of anemic hitting, the A's finished sixth in the American League in home runs, thanks largely to newcomers Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, and Brandon Moss. The Athletics' bullpen was simply outstanding; essentially, once the A's discarded Brian Fuentes, every Oakland reliever pitched effectively or brilliantly.

Blogger Perspective: A's Nation

by Nico Pemantle

My pick for A's "player of the year" is reliever Sean Doolittle. Doolittle epitomized the A's improbable and meteoric rise in every way, right down to being drafted as a first baseman but reaching the majors as a dominant pitcher.

This is an A's team that caught and passed Texas to win the A.L. West with a catcher for a third baseman, an outfielder for a first baseman, and their shortstop at second base. So why wouldn't their lights-out lefty reliever be a guy once highly regarded in the A's minor-league system ... as a solid-hitting, slick-fielding first baseman?

And if the A's were two or three years ahead of schedule putting a playoff team on the field, certainly Doolittle was equally precocious to return to pitching after a five-year layoff, start the 2012 season in Class A, and wind up pitching some of Oakland's most critical innings down the stretch.

Certainly a lot of players, from Josh Donaldson to Brandon Moss, Tommy Milone to Travis Blackley, could lay claim to symbolizing Oakland's magical season -- but no one more than Doolittle.

For more A's coverage, please visit Athletics Nation.

But my favorite symbol of the A's shocking season is a starting pitcher.

In 2011, two Athletics, both of them still young, won in double figures: Trevor Cahill (12-14, 4.16) and Gio Gonzalez (16-12, 3.12).

The A's traded both of them for even younger pitchers: Trevor Cahill for Jarrod Parker (and two other prospects), Gio Gonzalez for Tommy Milone (and other prospects). Parker was a year younger than Cahill, Milone a year younger than Gonzalez.

If I could find a photo of Parker and Milone together, I might make them Co-Players of the Year. Because while everyone thought that trading Cahill and Parker meant the A's were punting 2012, it turns out they were simply reloading.

I'm going with Milone because he was not as highly regarded as Parker, prospect-wise. Why? Because of his "below-average fastball", which led Baseball America to rank Milone as just the Nationals' 13th-best prospect before the trade.

What Milone also had, though, was an outstanding strikeout-to-walk ratio in the minors, nearly 10-to-1 in his Triple-A action. I'm sure the A's would have preferred a 95-mile-an-hour fastball, but they took the high-80s fastball and the stunning control instead.

In the event, Milone's strikeout-to-walk ratio in the minors was something of a mirage. Instead of 10 to 1, with the A's it was roughly 4 to 1 ... which is still really, really good. Significantly better, in fact, than Gio Gonzalez's in 2011 with the A's and in 2012 with the Nationals.

Is Tommy Milone a better pitcher than Gio Gonzalez? Well, let's not go nuts quite yet. But when the A's traded Gonzalez for Milone, they got a little younger and a little cheaper and they wound up winning 94 games, with Milone tying Parker for the team lead with 13 victories. I'm almost reminded of a certain bestselling book from a few years back ...

In case you missed any previous entries in this EXCITING SERIES, here's the archive.

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