For the past two years, the A’s have felt a little out of the loop. Uninvited to the party, the team was never a part of any relevant conversation, never in contention, never of interest on a national level.
On Tuesday, MLB smashed its own record for dingers in a year with 5,694 with a week and change to spare. No other league is close.
The record fell at the hands Alex Gordon, he of a 60 wRC+. It was a rather fitting way for the number to broken, as the home run surge has been largely been powered by not the most powerful, but rather the weaker hitters in the league.
Here’s some exciting news: the A’s were a huge part of that record with the fifth most dingers hit in the game. With 222, they’re tied with the Yankees and Astros, and three behind the Rangers (225) and Orioles (227, numbers as of Thursday). With a hot final week (or as Matt Olson calls it, a meh week), the A’s could lead the game in dingers in the most dinger-y year of all time. That’s pretty cool!
Here’s some better news: the home run jump has been caused by a few factors. The first is baseball collectively figuring out that yes, home runs are good and making a conscious effort to get the ball up in the air and out of the yard.
The second is the ball, juiced since the 2015 All Star Break. That has brought offense back from the dead at the hands of some random sluggers. Scooter Gennett? Terrifying lineup presence. Jean Segura? Barry Bonds. The list is long.
The powers at be in baseball like to do weird things, and just as fast as they’ve brought offense back with a changed ball, they could rid it with a similar alteration.
Ah, but Oakland is far from reliant on a juiced ball; the A’s lineup is full of real, bonafide sluggers. Kris Davis is the home run king, Matt Chapman has crushed at every level, Matt Olson is as big as a mountain, so on and so forth. This is a team of legit sluggers, juiced ball or not and it’s a team that should be atop the home run leaderboard for seasons to come.
Other fun facts:
-Every team with more dingers than the A’s plays in a home run friendly stadium
-This team has the fourth most home runs in Athletics history. The leading team? The 1996 A’s powered by Mark McGwire and Geronimo Berroa
-The A’s team with the fewest dingers? The 1915 squad hit a grand total of 16.
-The 1910 Oakland squad hit 19 home runs in the midst of a .266/.326/.355 line which was good for a 115 wRC+ omg baseball used to be so boring.
The pitchers played a role, too
The offense has been a bright spot for much of the year, particularly the second half behind the revamped rookie lineup.
The pitching has been a little rough throughout the year, and while the team isn’t that high on the dingers allowed list, it’s been a bit of an issue. Currently, the 2017 A’s have given up 197 long balls. That’s fourth most in the history of the Athletics and by season’s end, it’s entirely possible the A’s will reach the number two spot in franchise history (205 HRs by the 2006 team). Currently, they’ve given up the 12th most in the game, again a number that needs park consideration to fully appreciate.
The dinger load has been fairly spread out. Both starters and relievers have given up their share, with Jharel Cotton leading the way with 28. Whereas on the offensive side of the ball there’s encouraging news with regards to who’s hitting the dingers, pitchers young and old are giving up the longball. It’s a fixable issue, but the A’s pitchers will have to make a change in order to have a better 2018.
More fun facts:
-The A’s have had 28 pitchers this year, and 27 have given up a ding dong. Can you guess the one who didn’t?
-The 1910 team gave up a whopping 8 dingers on the year, in 150 full games. Old baseball, probably boring.