The A’s avoided a four game sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles Sunday by tying the game in the ninth inning courtesy of a Yoenis Céspedes two run bomb and a quirky scoring play in the tenth inning to win the game. However, this last week and a half highlighted a major problem developing with this team. It is one that will need to be fixed soon or the chances of repeating as AL West champions will slowly dwindle away.
I mentioned in the offseason a concern about the pitching staff that could develop. It involved mainly the starting rotation but also included some arms in the bullpen. The magical run the A’s had last season that was led by the young pitching staff hid a somewhat alarming fact. Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, Ryan Cook, and Sean Doolittle all threw more innings than ever before in their careers. Whether or not they should be able to handle that sort of workload is another discussion, but the fact remains there is somewhat of a “career year” hangover coming about the A’s pitching staff.
Parker has probably seen the worst of the hangover struggling in almost every start he has made this season. His fastball velocity has dropped off and he is hanging pitches. Both of those factors equate to lots of hits and consequentially lots of runs. With the offense in a small slump outside of Jed Lowrie and Josh Donaldson the A’s need the starting pitching to come through more times than not. That was their recipe for success last season.
The A’s organizational depth is largely unproven outside of Dan Straily. They have prospect Sonny Gray, Jesse Chavez, and Straily as stand ins when need be. While there is some depth there Straily is the only one who provides a relative amount of long term success. With this in mind the A’s and GM Billy Beane may want to look outside the organization early on this season before prices sky rocket at the trade deadline to add some depth to Triple A Sacramento.
The hangover of the young pitchers coupled with Brett Anderson’s constant injury concerns leaves little room for an offense that is hit or miss (no pun intended). The offense will need to carry the team through this rough patch and hope the pitchers find their groove on the other side or else it could be a long season at the Coliseum.