Could such a punchless A’s team win the AL West?

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If the A’s bring in Chone Figgins to replace Kevin Kouzmanoff at third base, they’d enter the season with a lineup that looks something like this:

3B Chone Figgins
RF David DeJesus
1B Daric Barton
LF Josh Willingham
DH Hideki Matsui
C Kurt Suzuki
2B Mark Ellis
CF Coco Crisp
SS Cliff Pennington

My 2011 projections call for that group of nine to hit 102 homers. Here’s the breakdown:

Figgins – 2
DeJesus – 11
Barton – 14
Willingham – 19
Matsui – 17
Suzuki – 13
Ellis – 9
Crisp – 10
Pennington – 7

Of course, the 2010 A’s hit just 109 homers. Kouzmanoff, who would presumably be shipped off in a Figgins trade, was the team leader with 16, followed by the also departed Jack Cust and Suzuki with 13 apiece.

The A’s were one of three teams last season to have no one hit 20 homers, the others being the last-place Mariners and Royals.

In the last 20 years, only one team has reached the postseason without having a 20-homer guy: the 2005 Padres pulled off the feat, claiming the NL West with an 82-80 record before getting swept by the Cardinals in the NLDS.

Since then, one team has reached the postseason while hitting fewer than 135 homers: the 2007 Angels. Here’s a list of the postseason teams with the fewest homers from the last five years:

2006 Twins – 143 HR
2007 Angels – 123 HR
2008 Dodgers – 137 HR
2009 Dodgers – 145 HR
2010 Braves – 139 HR

And for what it’s worth, those five teams went 2-5 in the postseason, with both Dodgers teams winning one series and then getting eliminated in the NLCS.

So recent history certainly hasn’t been kind to teams that can’t knock the ball out of the park about once per game. Odds are that someone on the A’s will get to 20 homers this year — Willingham should if he stays healthy enough to reach 500 at-bats — but the pitching is going to have to be excellent if the club is going to overtake the Rangers.

A flipped-script NLCS moves to Los Angeles for Game Three

Associated Press
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The book heading into the series was that the Dodgers’ starters needed to come up big for them due to questions in the bullpen and that the Brewers’ bullpen was going to dominate Dodgers batters, so they had best do what they can to score off of Milwaukee’s starters. So, of course, the Dodgers starters turned in performances of three and four and a third innings and eight of their nine runs the Brewers have given up have come from their relievers. I dunno, man. It’s baseball. It lends itself to anticipatory analysis worse than any other sport.

All I do know for sure is that this series has been as close as it gets so far, with each game being decided by a run and the outcome being determined late. The first two games have given me a sense that the teams are just feeling each other out and that the next three, in Los Angeles, will provide a bit more coherence to all of this. Not that there isn’t something a bit fun about incoherence when it comes to a playoff series.

Your viewing guide:

NLCS Game 3

Brewers vs. Dodgers
Ballpark: Dodger Stadium
Time: 7:39 PM Eastern
TV: FS1
Pitchers: Jhoulys Chacin vs Walker Buehler
Breakdown:

Jhoulys Chacin had an excellent NLDS start against the Colorado Rockies, turning in five scoreless innings. If he does something approaching that tonight the Brewers will be in pretty good shape given that Josh Hader — who pitched three shutdown innings in Game one — is available again tonight. To the extent Craig Counsell needs to dig more deeply into his reliever corps, however, things could get dicey. Corbin Burnes, Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel and Joakim Soria have combined to allow seven earned runs in four innings. Brandon Woodruff, who has been dominant thus far, throwing five scoreless innings, stands a good chance of being the opener for Game 4, so Counsell will likely try to keep him off the mound tonight. That puts a decent amount of pressure on Chacin to get the game to Hader with as few innings remaining as possible.

For Los Angeles, it’s Walker Buehler who, the grand slam he gave up to Ronald Acuña in the NLDS notwithstanding, was the Dodgers’ most dominant starter down the stretch. In keeping with the somewhat flipped script so far, however, the Los Angeles bullpen has been solid, allowing just two runs over their ten and two-thirds innings in Games 1 and 2. Not that Dave Roberts wouldn’t love to see Buehler go deep tonight too.