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As we hit the half-way point of June, Major League Baseball primes-up for its meaty part of the season. It’s not quite the dog-days of summer yet but it’s getting close to the mid-summer classic and teams can now assess where they stand among the ranks. Buyers and sellers separate, and the pennant races gear up.
Two teams that have selling far away from the brain right now are the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants.
The two teams with the best records in baseball (Giants: 43-26, A’s: 41-27), have bay-area fans hopeful for a memory-filled 2014 campaign, according to CBSsports.com. Okay, so we still are in June, but the pace these two are on have baseball thinking differently now. A baseball season is a long book, unlike the NFL for example. It has different chapters and unique flows to a season that starts in the rainy spring, moves to the heat of summer, and finishes with the crisp feel of autumn.
The hotter the weather gets, the hotter the A’s and Giants feel to the rest of us.
The San Francisco Giants are currently the top team in baseball. Champions and battle tested is a simple and accurate phrase to describe this club. Their franchise model is dominating pitching and timely hitting. A model which brings great post-season success with it. It is a very difficult model to emulate though.
Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and now Tim Hudson (all of a sudden) are anchoring a staff that this franchise is used to. With veteran Sergio Romo still shutting the door on games (20 saves), the Giants pitching is in order.
Hitting is always the question mark for this bunch, but with a key off-season signing in Michael Morse, this lineup is truly stretched out the way it needs to look. Morse has dinged 13 home runs and 44 runs batted in so far, giving them that truly dangerous look a lineup needs. Sprinkle in a little Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan and Buster Posey, and it provides a lineup primed for October.
San Francisco has been the hottest team in baseball over the past two months. From May 8 to June 8, the Giants went 22-8 to become baseball’s best.
The Oakland Athletics have been one of the more under-rated stories in baseball over the past couple seasons. They are smart, efficient and play an exciting brand of ball that has all eyes glued on the green, yellow and white. Billy Beane is undoubtedly their leader and it shows through smashing success.
Still boasting one of the lower payrolls in the majors ranking 25th at $83,401,400, the A’s keep on winning, according to SportsIllustrated.com. So, with an American League West championship in 2013, and currently possessing the majors' largest run differential in the game (+127, 72 runs ahead the next best team, Giants +55), how are they smashing teams left and right in 2014?
The answer still looms for everyone else to figure out.
One thing we know is that anytime the A’s are good their pitching leads the way. A comeback year from Scott Kazmir has been that stunning extra piece. Kazmir is currently fourth in the majors with a 2.05 earned run average, according to MLB.com. This was a guy that was absolutely begging for a job just a year ago. Any team could have scooped him up, but Billy Beane has made others feel foolish with the acquisition of the year. Kazmir leads a starting-staff along with Drew Pomeranz, Sonny Gray and Jessie Chavez, all who are pitching out of their minds.
These are all guys who are pitching over their heads, right? Well whatever they are doing in Oakland is working because they seem to take a player and turn him into something special. Oakland hitters Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss are no exception. Donaldson currently has 17 home runs and 50 runs batted in, instantly becoming a bonafide major league slugger. Moss has blasted 16 home runs and at 31 years of age has also hit his stride with Oakland.
Developing and coaching must be the key to their success. Turning another man’s trash into their treasure is the new catchy-model in baseball. The problem is, very few teams have figured out how to do this.
For the A’s, Giants and bay-area baseball, it’s full-steam ahead to October.