COHN: A's a more dangerous playoff team than Giants
Published: Friday, October 5, 2012 at 8:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 11:23 a.m.
It says here the Oakland A's are more dangerous than the Giants in the postseason.
Both local teams won their divisions, and had identical 94-68 records, and the Giants have what they call “form,” because they won the World Series two years ago. And the A's, frankly, have no form, a major part of their charm. “Who are those guys?” But the A's are more dangerous, more lethal, promise to go deeper into the playoffs.
Pitching: The Giants' starting pitching is a mess. Bruce Bochy can't even name his starting rotation beyond the first two games. True, A's manager Bob Melvin also named only his first two starters — Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone. But there's a difference. Giants' starters have been set in concrete a long time, although now cracks are appearing in the concrete. The A's are still tinkering with their rotation.
The A's starters are hot and young and very good — Parker, Milone, Travis Blackley, A.J. Griffin. There could be more. People come and go so quickly around here. The A's keep producing pitchers — and players — out of thin air, or at least out of the minor leagues.
Case in point: Griffin, a big-time contributor in this miracle season, didn't even merit his own page in the A's media guide. If you look hard, perhaps with an electron microscope, you can locate him way in the back on page 388 — in a sort of appendix called “Organizational Players.” Is there a photo of this A's hero? Forget it. The total Griffin text measures two inches.
Who are those guys?
More pitching: The Giants don't have a closer — Bochy likes to say he has closer by committee. And that has worked for them and may work perfectly against the Reds. Who knows? But the A's really do have a closer, Grant Balfour, that screaming maniac who is lights out. The A's bullpen is orderly and scary for opponents. Remember, Ryan Cook was an All-Star this season.
Power Hitting: Eyeball these statistics. The A's finished sixth in the American League in home runs with 195. That was good for seventh in the majors. Where were the Giants? How about dead last in the National League, not to mention dead last in the majors with a skimpo 103 home runs.
The A's don't have an overwhelming power hitter, although Josh Reddick's 32 dingers seem pretty overwhelming. But eight A's players hit double-digit homers. The A's hitters kill pitchers up and down their batting order. Power makes games so simple. You're behind in the ninth inning. No sweat. Just hit a bomb.
All praise to the Giants for running away with the NL West through pure grit and adaptability and their version of small ball. It's just that power hitting is a benefit in the postseason. If the Giants fall behind by four runs they could have trouble catching help.
Power sure helps the A's young hitters. They play an uncomplicated game. Just swing from their butts, let her rip. No more of this waiting around for a full count and trying to coax a walk. Batting coach Chili Davis — he did a great job — powered in a new era of A's power hitting.
If the formula for success in the postseason is power pitching and power hitting, the A's are scarier than the Giants.
Momentum: “Momentum” is a vague sports word like “chemistry.” Please bear with me.
In 2010, the Giants won the NL West on the last day of the season. Fighting to the very end propelled them into the playoffs, and you saw what happened. This year the Giants cruised despite the Dodgers spending a king's ransom on players. The Giants, to their immense credit, cruised even though Aubrey Huff was a non-factor, even though they lost Freddy Sanchez and Melky Cabrera and Brian Wilson, even though Pablo Sandoval missed games. All praise to the Giants and to Bochy for doing a fabulous job.
It's just that this time around, the A's were the ones fighting to the end, winning the division on the very last day. They didn't just win. They overwhelmed the poor Rangers, falling behind 5-1 and just brushing the Rangers aside like breakfast crumbs, the Rangers with all those superstars. Forget about it. In the meantime, the Giants were taking a semi-sabbatical.
Intangibles: In 2010, the Giants were the story of baseball. No one expected them to be anything. And all of a sudden, America was talking about rally thongs, and everyone knew Cody Ross had been a rodeo clown, and the Beard became a national icon. The Giants were a delightful band of misfits, America's mythical story of the underdog triumphing.
Now the A's are that story to whatever power you want to name. The A's weren't just underdogs. They were nobodies. And they do stuff the Giants used to do — all those pies to the face, the relaxed homey feel of their clubhouse which is like a college clubhouse.
And they can match the rodeo clown any day of the week. How about reliever Sean Doolittle? He used to be a minor-league first baseman going nowhere. He took up pitching a year ago and now he's an important part of the bullpen. Nothing clownish about this guy.
The Giants still are a good story, sure they are. But the A's are a great story, this year's version of America's story. The baseball emphasis has moved to the east side of the bay. Who are those guys?
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at email@example.com.
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.