FIRST HALF SURPRISESJosh Reddick
This guy has become the A's most consistent force. Like the song he often walks up to the plate to, Reddick is a stone cold stunner. What more can be said about what he has done this year? He has 20 homers, relative health, and a disarming clubhouse presence. He is the total package.
This time last year Doolittle was a first baseman struggling to find his way in the A's organization. Then A's director of player development Keith Lippman had an idea that created something so electric that Benjamin Franklin might be jealous. He turned Doolittle into a pitcher. In just 16 minor league appearances Doolittle had done so much that he was promoted from Single-A, to Double-A, to Triple-A, to the Oakland A's. Doolittle hasn't slowed down either, he has a 14.73 K9 average, hasn't allowed a home run, and routinely hits 95-mph on the radar gun from the left side.
The A's lone All-Star representative has eight saves in 10 chances since being named the A's closer. He began the season with a 23 inning scoreless streak, which is the longest such streak by an A's pitcher on the opening day roster since at least 1918. Not bad for a guy that was a throw in piece from the Diamondbacks when the A's sent them Trevor Cahill.
SLIDESHOW: Pratt's five keys to second half
FIRST HALF DISAPPOINTMENTSKurt Suzuki
Once one of the A's most promising players, Suzuki's stock is plummeting so fast that a parachute might not slow him down. Once considered a "hitting catcher" the A's backstop has ceased doing so. He is stuck in a career-worst 75-game homerless streak. He is still extremely valuable defensively and with the pitching staff, but rookie catcher Derek Norris is effectively shoving him out the door.
After a remarkable rookie season Weeks was the face of the franchise. The speedy second baseman wasnt fast enough to outrun the dreaded sophomore slump though. Weeks is one of the most talented players on the team, which is why he is one of the biggest disappointments of the first-half. Weeks is hitting just .222, but is showing some signs of life. He leads the AL with five triples, and his 38 walks tie him with Reddick for the most on the A's.
Fuentes was the highest paid pitcher on the A's roster before they designated him for assignment. Still owed the remainder of his 5M contract in 2012 and a 500K buyout for next season, Fuentes fell off the map and then the roster. The left-handed veteran got off to a good start, but over his last eight appearances he allowed 13 earned runs, four home runs, and walked seven batters, in just six innings pitched.
THE HIGH POINT
You could capture the essence of the A's first half by reminiscing about any of their eight walk-off wins. Three in particular stand out: Norris' walk-off homer to avoid a sweep at the hand of the Giants. Cespedes' laser beam blast to left field to sweep the Dodgers. Chris Carter's tape measure walk-off shot to beat the Mariners. You could picture the pitching at its finest: Tommy Milone's three-hit complete game against the Dodgers. Jarrod Parker's eight-inning one-hit shutout of the Rangers. Or just envision the incredible 462-foot home run that Cespedes hit against Jason Vargas. A home run the likes of which hasn't been seen since larger than life monsters like Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire roamed the field at the Oakland Coliseum. Combined they equal a .500 record at the All-Star break. The A's will need to build off of their first half and achieve greater heights.
THE LOW POINT
Riddled with injuries the team hit their lowest point in late May. They endured a nine-game losing skid that appeared to be the end of any hopes of contention. The players called it embarrassing. Grant Balfour even ranted in the clubhouse about how much he hated losing. The offense went through a stretch in which they had been shut out six times over a stretch of 16 games. This was the darkest time for the A's. Since the skid they are 21-13, and have put the struggles of May in the rear-view mirror.
FIRST HALF MVP
Reddick Reddick Reddick Reddick That's what it looks like if you check the list of A's team leaders. Reddick leads the A's in batting average (.268), home runs (20), RBI (43), runs (53), hits (84), doubles (15), and outfield assists (8). He has played in all but three of the team's 86 games, and has batted third in 78 of them. The A's right fielder has been Reddick-ulously consistent.
FIRST HALF LVP
Statistically speaking, if you look at wins above replacement (WAR), Suzuki is the least valuable player on the A's. That's not to say he doesn't have intangible qualities -- he most certainly does. He helps the A's young pitching staff, prevents runs with his defense, and has been instrumental in helping Derek Norris make the transition to the Major Leagues. His slash line of .211.248.259 is abysmal though. He has zero home runs in 246 plate appearances, and 16 RBI. A hand injury he suffered earlier in the season could be to blame, but at this point, he has to be considered the least valuable player.