Here we are, folks: the End of Season Post-Mortem series. If you're new here (which about 50% of our reader base is in comparison to last year), here's a brief explanation: after a team is eliminated from playoff contention, we're going to put their season under a microscope and look at just what the hell went wrong, what went right, and so on and so forth. The goal is to post these the day after a team is eliminated.
The A's came so close, yet so far, to advancing to the ALCS. But once again, they fell in the ALDS, and once again, Justin Verlander completely dominated them. But unlike last year, where drama was high and Oakland needed a September surge to make the Postseason, the A's handily won the AL West this year. That counts for something, right?
Preseason prediction: The A"s are a tough team to read. On paper, they're probably the third most talented team in the AL West. But then again, that's where they were last season, and they won the division. There's such a huge potential variance in how the A's will play this year that I don't really feel confident in making a solid prediction, but I think they'll end up getting into the playoffs again, though as a wild card instead of division champion this year.
What Went Right: Josh Donaldson had the breakout season to end all breakout seasons, hitting .301/.384/.499 with 24 home runs and pushing himself into the heart of the AL MVP discussion. Coco Crisp had a surprisingly good year after initially being in a fight for his job to start the season, hitting 22 homers and stealing 21 bases. Jed Lowrie shored up the shortstop position for Oakland after being acquired from the Astros, hitting 15 homers and posting a .790 OPS while FINALLY staying healthy for a full season. Given a full season of playing time, Brandon Moss hit 30 homers while nudging his strikeout and walk rates in the right direction. Cumulatively, Oakland's catchers hit .258/.349/.402, a massive improvement from a year ago. Chris Young was awful.
Bartolo Colon had a great year coming off of a PED suspension, repeating his solid strikeout and walk rates from a year ago while cutting his ERA by nearly a run. After struggling with homers in the majors a year ago, Dan Straily managed to cut them down to a reasonable level and put together a nice season. Sonny Gray was awesome in a ten start major league trial. The bullpen, led by Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, Dan Otero, Jesse Chavez, and Grant Balfour, once again flourished.
What Went Wrong: Not a lot, really. Brett Anderson's health was once again an issue, as he threw just 44 2/3 innings. Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone weren't terrible, but took steps back from 2012. Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes also weren't dreadful, but Reddick's power fell off a cliff, and Cespedes' OBP dropped below .300. Free agent signee Hiroyuki Nakajima was fine in AAA, but a non-factor in the majors.
Most Surprising Player: Donaldson was a former top 100 prospect, but after the year he had in 2012 with the A's, I don't think anyone saw a breakout like this coming. His walk rate more than doubled, his strikeout rate fell, his power jumped, and he finished second in the AL in fWAR behind some guy named after a fish. Furthermore, his performance actually looks sustainable due to nothing really being off the charts in terms of luck.
Most Disappointing Player: Chris Young was simply not good in 2013. I loved the trade that brought Young to Oakland from Arizona this past winter, but really, no one won in that three-team trade (that also involved the Marlins, by the way). Young hit 12 homers and stolen ten bases, but had a triple slash of just .200/.280/.379. His always-solid defensive numbers also seemed to take a step back this past year. Young was expected to take some of the heat off of Cespedes, Crisp, and Reddick, but he ended up being the worst of the four and couldn't play his way into the lineup.
The Future: The team's only two free agents are Balfour and Colon, and both will likely be in line for solid paydays in 2014, meaning that they won't be in Oakland. But really, there are only two tough decisions the club will face this offseason: whether or not to pick up the club options on Crisp and Anderson. At $7.5 million, Crisp's seems like a lock to be exercised, while Anderson's $8 million option seems a lot less likely. You can forget about the team pulling the trigger on Young and Kurt Suzuki's options. So essentially, the A's will return nearly their entire roster from 2013 – not a bad deal at all for them in the topsy-turvy AL West.