Riding the high from a stellar road trip, the A’s returned to the Coliseum a little over a week ago ready to make more moves in the standings. The team had just completed a 7-3 trip in an unfriendly time zone against quality competition and was returning home to face the injured Mariners, the struggling Dbacks, and the Rays-like Rays. Things were looking good!
The A’s fell flat on their faces.
Not all the way around, of course. The pitching staff has been surprisingly solid and in true A’s fashion, incapable of aligning with the A’s offense. When the pitching has stifled the competition, the offense has scored enough to make it interesting, but not enough to actually win. Thus is A’s baseball.
As you’ve probably noticed if you’ve watched but ten seconds of this homestand, the A’s are awful offensively at home.
A’s home vs. away
|wRC+||82 (29th)||114 (4th)||98 (15th)|
|OPS||.653 (30th)||.786 (4th)||.719 (19th)|
On the road, the offense is great! This is a team that was supposed to be driven by a powerful offense, and having the fourth best offense on the road is fantastic. Most good teams aim to be around .500 away from home, getting the bulk of their wins at home. The A’s have held up the road end of the bargain. They’ve left a lot on the table at home.
-Marcus Semien has a wRC+ of 78 at home, down from 110 on the road.
-Matt Chapman has a paltry wRC+ of 60 at home far below his wRC+ of 150 (!!) on the road. That’s a 90 point difference,
-Stephen Piscotty is at a wRC+ of 59 at home and 95 on the road. Yeesh.
Is it the ballpark?
Hard to say, but probably not.
Park factors fluctuate a fair amount, and it often takes three or more seasons of data to accurately gauge the actual effects of a ballpark. With that in mind, please click this link and gasp at just how ridiculous the Coliseum looks in a small sample this year.
It’s truly silly to read much into this at this early stage unless you’re currently on a blog dedicated solely to the baseball team that plays in that stadium. Holy hell! Those numbers are ridiculous.
Again, the most likely conclusion is that the small sample is leading to wonky number that will right themselves with time. But then again, it’s been a weird weather year with lots of frigid and windy night games. The marine layer prevented a Matt Olson flyball from becoming a dinger off of Wilmer Font and if Matt Olson can’t take Wilmer the dinger producer Font deep, maybe something is off.
The underlying stats don’t really support that theory though. Weirdly, the A’s are hitting way more balls on the ground at home than away and in conjunction, fewer balls in the air. The difference in batted ball type is significant and unlikely to be ballpark induced.
A’s home vs. away
|Exit velocity||89.6 MPH (5th)||89.6 MPH (3rd)|
|FB%||35.2% (17th)||40.6% (4th)|
|LD%||20% (23rd)||20.4% (22nd)|
|GB%||44.8% (7th)||39% (30th)|
|HR/FB||7.6% (28th)||16.7% (3rd)|
In addition, the pitching staff is giving up groundballs at roughly the same rate at home as it is on the road, another sign the offensive issues are probably not ballpark related. The why is very unclear, but the what is needed is clear: more balls in the air and fewer on the ground at home.
A piece of good news is that the A’s are hitting the ball as hard at home as on the road, just with different directionality. If they can elevate, they can succeed.
Will the trend remain?
It’s unclear why the A’s are so bad at home right now, we just know they’re so bad at home. It might be luck, it might be a young team trying to impress their fans, it might be something completely different.
I realize that’s a boring conclusion to a fairly depressing topic but the positive with any bad small sample is that it can quickly turn to a decent slightly larger sample. The A’s are one great homestand away from respectable numbers.
The good news is the A’s have an opportunity. The offense shouldn’t be this bad at home, it shouldn’t be bad at all. If the team can flip the switch, there are wins to be taken. Already this season the A’s have lost 9 home games in which they gave up 4 or fewer runs. Those are exceedingly winnable games and the A’s have found themselves with more chances at wins than expected.
The bad news is the pitching won’t stay this good. Trevor Cahill might put up ace like numbers, but he also might not. And there’s always the injury risk, something that’s already taken promising seasons from the A’s. Baseball’s length is this staff’s foe and if the A’s really do have dreams of contention, they better start cashing in soon. Easiest way to do so? Hit at home.