Can the Oakland A’s Win in October?

Posted on August 4th, 2014 by Matt | Posted in Teams

The Oakland A’s under Billy Beane have had a very specific – and well-known – strategy for building teams without having a large payroll. The A’s have found players that could fill specific roles on their team who have been cast-off from other places, as well as developing players from within their own system. Rather than having a few star players on their roster, the A’s have focused more on quality depth from 1-25, and it has paid off. Despite spending less than most teams each year, Oakland consistently finds themselves at or near the top of the standings, and often in the playoffs. Since 2000, the A’s have made the playoffs an impressive seven times.

That, however, is where it starts to get complicated. Of those seven series, the A’s have won just one. That one series win, in 2006, was followed by a sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers. In their six ALDS series losses over that span, the A’s have made it to a fifth and deciding game each time – and lost them all. That includes four seasons in a row from 2000 – 2003. While there is always some level of random chance involved in playoff baseball, the A’s certainly don’t have a good track record of carrying over there success from the regular season.

As the A’s continue on a path to again qualify for the playoffs in 2014, the obvious question remains – what will be different this time around? Are they going to be able to get out of the first round, or is this October issue one that is here to stay? There are really two schools of thought when it comes to the problems the A’s have had in the playoffs. The first way of thinking is that the A’s have just be the victims of bad luck and poor timing. After all, they made it to a fifth game mossin those six first round losses, so the season basically came down to nine innings. Anything can happen in one game, and it is just coincidence that they keep coming up short.

The other way of thinking believes that the problem lies in the way the A’s construct their roster. By favoring depth over star power, Oakland seems to be perfectly suited to playing well in the regular season. They can withstand injury, and replace players who are underperforming with someone else on their deep roster. However, when October comes around, that depth doesn’t really have a chance to show itself. The series are short, and the games are often won and lost by the star players on either side. For example, the last two seasons have seen Oakland lose out to the Tigers led by Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera – star players who Oakland simply can’t match.

Only time will tell of the A’s are able to break this trend and achieve success in the playoffs. They appear to be a sure thing to have another chance in 2014, although they may have to go through a one-game playoff if they are unable to better the Angels for the American League West crown.

The Miami Marlins are Surprise Contenders

Posted on July 28th, 2014 by Matt | Posted in Teams

Coming into the 2014 season – just like the past couple of seasons – the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals were expected to compete for the N.L. East title. And, so far, that has been the case – Atlanta and Washington are closely linked in the standings, and will probably be battling for most of the summer to decide who comes out ahead.

However, there is a surprise third entrant into that tight East race who stands poised to put a wrinkle in all of the predictions. The Miami Marlins are right there with the Nationals and Braves, despite losing their star pitcher Jose Fernandez to season-ending Tommy John surgery. With a pitching staff that has been solid, and a deep lineup that has been doing enough to win so far, the Marlins seem like a teamstanton that could stick around into September. While they are down one star player, it is the presence of another that gives reason for optimism in Miami.

Stanton is a Star

Giancarlo (formerly Mike) Stanton is a young star outfielder for the Miami Marlins, and one of the strongest hitters in all of baseball. Stanton’s homeruns are frequently highlight reel material, either for their overall distance or the sheer speed at which they leave the park. Currently, he leads the league with 20 homeruns and 57 RBI’s, and has an OPS of .979. Considering that he is just 24 years old this season, the future is bright for Giancarlo and the Marlins.

As a testament to his power, Stanton owns three of the eleven longest homeruns hit so far in 2014, including the longest, measured at 484 feet. He has also registered the homerun with the fastest speed off the bat, with a ridiculous 119.9 MPH. It doesn’t matter which measurements you decide to use, Stanton has power that is unmatched in the game today.

More than Just Strength

Beyond his impressive power, Stanton is a good overall hitter. He has struck out 77 times already this season, but still manages to carry a .394 on base percentage, which is among the league leaders. Not surprising, he also leads the league with 14 intential walks, as teams decide they would rather have other Marlins hitters try to beat them. It has worked out for Miami to this point, as they are a couple games over .500 and right in the middle of a crowded N.L. East race.

Get Your Collectibles Now

Giancarlo Stanton is already a great player, and only seems poised to further establish himself as one of the best in the game. A Hall-of-Fame career is not out of the question for Stanton, which is why now is the time to grab some collectibles from his early years. Most likely, his career will continue on an upward trajectory and the value of his baseball cards and other items will continue to grow along with his status in baseball. Find a few rookie cards to put into your collection and watch as his career develops over the coming seasons.

Is AL West Best?

Posted on February 27th, 2014 by Matt | Posted in Divisions, Teams

For years, the AL East has been considered the best division in baseball. After all, the Yankees and Red Sox are perennially quality teams, the Rays have been consistent for several years, and the Orioles and Blue Jays have also made moves to strengthen their position. However, with some free agent moves and young talent, the AL West might soon be considered the toughest division in the game.

Oakland Athletics

Having won the division two years in a row, the A’s still seem to somehow fly under the radar. They have an impressive minor league system which has been generating most of the talent that has led to their success. Also, some impressive trades and a couple of free agent signings have all combinedcespedes to make the A’s the leader in the West division. The next step for the Athletics is to parlay their regular season success into some postseason hardware.

Texas Rangers

Many people might point to the Rangers as the best team out west despite having finished runner up to Oakland two years in a row. The Rangers have done their best during this off-season to improve their team and catch the A’s – most notably, they have added Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo to the lineup, although they also suffered the loss of closer Joe Nathan. The rotation is still anchored by ace Yu Darvish, and the Rangers look positioned for another quality season.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

While the shine might have worn off of the free agent acquisitions of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, the Angels still have a team with the potential to get back into the playoff conversation. Mike Trout might be the best player in all of baseball, and Jered Weaver is a legitimate ace pitcher when healthy. The Angels might need to find production from a couple more pieces to really contend with the Rangers and A’s, but they should not be overlooked.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners have made the biggest splash of the off-season, pulling Robinson Cano away from New York with some $240 million. The question for the Mariners is whether or not that is enough to move up the standings and be a legitimate contender in 2014. The M’s already have excellent starting pitchers Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, and have been rumored to be the front runners for Masahiro Tanaka. With good performances from some young players like Brad Miller, Kyle Seager, Mike Zunino, Dustin Ackley, and Justin Smoak, the Mariners could surprise and be a major player in the 2014 pennant race.

Houston Astros

While the other four teams in the division appear to be playing for the present, the Astros seem to be more oriented toward their long-term future. However, that isn’t to say that Houston will remain out of the race for long. With an impressive farm system and very little in the way of long-term payroll commitments, the Astros could be on a faster-track to success than many observers would have guessed.

The Astros might be a year or two away from being a real contender, but a case could be made for any of the other four teams winning the division in 2014. For the runners-up, the wild card seems like a possible landing spot. With some free agent additions and plenty of young talent, the AL West just might be the division that rises above the rest in the coming season.

Two Decades of Misery Erased – The Pirates are Back

Posted on September 23rd, 2013 by Matt | Posted in Teams

It’s no secret that the Pittsburgh Pirates have been at the bottom of the National League barrel for more than twenty years. Not since the ‘We Are Family’ Pirates of the late ’70’s has the Pittsburgh baseball team been relevant on a national level. Despite opening a new stadium in recent years, fan interest had remained low and the wins were slow to come.

Times Have Changed

Of course, that has all started to change. Last season, the Pirates looked poised to finish over .500 for the first time in twenty years and possibly even qualify for the playoffs. That season ended in bitter disappointment as the team limped to the finish line and fell short of that magical 81 win total. 2013, however, has been different. The Pirates are going to finish well over .500, and they are going to qualify for the playoffs as well. The only drama remaining is whether the team will be able to pass the St. Louis Cardinals and win the National League Central title, or if they will have to settle for one of the two available Wild Card slots. The fans have returned, and things are looking up in the Steel City. Andrew-McCutchen-Baseball-Card

When thinking about collectibles and the Pirates, you can look to both current and former players as great pieces to invest in. For the modern-day Pirates, two players stand out above the rest in deserving your collectible attention – Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. McCutchen is certainly the face of these Pirates as a quick-to-smile center fielder with impressive power and speed to burn. McCutchen is a game-changer and seems like a sure bet to be an All-Star for another decade to come. Cole is a power right-hander who has made a splash in his first season in the bigs. Gerrit Cole rookie cards are likely to be a hot commodity as he heads toward becoming one of the best pitchers in the league.

Legendary Pirates

As with all things collectible, looking to the past is a wise idea when selecting items to purchase. The current revival of the Pirates is a great opportunity to look at the last great Pirates teams for cards and other items to pick up and add to your collection. The two main features in the lineup of the 1979 World Championship team were Dave Parker and Willie Stargell. Cards from both of those legendary players are always a welcome addition to any collection, even for non-Pirates fans. On the mound, Bert Blyleven is the most notable name from that team and is also worthy of your time in tracking down collectibles.

Only time will tell what the 2013 Postseason has in store for the Pirates. Perhaps they will shock the baseball world and win their first title in 34 years – or maybe they will fall in the Wild Card game to the Reds. Either way, 2013 will be remembered as the year that Pittsburgh baseball got back on the map and made an impression on a national level. With rising starts like McCutchen and Cole, along with a great supporting cast, it seems that the Pirates are going to be a force for many years to come.