3 Stats That Prove the Athletics Can Win the AL West

Max Staley
Khris Davis at the plate against the Seattle Mariners.
Khris Davis at the plate against the Seattle Mariners. / Rob Leiter/Getty Images

After finishing in second place in the AL West at 97-65, the Oakland Athletics were swiftly eliminated from the postseason by the Tampa Bay Rays, losing 5-1.

That unenthusiastic ending to Oakland's campaign hasn't exactly inspired much confidence in the betting market, as the Athletics are available at +340 to win the AL West in 2020, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Oakland does have the second-best odds, but its a far cry from the Houston Astros (-280).

However, there's plenty of reason to believe in Oakland this season. In fact, these three stats prove that the Athletics should be firmly in contention in the AL West this season.

1. Khris Davis' Positive Regression

Khris Davis between at-bats.
Khris Davis between at-bats. / Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Khris Davis' power numbers took a major dip in 2019. While he had clubbed at least 42 homers in three consecutive seasons prior to last year, Davis only hit 23 bombs in 2019. Injuries limited him to just 133 games played, but that's not enough time missed to account for such a massive drop. Interestingly, though, a deeper look at the numbers suggests Davis could be in for a bounce-back year. While his standard stats were essentially down across the board, he actually posted the best hard-hit rate of his career (46.0 percent). His home run-to-fly-ball rate was only 18.3 percent, when it had been no lower than 24.1 for four consecutive seasons. That suggests Davis' drop in production could be little more than an outlier, and he could be posed for a great 2020 campaign.

2. Potentially Lethal 1-2 Combination of Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea

Sean Manaea on the hill against the Texas Rangers.
Sean Manaea on the hill against the Texas Rangers. / Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Both Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea were fantastic last season, albeit in limited action. Manaea only made five starts, but he tallied a 1.21 ERA with a 27.5 percent strikeout rate. Montas, meanwhile, made 16 starts, posting a 2.63 ERA with a 26.1 percent strikeout rate. Both pitchers would've ranked in the top 25 in strikeout rate and top five in ERA among starters had they pitched enough to qualify. While it's unlikely that they'll be able to sustain such elite levels of production, getting full seasons out of both could really boost an Oakland rotation that already ranked 11th in wins above replacement (WAR) last season.

3. Addition by Subtraction

Gerrit Cole on the hill in Game 5 of the World Series against the Washington Nationals.
Gerrit Cole on the hill in Game 5 of the World Series against the Washington Nationals. / Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The best pitcher in baseball no longer plays for the Astros. Undoubtedly, this hurts Houston – and helps Oakland. Gerrit Cole was atop the statistical leaderboard for pitchers pretty much across the board in 2019, and he was his usual, dominant self when facing the A's. He made two starts against Oakland, allowing a 2.08 ERA in 13 innings pitched against Oakland last season. Unsurprisingly, Houston won both matchups, with the average margin of victory being 6.0 runs per game. Coming off one of the most tumultuous offseasons in recent memory, it's tough to picture the Astros being as dominant as they were last season – especially without Cole. And considering the A's had a 97-win campaign in 2019, any regression from the Astros could have the Athletics nipping at their heels.

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Max Staley is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Max Staley also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mstaley1212. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.