The first month of the 2019 baseball season wasn’t kind to the Oakland Athletics. They started with a bang at home, but, when they hit the road things fell apart. Despite being one of the lowest salaried teams in the game last year, the A’s made the playoffs. The slow start had them sitting with a 15-21 record through 36 games, but can the Athletics pull it together to make the MLB playoffs again?
The Athletics’ 2018 season
With their notably low payroll, the A’s have notoriously been a good place to launch a career, or to restart ones that have wavered. Oakland recently has been a temporary home to pitchers Jon Lester and Rich Hill, and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to name a few. But, in the past couple of years they have settled in with some of their own key players, and in 2018 they had some defining moments.
One was starting pitcher Sean Mannaea’s first no-hitter on April 21, 2018, against the Boston Red Sox. It was a great way to ignite the team that won 75 games the previous season. Mannaea’s no-no helped spark the Athletics to 97 wins in 2018, their most since 2002, and help them make the wild card round of the MLB playoffs.
Bats need to wake up
Last year, DH and sometimes outfielder Khris Davis slugged 48 home runs and totaled 123 RBIs. He leads all of baseball in homers since 2016 with 143. Davis had 10 home runs and 26 RBIs in 2019 before departing a May 5 game in Pittsburgh after slamming into the railing and suffering a left-hip contusion.
Davis’ bat is very much needed by the Athletics. His power at the plate is one reason the team gave him a two-year, $33.5 million contract extension. Davis can’t power the offense alone, and so far other sluggers aren’t appearing.
Catcher Josh Phegley batted .204 in 2018 with two home runs and 15 RBIs in 29 games. He plated eight runs in the A’s 14-1 victory in Pittsburgh on May 3. If he can maintain anywhere near his .273 batting average, he will contribute even more to the team than his outstanding behind-the-place defense. However, his career .228 average indicates his current production isn’t sustainable.
However, second baseman Marcus Semien and third baseman Matt Chapman are helping Davis keep the offense afloat. The team is eagerly awaiting the return of Mark Canha and Matt Olson from the IL.
Starting rotation and bullpen
Although the left-handed Mannaea started the season on the IL following arthroscopic surgery in September 2018, the Athletics may see him back by mid-season. Starters Brett Anderson, Chris Bassitt, Frankie Montas, Mike Fiers, and Aaron Brooks round out the rotation, but none of them are truly standout pitchers. They can stand their ground and wins games, but only if offense provides the run support.
More notable is the A’s bullpen with two potentially unstoppable pitchers for the late innings and closing – Blake Treinen and Fernando Rodney, respectively. The right-throwing Treinen holds a career 2.65 ERA and a 9.0 WAR. Rodney, who’s played in the majors since 2002, holds a career 3.74 ERA and a 7.6 WAR, but the veteran has yet to settle for the season.
Basically the pitching is there, but they need run support to pick them up out of the cellar. The Athletics proved they have what it takes to make the playoffs in 2018, but they have a long way to go. If the team can pull it together by the All-Star break, then the front office might add players at the trade deadline to help with a playoff push.