What A's must do to win AL West in 2020, avoid wild-card heartbreak

What A's must do to win AL West in 2020, avoid wild-card heartbreak

OAKLAND -- For the second straight year, the A's earned a trip to the postseason only to see it end in just one game.

That's a tough pill to swallow for a team that won 97 games in back-to-back seasons, but the A's know that if they want to guarantee themselves a series next year, they can't afford to settle for a wild-card spot.

"The format is the format," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "If we want to get out of that format, we have to win some more games. Now, we have a tough division. We probably have the best team in baseball in our division. But the focus next year will be to win more games and try to win our division."

Of course, Melvin is referencing the Houston Astros, who won 107 games this season, the most in MLB. Dethroning the three-time defending AL West champions certainly won't be easy, but the A's do have what it takes.

The key for Oakland will be getting off to a better start to the season. Each of the last two years, the A's have come out sluggish in their first 70 games, going 34-36 in 2018 and 36-34 in 2019.

To their credit, the Green and Gold caught fire in the second half of each season, going 54-27 in their final 81 games both years. That was good enough to capture a wild-card position, but not to catch the Astros.

Next season, it will be imperative for Oakland to play up to its capability right from day one. The Astros are likely to lose All-Star starting pitcher Gerrit Cole in free agency, and maybe one of these days the aging process will actually apply to 36-year-old Justin Verlander. But regardless, Houston still figures to win at least 100 games.

The A's are more than capable of surpassing the century mark themselves, particularly with Jesús Luzardo, Sean Manaea, and Frankie Montas in the starting rotation for a full season. They just have to find a way to start the season the way they've finished the last two.

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Otherwise, Oakland may very well find itself in the AL Wild Card Game for the third straight year. And as we've seen, all bets are off in that one. 

Mark Canha's bat flip vs. Angels named best of 2019 by MLB Network

Mark Canha's bat flip vs. Angels named best of 2019 by MLB Network

There are two types of people in the world: Those who love bat flips in baseball, and those who are wrong to dislike them. This post is not for the latter.

A's outfielder Mark Canha received some very prestigious honors. He possessed the No. 1 bat flip of the 2019 season by MLB Network.

During the bottom of the fourth on a 2-1 count against the Angels on March 30, Canha got ahold of a Felix Peña pitch and sent a ball over the fence at the Oakland Coliseum.

It was a beaut:

That's not the best part. It was what he mouthed following the homer that sealed the deal:

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It's bat flippin' season baby -- every season.

That was the best flip of the year which only means the next season brings more competition -- and if you're familiar with Canha's ways -- there will be more flips.

We look forward to that. 

Why blockbuster Corey Kluber trade from Indians to Rangers is bad for A's

Why blockbuster Corey Kluber trade from Indians to Rangers is bad for A's

Teams in the AL West continue to make moves this offseason, while the A's watch from afar. The latest is a two-time Cy Young award winner reportedly joining the Texas Rangers. 

The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported Sunday that the Rangers have acquired starting pitcher Corey Kluber from the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. and pitching prospect Emmanuel Clase. Levi Weaver of The Athletic also reported there are expected to be more players sent to Cleveland. 

Kluber, who turns 34 years old in April, was limited to just seven games last season due to injuries and put up the worst numbers of his eight-year career in limited innings. But when healthy, the right-hander still is one of the best arms in all of baseball. 

Prior to Kluber's injury-riddled 2019, he had averaged 31 starts per year and 206 innings pitched from 2013 to '18. In that six-year span, he also averaged 227 strikeouts and only 43 walks. 

The Rangers now have added Kluber, Jordan Lyles and Kyle Gibson to their rotation this offseason. As they move into their new stadium, the Rangers are expected to continue making moves, too. 

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Adding Kluber clearly is a positive for the Rangers, but it's another negative for the A's. He has a 2.29 career ERA against Oakland in nine appearances -- eight starts -- but now will face them much more in 2020. 

While the A's are more focused on keeping their young core intact long-term, the Angels added star third baseman Anthony Rendon and the Rangers traded for Kluber. The AL West has been owned by the Astros and A's in recent seasons, but the rest of the division is coming for them.