In the This Is My Nightmare series, we'll take a look at what the absolute worst case scenario for each team would be in 2013. Think of it as the negative complement to our You May Say I'm A Dreamer series that we'll be running during our preview series.
After a miraculous 2012 season, lots of fans are expecting the A's to come crashing back to reality in 2013. Personally, I don't think that's going to happen. However, a nightmare season for the A's would be a fourth place finish in the AL West, falling behind not only the Angels and Rangers, but also the Mariners.
A nightmarish season for the A's would start with their lineup. Brandon Moss had an unreal 2012 season at age 28, hitting 21 homers in 296 plate appearances, more than doubling his career total coming into the year. He still struck out 30% of the time though, and if that pace continues over 500 plate appearances, his productivity will likely nosedrive. A nosedive like that would be the first blow to the A's offense. The second domino to fall in a nightmare season would be in the form of Josh Reddick, who struggled terribly in the second half with a .647 OPS after a breakout first half. If he hits like he did in the second half during all of 2013, the A's offense will likely struggle to put runs on the board.
What about Hiroyuki Nakajima at shortstop? Japanese infielders that have come over to America have struggled terribly for the mostpart, and while it might be a little pessimistic to assume Nakajima will be the same, the general consensus among scouts across the league is that Nakajima will struggle both offensively and defensively. What about Jed Lowrie? He's never been healthy over a full season during his career, and Oakland's newest offensive acquistion could end up being a flop if he doesn't stay healthy.
The A's pitching staff could be ripe for regression, especially in the bullpen after the relief corps vastly outpitched their periperhals last season. Pat Neshek had a 100% strand rate last year, allowing just three runs for the season on three solo homers. If just three of the 17 baserunners he allowed to reach base last season score, his ERA doubles. Grant Balfour had meniscus surgery this week, and he's expected to be ready for Opening Day. What if the meniscus is an issue all season for Balfour, and he struggles terribly? It's a real concern, not to mention that his .201 BABIP will probably result in his ERA taking a jump up in 2013. Ryan Cook, Jordan Norberto, and Jerry Blevins also could see their ERAs spike due to low BABIPs in 2012.
And then, there's Oakland's rotation. It's a young group aside from Bartolo Colon, and there's an expectation that this group will continue to perform very well in 2013. But what if Tom Milone's extreme home/road splits even out in 2013, but look more like his road numbers across the board? What if Brett Anderson's elbow gives him problems in his first full season returning from Tommy John surgery, and he misses chunks of time? What if Dan Straily's struggles in the majors last year wasn't a small sample size, and was actually a sign of things to come?
What it essentially comes down to for the A's is this: they rode career years, statistically unlikely performances, and production from odd sources to a division title in 2013. A nightmare season for them would be if everything that went right in 2012 went wrong for them in 2013, and they fell back down to the 85 loss level that they inhabited during the Bob Geren era.