March and April are in the past, and today we’re on to a new month. Before we get started with May, though, let’s check in on how the Oakland A’s are doing by the numbers.
Entering the 2018 season, the optimistic hope was that the A’s could rise from three straight last-place finishes and put together a .500 record behind their emerging young core. That’s exactly what has happened so far, as Oakland stands with a 14-14 record that puts them fourth in the AL West and only two games behind third.
The lineup has been the engine dragging this team upward to respectability. Here are some MLB ranks (out of 30 teams):
- 6th in runs/game (5.00)
- 2nd in wRC+ (114), 4th in OPS (.778)
- 4th in OBP (.338), 4th in SLG (.441)
- 6th in homers (35), T-5th in isolated slugging (.178)
- 1st in hard-contact rate (42.0%)
- 15th in BB rate (8.9%), 18th-best in K rate (23.0%)
Their plate discipline is only decent, but when they do make contact they hit it as hard as anybody in the sport. They’ve also had some good fortune on their batted balls, with the second-highest BABIP (.318), but even if that drops a bit they’ll still be able to score. On the downside, they have the second-most GIDPs (25), at least a little bit because they get on base more than most teams.
The leader of the lineup has been Jed Lowrie. The veteran infielder and professional hitter has been hot all year, with a .979 OPS so far. Along the way he set a new Oakland A’s record with 35 hits in April, surpassing his own mark of 34 from 2013. He also tied the team-high for April RBI with 27, joining Reggie Jackson and Jason Giambi. Some MLB ranks for Lowrie (out of 176 qualified hitters):
- 13th in wRC+ (168), 15th in OPS (.979)
- T-2nd in RBI (27)
- T-7th in fWAR (1.5), T-4th in bWAR (1.7)
We’re used to seeing Lowrie spray doubles all over the yard, but so far this year he’s hitting for career-best power (.243 isolated slugging) and a career-high average (.339). Better yet, he’s not giving back any of that value on defense, with neutral ratings at an up-the-middle position. In both versions of WAR, he’s tied with teammate Matt Chapman.
Here’s a look down the whole lineup. Players are sorted by their wRC+ (100 is average, higher is better):
- Jed Lowrie (168)
- Mark Canha (159): His hot start continues, with four dingers in 15 games, healthy on-base skills, and neutral defense in CF.
- Matt Chapman (143): Click here for our post yesterday taking a closer look at Chapman.
- Khris Davis (119): Only tied for 15th in homers (7), but he can get hot at any moment.
- Matt Joyce (109): Tied for 6th in walk rate (19.3%), and still walking more than he strikes out (17.0%).
- Marcus Semien (104): In his last eight games, he’s 12-for-33 with two homers, three doubles, and a 1.036 OPS (and five errors at shortstop).
- Stephen Piscotty (103): His bat is plugging along decently, but his minus-11 Defensive Runs Saved is by far the worst in MLB for all players at all positions and his UZR is second-worst (minus-4.0).
- Matt Olson (101): His strikeout rate is a bit concerning (34.2%), and he hasn’t homered in two weeks, but in the meantime he’s still playing excellent defense at 1B and saving his teammates some errors.
- Jonathan Lucroy (90): Still hasn’t homered yet, but he’s making tons of contact and he put in an impressive performance against Houston’s red-hot Gerrit Cole.
Filling out the bench are Chad Pinder (169), who is quietly hitting about as well as Canha so far and in roughly the same ways (including three homers in 45 PAs); Jake Smolinski (15), who isn’t playing much at all anymore but at least got his wRC+ back above zero; and backup catcher Bruce Maxwell (14), who has been about as invisible as Smolinski at the plate.
The pitching staff hasn’t been nearly as strong as the offense. Some MLB ranks:
- 19-best in both ERA (4.41) and FIP (4.26)
- 2nd-lowest walk rate (6.3%, or 2.4 BB/9)
- 6th-lowest strikeout rate (19.9%, or 7.57 K/9)
- 7th-best K/BB rate (3.15)
The staff hasn’t been terrible, but it hasn’t been any better than average. The starters have delivered quality outings at a league-average rate and lasted an average number of innings per game, and their 3.90 FIP is 11th-best — if only they could get consistent support from the defense behind them, especially with opponents putting the ball in play so frequently. The relievers have been middle-of-the-pack as well, and have blown only three of their 19 save/hold chances (one of which was really blown by the defense, not the pitcher).
The rotation doesn’t look too bad:
- Sean Manaea: 1.03 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 5.3 K/BB
- Daniel Mengden: 4.68 ERA, 2.89 FIP, 6.0 K/BB
- Trevor Cahill: 3.00 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 3.8 K/BB
- Andrew Triggs: 4.70 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 3.5 K/BB
Manaea’s ERA is the best among all qualified AL starters, ahead of three Astros (Verlander, Morton, Cole). Along the way he set a new Oakland record with 14 consecutive hitless innings.
Overall the whole group is holding its own, though depth is still a big question with five months to go. They’ll need to add a new arm this week to replace Kendall Graveman, who is in the minors rebooting, but for what it’s worth Brett Anderson has a 1.89 ERA with 25 Ks and 2 BB in Triple-A. We’ll have to wait and see who comes up and how it all shakes out long-term.
As for the bullpen, the positive standouts have been closer Blake Treinen (2.70 FIP), rookie Lou Trivino (retired 17-of-23 batters), Ryan Dull (back in a setup role, and posted a 4-strikeout inning), lefty Ryan Buchter (currently on the DL), and Yusmeiro Petit (zero walks through 60 batters faced). Petit’s no-walk streak is by far the longest this year:
- Yusmeiro Petit (60 batters w/out a walk)
- Tyler Olson, CLE (36 batters)
- Ken Giles, HOU (36 batters)
This is nothing new for Petit, who maintained low walk rates during his Giants years and last summer with the Angels (5.1%, 1.8 BB/9).
Congrats to the A’s on a winning month of April (13-12), and here’s to another productive one in May!