This off-season, Oakland acquired plenty of talent in SP-Jerry Koosman, P-Milt Wilcox, P-Rick Langford, CF-Jerry Martin & C-Rick Dempsey. Wilcox and Langford will start off in the bullpen, since they are stuck behind a talented rotation that features Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, Koosman, Ken Holtzman & Dick Bosman.
To make room for the two Rule 5 picks, Wilcox and Martin, the Athletics sent SP-Glenn Abbott (who went 19-5 with a 3.30 ERA in 29 starts) and OF-Bill North (.294, 3 HR, 63 RBI & 60* SB) to the minors. With Chet Lemon emerging for Oakland, North became expendable.
On May 1st, Oakland traded North to the Dodgers in exchange for two prospects, LF-Rick Bladt & 3B-Arthur Fischetti, in what was overall a salary dump ($230,000).
On June 1st, the Oakland Athletics found themselves in 3rd place at 26-21, 4.5 games behind the first place Minnesota Twins, who have been a surprise in the A.L. West. Oakland has not shown any power with Reggie Jackson and Joe Rudi leading the team with 6 home runs each. Jackson is coming off a 42 HR season, which led the American League.
The lineup appears to be a bit of a mess, with two starters batting under .200 in C-Gene Tenace and 2B-Phil Garner. In fact, the team has no hitter batting over .300 with Rudi (.296) and Lemon (.285) being the team's best two regulars in that category.
The team knew it was going to take some lumps trying to integrate new talent into the starting lineup, such as Lemon and platooning shortstop Ivan de Jesus, but didn't know that it would be this messy. Even Hal McRae's (.271 BA & .739 OPS) numbers are down.
The pitching on the other hand has kept the Athletics in the race, their rotation has been pretty good, especially with their top 3 hurlers -- Catfish Hunter (4-6, 3.05 ERA), Vida Blue (5-1, 1.66 ERA) & Jerry Koosman (4-2, 1.92 ERA)... but it has been the team's stellar bullpen that deserves most of the credit.
- Rollie Fingers: 5 SV, 2.83 ERA, 18 K & 1.221 WHIP in 28.2 IP.
- Bill Campbell: 2-1, 0.69 ERA, 4 hits, but 11 BB allowed in 11 IP (1.154 WHIP)
- Dave Hamilton: 1 SV, 1.74 ERA, 13 K & 1.161 WHIP in 10.1 IP.
- Darold Knowles: 1-1, 1.86 ERA in 9.2 IP.
- Rick Langford: 2-1, 1.38 ER, 16 K in 13 IP.
The only thing concerning me is the walks & the WHIP's that are higher than the ERA numbers indicate, making me wonder if these numbers will start tipping in the wrong direction.
I mentioned the Twins have been a bit surprise, the Twins are 29-15 and are led by a strong rotation, topped by 1975's A.L. Cy Young Award winner - Bert Blyleven (6-3, 2.78 ERA & 71 K), Tommy John (5-2, 1.95 ERA) & Dave Goltz (5-0, 1.47 ERA). The bullpen has been great as well, with the team currently doing with a bullpen-by-committee since closer Skip Lockwood on the injured list.
The Twins lineup features Larry Hisle, Rod Carew, Lyman Bostick, Randy Bass & Eric Soderholm. Soderholm leads the team with 7 HR, with Hisle & Bass with 6 each, while Carew leads the team with a .294 batting average.
But I feel at the end of the day, the team that Oakland will have to worry about the most are the California Angels, who features an excellent rotation 1-through-5. The Angels' rotation features Frank Tanana, Nolan Ryan, Ed Figueroa, Jim Kaat & Bill Singer. Three of those starters: Tanana, Kaat & Singer have sub-2.00 ERA's at the moment.