SI Vault
 
Chasing The A's
Tim Kurkjian
April 16, 1990
IN BASEBALL'S BEST DIVISION, KANSAS CITY AND CALIFORNIA ARE STILL TRYING TO CATCH OAKLAND
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
April 16, 1990

Chasing The A's

IN BASEBALL'S BEST DIVISION, KANSAS CITY AND CALIFORNIA ARE STILL TRYING TO CATCH OAKLAND

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

READING THE SIGNS

Plus

Minus

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Shades of Babe Ruth. DH Ken Phelps has hit one homer every 12.8 at bats against righties since '84. Ruth hit one per 11.8 at bats against all pitchers.

Shades of Rube Walker. Is Terry Steinbach slipping? His batting average fell 84 points in the second half of'89, the fifth-biggest drop in the majors.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

No Flash in the pan. Now that K.C. has better pitching, look for more consistency from Tom Gordon. In '89, his ERA with only three days' rest was 10.59.

Storm warnings. Last year. Storm Davis was 19-7, but the A's scored 6.48 runs per game when he was pitching-the second-highest total given any AL starter.

CALIFORNIA ANGELS

The real Jim Abbott. In '89, he got the worst relief in the majors. If relievers had stranded all of his runners, his ERA would have been 3.18 instead of 3.92.

The real Bert BIyleven and Willie Eraser. Last year, their ERAs dropped 2.70 and 2.17, respectively. Can they keep their numbers that low? It's doubtful.

TEXAS RANGERS

Rafael Palmeiro's clutch RBIs. He had only 64 RBIs in '89, but 40.6% of them put the Rangers ahead-the highest percentage in the majors.

Double whammy. In '89,2B Julio Franco hit into more double plays than anyone else (27). He also had the worst rate of turning DPs for his position (47.1%).

SEATTLE MARINERS

Hot hand. Last year. Pete O'Brien got off to a fast start, hitting .400 in the first month. Don't be surprised if he performs an encore this season.

Cold feet. In '89, Alvin Davis was the least aggressive base runner in the majors. On 62 outfield hits, he took an extra base only 21% of the time.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Twin-barreled attack. In '89, the starting nine had the second-highest average in the majors (.287), even with Kent Hrbek and Gary Gaetti out part of the season.

Doomed in the Dome. Last year, Allan Anderson's ERA in the Metrodome was 6.47, which was 4.23 higher than his ERA on the road.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

A healthy Ron Kittle. In '89, he had the AL's highest slugging percentage in the cleanup spot (.627), but he got only 169 at bats because of a back injury.

Leadoff in limbo. Last year, the Sox were outscored 97-80 in the first inning, largely because their leadoff hitters had a low combined on-base average (.306).

Statistics compiled by Bob Mecca/Stats, Inc.

A group of Scouts Gathered behind home plate before a Royals-Red Sox game this spring and determined that 1) the American League West is the best it has ever been: 2) the AL West is stronger than any division in baseball in the last 10 years; and 3) the AL West has the three best teams in baseball: Oakland. Kansas City and California.

What that means is this division already has its magic number: 100. "Our goal is 100 wins." says John Schuerholz, the Royals' general manager. "Oakland has set high-water marks in this division."

"We have to look at it like we're playing against a golf course, not against other teams." says Angel manager Doug Rader. "Unfortunately, par on this course is 100—or 62, depending on how you look at it."

1. OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Outfielder Dave Henderson was swinging an aluminum bat one day this spring. "I might hit .600 with this thing," he said. How many home runs would you hit? he was asked. "I meant homers. I might hit 600."

He probably believes it. He plays for the world-champion A's. and these guys believe they can do anything. They certainly believe they can repeat as champs: and just in case anyone was still giddy from last year, third baseman Carney Lansford distributed T-shirts to his teammates this spring that read, CONTENTMENT STINKS. STAY FOCUSED. In the off-season, the Royals and the Angels spent millions attempting to reach the Athletics' level, while Oakland lost three players to free agency. What, the A's worry? Says manager Tony La Russa, "No one, including Kansas City, will pitch better than us." Says pitcher Dave Stewart, "We're probably more hungry than last year, because the other teams are better. But we're better too."

But Stew, you guys lost Dave Parker. Storm Davis and Tony Phillips to free agency. "We lost Tony Phillips." says Stewart. After a very long pause, he adds. "We'll miss the big man [Parker] in the middle of the order against righties, but we got Rickey." But Stew. Davis won 19 last year. "We got Scott Sanderson." he says.

A few scary thoughts for the rest of the West: Oakland will have Rickey Henderson for an entire season (he didn't arrive until June 20 last year). Jose Canseco, who missed 88 games with injuries in '89. is in terrific shape after a winter of volleyball ("Bo don't know volleyball." he says). Relief ace Dennis Eckersley missed 40 games last year, shortstop Walt Weiss 65. And the A's still won 99 games, whipped a good Toronto team in the playoffs, then pulverized the Giants in a World Series sweep. (For what it's worth. 30.8% of all Series sweepers have won the Series again the next year.)

Any weaknesses? Well, without Phillips, the A's are less flexible in the infield. Not exactly an insurmountable problem. But what about other signs of trouble? After all. didn't Canseco blast general manager Sandy Alderson for threatening to use Canseco's off-field behavior as a bargaining chip during salary arbitration? Didn't starter Bob Welch have a horrible spring (21 earned runs in 10⅔ innings)? Aren't these omens of difficulty ahead? What about it. Stew? "Ninety-nine wins may not be enough," says Stewart. "We better win 100."

2. KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Continue Story
1 2 3 4