You can't suggest the 2012 A's were lucky. That's the wrong word. They pitched well, and they hit well. They had injury problems and disappointments just like any other team, if not more so. From a simple, we-scored-more-runs-than-the-other-guys perspective, the A's were anything but lucky.
The 2012 A's were … odd. Yeah, that's a better word. They were odd. They started the season with Brandon McCarthy, Bartolo Colon, Tyson Ross, Graham Godfrey, and Tommy Milone in the rotation. By the end of the regular season, only Milone remained, and it was up to rookie pitchers to fill in the gap. You know, rookie pitchers. Those are the ones who walk every other hitter and collapse around 80 pitches because they don't know what they're doing. The A's didn't just make do -- they thrived.
It wasn't just the young pitching, though. The A's were dinger monsters, too, hitting home runs at a rate that would have been impressive in the BALCO era. They hit 195 homers: ninth-most in franchise history. And that's a franchise history filled with dingers. What makes that odd is that the A's weren't expected to be half as prodigious. Most of their starting lineups in April featured Kurt Suzuki, Jemile Weeks, Daric Barton, Cliff Pennington, Eric Sogard, and Coco Crisp; that's 66 percent of a lineup filled with players normally averse to homers. Yet they still challenged the Chavez/Giambi/Tejada teams of yore with their raw power.
A year later, there isn't a pitcher 25 or younger with an ERA under 4.00. The young pitchers are going through young-pitcher things. A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker are allowing a lot of round-trippers. Brett Anderson was uncharacteristically wild before injuring his ankle. Young pitchers!
A year later, the A's are 12th in the AL in home runs, with 55. That's something you might expect considering their home ballpark, which is the point. That's something you might have expected last year.
Now that the young pitching is back to normal and the dingers have dried up, the A's are a normal team and they're … lemme check … probably eight or nine games back …
Now that the young pitching is back to normal and the dingers have dried up, the A's are the hottest team in baseball, in line for another playoff spot and scaring the bejeepers out of the Rangers again. Of course they are.
You might think this is all because of Josh Donaldson and Coco Crisp going crazy, and that's part of it. Except those pleasant surprises are counteracted by the relatively disappointing Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick. Chris Young was brought in to mash lefties; he's hit .146/.276/.250 against them. There are a lot of surprises, but it seems like they're equitably split between pleasant and unpleasant to this point.
That isn't to say the 2013 A's lack obvious strengths. They have a magic bullpen, and while it's fun to play up the decrease in homers, they do lead the league in doubles. To bring back the point from the first paragraph, the A's are doing well in the we-scored-more-runs-than-the-other-guys category, which is an underrated stat.
But we're a few months away from allowing the A's into a rare club. If the A's can win in 2013 in a radically different fashion than 2012, and do it on an A's-like budget after a healthy amount of offseason tinkering, they'll get the key to the Eh, They'll Figure It Out Club.
The Cardinals are going to lose Albert Pujols! Their face of the franchise, the slugger of legend, the best hitter in the world! And to think, they were doing so well. It's a shame to ...
/Cardinals figure it out
Oh. And it isn't just the Cardinals. The Yankees started Lyle Overbay in right field, and not because they're drunk college kids trying too hard for a viral YouTube video. They did it on purpose. And while they've been scuffling over the last two weeks, the Yankees invented the Eh, They'll Figure It Out Club. They'll figure it out.
The Braves' big offseason acquisition is the worst hitter in baseball right now, and Jason Heyward hasn't been much better when he's actually played. They lost a key setup man to injury, and Tim Hudson is acting his age. And they're in first place because the Braves usually figure these things out.
The A's used to be in the club, and then there was a prolonged stretch when they weren't. That guy from that movie adjusted, though, and the A's are pretty close to rejoining. Everything good for the 2012 A's is a little shaky for the 2013 A's, but both teams were excellent. If the 2013 A's can keep being excellent, they'll get a new card for the ETFIOC. It gets them 15 percent off at Red Lobster.
The A's are playing differently than they were in 2013. They're still good. If they keep this up, we'll just have to assume they'll figure these things out just about every time. Not many teams can do that. But a few teams can, I'm starting to suspect the A's are one of them again.