For the 2nd consecutive season, the 2019 Oakland Athletics–soon to be Las Vegas based?!?–finished 2nd in the AL West with a 97-65 record; good for a .599 winning percentage. The powerhouse in Houston is too good, and topped the AL West division yet again. The A’s efforts earned them the top Wild Card spot in the American League. In the winner take all showdown, they went on to lose 5-1 to the Rays as Charlie Morton out pitched Sean Manaea. Even with a tough elimination, A’s fans should be content and looking forward to the same success, if not more, in the 2020 season.
When looking at this past season for Oakland, their success starts with Matt Olson, 25, and Matt Chapman, 26. They make up one of the best corner infield combos in the game. If you solely look at fWAR, the duos 10.0 mark puts them at the top of the entire league when looking at 1B/3B combos. What makes this pair even more intriguing is that neither Olson or Chapman are free agents until 2024. Olson had a fantastic year, especially for being held out 35 games early on due to a broken hamate bone in his right hand; which is particularly known for ‘zapping’ a hitters power. In 547 PA, Olson finished the year hitting .267/.351/.545/.896 with 73 R, 36 HR, 91 RBI, 9.3 BB%, 25.2 K%, 134 wRC+, and 3.9 fWAR. He’s one of the better first basemen in the league, and just now getting into his prime.
Matt Chapman was his usual defensive wizard at the hot corner, continuously displaying great instincts and reactions. Chapman hit for more power in 2019, hitting .249/.342/.506 with 102 R, 36 HR, 91 RBI, 10.9 BB%, 21.9 K%, 125 wRC+ and 6.1 fWAR in 670 PA. It should be noted that roughly around the All Star Break, Chapman started to deal with ankle and knee soreness. This is evident when observing his 1st and 2nd half slash lines. 1st half: .268/.355/.534; 2nd half: .222/.324/.465. Imagine the numbers Olson and Chapman can put up throughout a healthy 162 game season? Hopefully we find out as soon as 2020.
You know that guy who constantly shows off his laser of an arm? Yeah, he’s on the A’s to go along with Olson and Chapman. He is 25 year old Ramón Laureano. We saw Laureano’s arm get to work in 2018, and that is what put his name on the map. Then in 2019 Laureano showed us that he could hit as well. Even with an abysmal start to the season with a .234 AVG in March/April, and a stress reaction injury in his right shin midway through the year, Laureano was still productive. In 481 PA he hit .288/.340/.521/.860 with 79 R, 24 HR, 67 RBI, 13 SB, 5.6 BB%, 25.6 K%, 126 wRC+, and 3.9 fWAR. I would love to see his K% dip closer to 20% and his BB% to rise, but overall, this is a solid hitter who has a gun in CF. The A’s have a top 5 CF in the game.
I’d kick myself if I didn’t hype up Marcus Semien after what he accomplished in 2019. Semien was the most under the radar and least talked about player in the game for what he produced this past season. Does anyone remember hearing about him through MLB media outlets? I don’t. He was extremely underrated and a beast on both sides of the ball.
Oh, and he played all 162 games while holding down the fort at SS. Let me tell you a little bit about Marcus: 747 PA, .285/.369/.522/.892, 123 R, 33 HR, 92 RBI, 10 SB, 11.6 BB%, 13.7 K%, 137 wRC+, and 7.6 fWAR. These numbers across the board are fantastic. For what Semien did, and how little he has been talked about, is criminal. His 7.6 fWAR was the 5th highest by an MLB hitter this year! Will he repeat this output? Probably not. But he is a solid player overall, and just had himself a career year. Lets give credit where it’s due.
It would be wrong of me to not mention Mark Canha and his 4.0 fWAR this year. At the age of 30, he provided yet another solid bat in the A’s lineup, hitting .273/.396/.517/.913 with 26 HR. Even if Canha dips back to his career norm offensive production, the A’s have a player who can help them as soon as next year. Catcher Sean Murphy, who made his MLB debut late in 2019, piled up 60 PA and hit .273 with a 135 wRC+. If he’s the real deal this is a player any team would want since catchers who can hit are so valuable.
The Puzzle Piece Rotation
The A’s displayed a rotation that we are all pretty used to in recent memory. It doesn’t consist of an ace, but they find veteran arms, most of whom click and find just enough success to have respectable stats and give the team a fighting chance. Those arms were Brett Anderson, Mike Fiers, Chris Bassitt, and Homer Bailey. All were within the realm of high 3s, low 4s ERA. To be fair, Frankie Montas did look the part of an ace for the A’s rotation. He excelled his game to the next level. Montas put up a 2.63 ERA, 3.00 FIP, and 3.47 xFIP in 96 IP before being caught and handed an 80 game suspension for PEDs. Are his stats legit, or a product of PEDs? His slider was awesome, and he’s still only 26 years old, but time will tell.
Let’s not forget about Sean Manaea either. He spent most of the year recovering from shoulder surgery. When he was deemed healthy enough to pitch in the latter part of the season, he made 5 starts with a 1.21 ERA, 3.42 FIP, and 3.98 xFIP. His ERA will surely regress, but Manaea is a solid arm who is capable of a mid 3s ERA.
As for the bullpen first things first…who the hell is Liam Hendriks!? He’s a 30 year old who threw to the tune of a 1.80 ERA and 1.87 FIP to go along with 25 saves, 13.13 K/9, 2.22 BB/9 and a 3.8 fWAR. Yeah, that’ll do. If you were one of the lucky ones to grab him in fantasy, congrats! It’s worth noting Yusmeiro Petit too, as he was another solid RP for the A’s as he produced a 2.71 ERA. As a whole, the A’s 6.9 bullpen fWAR was 4th in MLB. They posted solid ratios with a 3.89 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 4.60 xFIP.
Not All Things Are Rainbows And Sunshine
The 2019 A’s got negative help from Krush Davis and Blake Treinen. For Davis, after having an AVG of exactly .247 for 4 straight seasons, and 40+ HR and 100+ RBI the past 3 years, he was a big disappointment. This past year Davis hit .220/.293/.387/.679 with 61 R, 23 HR, 73 RBI, 81 wRC+, and -1.0 fWAR. Mix in that he’s primarily a DH and you’re looking at a very poor season. As for Treinen, he was miserable compared to 2018. 2018 Treinen was stellar posting a 0.78 ERA, 1.82 FIP, 2.42 xFIP, 3.6 fWAR with 38 saves. 2019 Treinen was one of the biggest busts in the entire league pitching to a 4.91 ERA, 5.14 FIP, 5.01 xFIP, -0.3 fWAR with 16 saves. Nobody saw this coming for Davis or Treinen. For the A’s to take the next step, getting these two back into form would be a great boost.
We were able to see a glimpse of the future with AJ Puk and Jesus Luzardo making their MLB debuts late in the year out of the pen. Both pitchers have been battling injuries, so having them pitch out of the pen wasn’t a surprise. However, these two lefties are starting pitchers in the long run. Puk looked solid, as he had decent ratios and has wipe out stuff with a 10.32 K/9. He, however, walked too many batters with a 3.97 BB/9 . Command/control is the main issue here; if he harnesses that, Puk can be a good starting pitcher. Luzardo looked fantastic when he came up as he posted a 1.50 ERA and 2.63 FIP with 12.00 K/9 and 2.25 BB/9. If Luzardo can stay healthy and build up his arm strength, the sky’s the limit for this kid. He has a great chance to become the ace Oakland has been waiting for.
That’s a Wrap
Nobody should be ashamed of the year Oakland had. Manaea serving up 3 taters in the first two innings of the WC game leaves a sour taste as for how the year ended, but posting back to back 97 win seasons with a ‘moneyball’ payroll is impressive. The lineup as a whole posted a 28.5 fWAR, good enough for 5th in MLB. Their pitching produced an 18.7 fWAR, good for 8th in MLB even though they lacked an ace. Overall, this was a very solid squad with everyone doing their share in helping push this team into the playoffs.
I’ll leave you with my hot take for the 2020 Oakland Athletics: this team will win the division. Yup, you read that right. They will leap over HOU and be the best in the west. They already have a solid core of hitting in place with good enough pitching. A lot went wrong for the 2019 A’s and they still achieved 97 wins and a WC spot. With Murphy, Puk, Luzardo, and maybe Jorge Mateo coming into form and healthy years from Manaea, Olson, Chapman, a PEDs free Montas, and hopeful rebounds from Davis and Treinen, I can see this team topping 100 wins and taking the division. I love this team, you should too, and for good reason.
Author Twitter: @NYMByTheNumbers
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