The 2012 season for the Oakland Athetlics broke all expectations. They were fresh off trades of closer Andrew Bailey and starting pitchers Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez. And yet, the A's kept competing, kept winning, and eventually, won the AL West on the season's final day and took the star-studded Detroit Tigers to five games in the AL Division Series before getting bounced.
If you're new here (which about 90% of our reader base is in comparison to last year), here's a brief explanation: after a team is eliminated from the playoffs, 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.
What Went Right: Oakland used ten starters this year, and would lose veterans Bartolo Colon (PED suspension) and Brandon McCarthy (skull fracture) before the season was over…but the rotation was really, really good. Jarrod Parker, acquired in the Trevor Cahill deal this past winter, gave the A's more value than Cahill gave the Diamondbacks. Oakland's budget-conscious bullpen was awesome, led by Ryan Cook, veteran Grant Balfour, and converted first baseman Sean Doolittle. Josh Reddick turned into a monster at the plate after coming over from Boston in the Andrew Bailey trade, while Cuban import Yoenis Cespedes delivered big-time at the major league level when many thought he should start the year in AAA. The A's also got massive production from bargain basement outfielder/DHs Jonny Gomes and Seth Smith, along with a randomly awesome season from failed Red Sox/Pirates prospect Brandon Moss.
What Went Wrong: Jemile Weeks had a disastrous season as the team's starting second baseman, and lost his job once the A's picked up Stephen Drew from the Diamondbacks, who was only moderately better than Weeks. Catcher Kurt Suzuki struggled and was dealt to the Nationals in August, freeing up the catching job for rookie Derek Norris and newly acquired George Kottaras. The Colon suspension and McCarthy injury forced AJ Griffin into a playoff start that he struggled in, but the A's won anyway. Veteran reliever Brian Fuentes was terrible during his 25 innings in Oakland.
Most Surprising Player: I could go with a few people from the A's here, but I think Brandon Moss has to take the cake. This was a once elite prospect that was now left for dead after joining his fourth organization in five seasons. He finished third on the team with 21 homers in only 296 plate appearances, and his .306 ISO was higher than anyone in baseball aside from Giancarlo Stanton. Sure, he struck out over 30% of the time, but he produced offensively despite that.
Most Disappointing Player: Jemile Weeks has to be the guy here, since no one else on the A's that there were expectations for really produced at a terribly low level. In 97 games in 2011, Weeks hit .303 with a .761 OPS, looking like a pretty good option for 2012. Of course, despite doubling his walk rate, Weeks saw his BABIP fall by nearly 100 points and his power fall into the dumps, leading to a .221 average and a .609 OPS. To top things off, he lost his job as a starter in August. Hopefully the ten game stint in AAA fixed his issues.
Prospects Up: Dan Straily came from out of nowhere to lead the entire minor leagues in strikeouts. Not bad. Despite lacking a position, 2009 first round pick Grant Green put together another good year despite a horrendous steal percentage. Chris Carter finally got regular playing time in the majors, and belted 16 homers while walking 15.9% of the time in just 67 games. Former Phillies prospect Michael Taylor, now 26, is an on-base machine, but his power hasn't developed all the way yet. Derek Norris was the starting catcher in the second half of the year in the majors, and performed very well. Jarrod Parker was the ace, and had a great year. Tommy Milone had laughable home/road splits, but was a solid mid-rotation starter for the club.
Prospects Down: 2010 first round pick Michael Choice saw his power take a huge hit, going from 30 homers and a .257 ISO in 2011 to ten homers and a .136 ISO in 2012. 2011 first round pick Sonny Gray was…mediocre in AA, but is moving quickly. Brad Peacock struck out a batter per inning in AAA, but struggled with walks and homers in his first taste of west coast baseball.
Overall: The A's still young, the A's are still hungry, and their core will still be around next year. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see this team in contention in the AL West again next year, and at the same time, I wouldn't be surprised to see them floating around .500. it depends a lot on what happens with the Angels and Rangers in the offseason market.