By: Noah Wright
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Oakland is now rivaling The Astros for The Division series, and I could even see them rocket themselves deep into the playoffs. But entering the season they were, like a few other teams, at least a season or two away from being that contender. But like the 2002, Oakland A’s, they didn’t exactly build a playoff contender in a conventional sense. With that being said, let's look at how The A’s have constructed a playoff roster.
Starting pitching hasn’t been as bad as some would think. Leading the way has been youngster Sean Manaea has been solid this season with a 3.70 ERA, 4.29 FIP, and 1.073 WHIP in 155 and two thirds innings. Plus he threw a no hitter earlier this season. However the most unlikely source of good production are some of their better rotation pieces. The first I want to point out is Trevor Cahill. Cahill signed a minor league deal with The A’s in later March, and he’s been arguably their best starter. Cahill has a 3.12 ERA, and similar 3.10 FIP. Plus his WHIP is lower than Manea’s at 1.038. He’s also been striking out batters at a near career high 8.8 K/9 ratio, and walking batters at a career low 2.5 BB/9 rate in 86 an a third innings. The next piece that looked like patch work in the rotation is Edwin Jackson who’s on his 13th MLB team. Like Cahill, Jackson signed a minor league deal, but at the beginning of summer in June, and it’s paid off. Jackson, in 59 innings of work, has a 2.58 ERA, 4.26 FIP, and 1.062 WHIP. But he’s kept batters to a .222 BABIP, and has kept free passes to a minimum at a 2.88 BB/9 ratio. The third minor league signing that’s worked out for The A’s is another player that has previously played with Oakland, Brett Anderson. Anderson has a 3.47 ERA, 4.32 FIP, and 1.187 WHIP. His FIP number is a bit high, but Anderson has tied his BB/9 rate with a career low 1.7 rate. The A’s added a solid rotation piece right after the deadline with a trade for Mike Fires. In his 18 and a third of an inning, Fires as given The A’s a 1.47 ERA, 2.61 FIP, and .655 WHIP. He has also greatly reduced his walk rate from 2 with The Tigers, to a .5 BB/9 rate, and increased his K/9 rate from 6.6 to 10.3. Overall their rotation’s ERA sits around average at 4.03.
The corner infield has probably been The A’s strongest suit. To start, let's look at first base. Matt Olson has followed up a very impressive rookie season, with a decent sophomore year. Olson is currently batting a strong .240/.324/.447 with 23 home runs, and 59 RBI’s in 518 plate appearances. Sabermetrics also show that he’s been valuable at 111 wRC+, and a .332 wOBA. Another thing that helps Olson’s value is the fact that he’s a good defender. He currently has 9 DRS, 5.1 UZR, and .4 WAR defensively. Overall, he’s been worth 3.1 WAR to The A’s this season. Their best player this season has probably been Matt Chapman. Chapman has brought plenty value with his bat. He currently holds a .275/.366/.505 line in 457 plate appearances, along with 17 home runs, 45 RBI’s, a 138 wRC+, and .371 wOBA. But that’s not the best part of his game. His defense is rivals that of Nolan Arenado’s. Chapman has 25 DRS, 12.5 UZR, and worth 3 WAR defensively. He also leads the team in overall WAR at 6.8. The A’s had acquired both through the draft, and were top prospects throughout their minor league careers.
Middle infield has been another strong suit for The A’s. After starting his career with The Red Sox, being traded to The Astros in 2012, then being sent to The A’s for 2013, after that he re-signed with Houston in the off season of 2014-2015, and finally making his way back to Oakland in a trade in the 2015-2016 Off-Season, Jed Lowrie is having his first all-star season in his second stint with the team. Lowrie has batted a good .272/.355/.465 along with a career high 19 home runs, and career high 77 home runs in 530 plate appearances. He’s also reached full season career highs in wRC+ (126) and wOBA (.354). Defensively, Lowrie has been around average with 1 DRS, 2.8 UZR, and worth .5 defensive WAR. At shortstop, The A’s are utilizing Marcus Semien, a player that they received when they sent Jeff Samardzija to The White Sox in 2014-2015 off season. Semien hasn’t done anything impressive with his bat, with just a batting line of .266/.325/.392 and 10 home runs, 46 RBI’s, and worth 98 wRC+, but he’s done well with his glove. Currently, the shortstop has racked up 6 DRS, 5.8 UZR, and worth an overall 1.3 defensive WAR.
Outfield has been on of the team’s weakest links this season. The first position I want to point out is centerfield, which they’ve been using a bit of an unconventional solution in Mark Canha. Drafted by The Marlins in 2010, selected by The Marlins in the 2014 rule 5 draft, and then traded to The A’s, Canha has done OK overall with a .247/.323/.434 batting line in 359 plate appearances with 14 home runs, 50 RBI’s, and has been worth 107 wRC+ and .325 wOBA. Since Canha has played every OF position, he’s worth exactly 0 outfield DRS, 1.8 UZR, and -.1 defensive WAR, so he’s not hurting his team defensively in the grass, but definitely not giving Matt Chapman value. In the corners, The A’s have used a Matt Joyce, and Stephen Piscotty. Lets first look at the right fielder, Matt Joyce. Joyce had a very nice season last year, but hasn’t done the same this year. The 2016-2017 off season FA signing has batted .203/.311/.359 with 7 home runs, 13 RBI’s, in an injury limited 226 plate appearances. In leftfield, the former St. Louis Cardinal prospect they acquired in trade through the offseason has done just fine in his first season in Oakland. Piscotty has batted .257/.316/.450 with 16 home runs, and 54 RBI’s in 465 plate appearances. Plus sabermetrics wise, he’s been worth just around average at 110 WRC+ and .329 wOBA. However, he’s been a burden with his glove, being worth -10 DRS, -3.8 UZR, and -1.3 defensive WAR. The A’s 4th outfielder, Nick Martini, has had a nice rookie season. In his first 93 plate appearances of his career, Martini has batted .299/.409/.429 with an impressive 138 wRC+ and .365 wOBA. Overall, Martini has only seen 175 innings in the grass, but has done ok. He currently has 0 DRS, .2 UZR and has only made one error. Before being signed, the former Cardinal farm hand didn’t see any infield time, but saw 41 games at first base in the minors this season in The A’s system. Another outfielder that The A’s acquired from The Astros for a minor leaguer.
The A’s have one of the top DH’s in The AL. Khris Davis is what I considered an All-Star Snub. The A’s acquired him back in the 2015-2016 off season from The Brewers for 2 prospects; catcher Jacob Nottingham, and pitcher Bubba Derby. Since coming to The A’s, he’s yet to have a season where he didn’t hit less than 40 home runs, and is on pace to do it again. Davis is currently hitting .263/.337/.578 with a league leading 38 home runs, and a third straight seasons of 100+ RBI’s (102 to be exact). Along with impressive base numbers, Davis currently has 148 wRC+ and .381 wOBA. In comparison, Nolan Arenado has 141 wRC+, and Giancarlo Stanton has a .895 OPS.
The team’s main utility man this season has been Chad Pinder. The 2013 A’s draftee has played a little bit of everywhere except for first base, catcher, and pitcher, but has mainly seen time in the outfield this season. Pinder has overall had an all around average season, batting .242/.325/.415 with 10 home runs, and 24 RBI’s in 267 plate appearances. He also has 105 wRC+, and .322 wOBA. While it’s hard to determine how good Pinder has been defensively overall, he has a .8 defensive WAR.
The A’s tried to solve their catching problem by bringing in Jonathan Lucroy over the off-season, but that didn’t work out as planned so far. Lucroy has batted a mere .242/.298/.324 with 2 home runs and 40 RBI’s in 360 plate appearances, a far cry from his hay-day with The Brewers. wRC+ also doesn’t paint a nice picture, pinning him at just 72 wRC+. However overall, Lucroy may just be running into bad luck, for he has a .275 BABIP. Defensively, Lucroy has held his own, at the very least. Behind the plate, Jonathan has -6 DRS, but has caught 30% of runners trying to take a base off of him. Their primary back-up guy, Josh Phegley, hasn’t been much better than Lucroy. In just 71 plate appearances, Phegley has batted .219/.267/.406, and has caught 43% of runners trying to steal.
The A’s next best asset has to be their bullpen. They already had one of the best closers in the league before July in Blake Treinen, who currently has .87 ERA, 1.56 FIP, and .984 WHIp in 62 innings pitched. Along with impressive numbers, Treinen has struck out 12.5 batters per 9, and showed off very very impressive control with 2.9 BB/9 rate, and and just .1 HR/9 rate (1 HR all season). However, then they further added on Jeurys Familia, Fernando Rodney, and Shawn Kelly, all who have done well since putting on an A’s uni, only giving up 6 earned runs between the 3 in 24 an a third innings, to a team that already had already a well performing Lou Trivino (1.62 ERA, 3.16 FIP), Yusmeiro Petit (3.46 ERA, 4.13 FIP), Emilio Pagan (3.71 ERA, 4.62 FIP), and Ryan Butcher (3.29 ERA, 4.18 FIP). Overall, their bullpen has a 3.35 ERA, which ranks 6th in all of baseball, and 4th in The AL.
Now that we’re in the final stretch of the season, The A’s are in prime position to make a final push for The AL West Division, and nearly have a WC spot on lockdown. Plus with good line-up backed by pieces in the rotation that’s been solid this season, and a bullpen that’s one of the deepest in The MLB, I’m going to be rooting for The A’s to make a deep playoff run.