What's Wrong with the Oakland Athletics?

What’s wrong with the Oakland Athletics? Simply put: everything. The offense isn’t generating runs, their pitching has been lackluster, they are making mental mistakes and their defense/baserunning has been atrocious. You know, every facet of the game.

The Athletics are 7-8 since making the trade for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes. While it’s easy to blame Billy Beane for trading away Yoenis Cespedes, let’s look for answers elsewhere.

Defensively, the A’s have not been sharp. The A’s had committed 12 errors in 12 games, giving them 82 on the season. This has been a problem all year, but with the offense producing, and the A’s starters pitching out of trouble earlier in the season, their shoddy defense wasn’t noticed as much. Now, these mistakes are really costing the team.

In Friday night’s game, Nate Freiman booted a routine grounder to first. The next batter, Phil Gosselin (you’re right to ask “who?”) hit a 2-run shot that upped the Braves’ lead to 5 runs, putting the game out of reach for the anemic A’s offense.

The A’s starting pitching started very strong, but as of late has been a little shaky. Prior to Friday’s contest, A’s starters had compiled a 3.61 ERA over their last 15 games. While this is still respectable, their season ERA sits at 3.34. A’s relievers have either all been strong, or mostly struggling. Their season ERA is a solid 2.91, but if they hit on of their skids come playoff time, this team is sunk.

Remember that huge run differential? While it’s still the best in the majors by far at +163 (Nationals are 2nd at +90), the reason it got so large to begin with was because both the offense and starting pitching were dominant, outscoring opponents by 6+ runs consistently. I’m no math whizz, but it’s hard to outscore your opponents by 6 when you only score 3.

Many fans will jump on Jason Hammel for his performance while donning the green and gold, and rightfully so. A 6.75 ERA and a 1-5 record with Oakland have not earned him much support with the Athletics’ faithful. Yet, he isn’t the only A’s pitcher struggling. Over his last 3 starts, Sonny Gray has a 4.42 ERA and an 0-3 record. Gray has a 2.86 ERA on the season by comparison.

Now for the offense. It could be as simple as Coco Crisp struggling at the plate. As we all know, as Coco goes, so do the A’s. In his last 39 ABs, Crisp has 5 hits. That’s good for a .128 average for almost the same length of time as the Athletics’ struggles.

The major concern on social media has been that the A’s don’t have a big power bat in the middle of their lineup anymore. They do have plenty of pop, however. Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson lead the charge with 48 homers and 160 RBI combined. If these two are struggling, the A’s need to string together some hits and find other ways to win. Sam Fuld and a healthy Craig Gentry could kickstart the A’s offense down the stretch.

The A’s offense has been shut down largely by good pitching (not you, Minnesota). The Royals are a solid team, with plenty of quality arms both in their rotation, and in the bullpen. They’ve also been red-hot and could actually take the AL Central from the Detroit Tigers if they don’t cool down too much.

Yes, the A’s should be concerned about losing to good teams this late in the season, especially with how they’ve been getting beat: soundly. No, the A’s shouldn’t panic just yet. If the Angels take a 5-game lead with two weeks to play, sure. But right now there is plenty of baseball left, and 10 games left against the stupid Halos. THOSE are the games that should concern the A’s. THAT’S when the A’s can put the division away.

So what’s wrong with the Oakland Athletics? They’re (hopefully) just going through a slump that is being magnified with all of the bonus coverage by the national media. Am I being too optimistic? Perhaps, but so are Cubs fans every Opening Day, and the Athletics have a lot more going in their favor. The Oakland A’s have had the best record in baseball since June 18th. Even with all of their struggles, no other team has caught them. Until this team has been eliminated, there is always hope.

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