Opening Day for Oakland A's fans is officially upon us! The Oakland Athletics kick off their 2011 American League West campaign this weekend as they host the Seattle Mariners in a three-game series at the Oakland Coliseum. The A's are a trendy pick to win the AL West and at the very least are expected to be in the playoff chase late into the season. They've built a team around supremely talented starting pitching, a potentially lockdown bullpen, and a much improved offense. Of course, that's the best-case scenario. The worst case scenario features a starting pitching regression, Hideki Matsui truly being over the hill, and a great bullpen that gets worn out by too many innings.
But it's the start of the season and worst case scenario's are for suckers. As of today the A's are undefeated and fans can still dream about a potential World Series. The A's have the talent in place to compete for a title, but they'll need a few things to fall their way. First and foremost is that the pitching staff cannot afford much of a regression. Some of the starters pitched above their heads last year (see Cahill, Trevor), so it will be interesting to see how they do a year later. The offense will need to provide some more timely hitting than in year's past. The additions of Hideki Matsui, David DeJesus, and Josh Willingham should conceivably cover that weakness, but injuries and age are pertinent factors with those three.
The Seattle Mariners on the other hand are trying to figure out their identity as they continue a re-building process. The Mariners come to town with a team that includes some players well known to Oakland A's fans. The most known is designated hitter Jack Cust. After bouncing around for most of his career, Cust settled in with the A's as a very productive DH. He brings his Rule of 3 (walk/homerun/strikeout) production to the Mariners. In left field the Mariners have Milton Bradley who was an important component of the Oakland A's 2006 ALCS team. Of course, as has happened everywhere else, a meltdown got him traded away and he continues to try and find his place in MLB. The final player is 1B Justin Smoak. He's a little less known as he was drafted by the A's and ended up deciding on college when the A's wouldn't meet his signing bonus demand.
This weekend's series should be a fun one, particularly the opener in which we'll see a battle of aces between Trevor Cahill and "King" Felix Hernandez. The rest of the weekend will feature Brett Anderson versus Jason Vargas and Gio Gonzalez versus Doug Fister. If I had to make predictions at this juncture, I'd say the A's take two of three in this series, with King Felix winning a pitcher's duel tonight, followed by Anderson and Gonzalez taking their respective matchups. Of course, given that we only have spring training to work with, predictions are tough to make right now.
3 game series vs Mariners @ Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
|Sat 04/02 - Brett Anderson vs. Jason Vargas||6:05 PM PDT|
|Sun 04/03 - Gio Gonzalez vs. Doug Fister||1:05 PM PDT|