Welcome to SB Nation FanPulse, a survey of fans across MLB. Each week, we send 30 polls to plugged in fans from each team. A’s fans, click HERE to learn more and join FanPulse.
A’s fans were asked on Monday if they have confidence in the direction of the team, and the result was a resounding “we’ll see!” The final tally was 67% approval, for the second straight week, even after going 5-2 since the previous poll.
Fans began the year on a high note, coming off a 97-win season with 100% confidence in their dreams of repeat contention, but they cratered at nearly 50-50 after a disappointing April. Their fAith bounced back a bit when the team did in May, and now Oakland stands at five games over .500 at the end of June, but it looks like it will take a more sustained push to get everyone truly believing again.
So who are these A’s? Are they the team that reeled off 10 straight wins in May, looking untouchable along the way? Or are they the group who struggle to find the clutch hit, or to hold a late lead once they’ve got it, and who lets games slip away against weak opponents?
Perhaps the biggest determining factor in the second half of 2019 will be the bullpen. They’ve already racked up 15 blown saves and 16 relief losses, just shy of last year’s full-season totals of 18 and 17, and that inconsistency has been the primary factor preventing them from making a move up the standings. But relievers are notoriously volatile, and just as they’ve slumped they could easily get hot again in July and beyond. On the bright side, while we wait to see if Blake Treinen and Lou Trivino can return to dominant form, Liam Hendriks and Yusmeiro Petit have stepped up into the key roles, but ultimately it’ll take more than two consistent arms to turn around this unit.
Meanwhile the starting rotation is still holding strong, with Mike Fiers staying hot and Daniel Mengden making a triumphant return this week. But fans were dubious even before ace Frankie Montas was popped for PEDs, and the team will have to hope for some 2018 magic in terms of seamlessly replacing any starters who land on the shelf. Jesus Luzardo and Sean Manaea could make a big difference, but that’s still no guarantee.
As for the offense, it’s above-average (4.98 runs/game) but hasn’t been able to separate itself from the pack (14th in MLB, avg is 4.78). They’re hitting plenty of dingers, ranking seventh in the majors, but can’t always string hits together into long rallies. That leads to them getting silenced a few teams per week, when the homers are solo or the power runs dry completely.
The pieces are there for another Wild Card run. There’s talent on the pitching staff, and a great young core around the diamond. There are impact reinforcements having huge years in Triple-A, on both sides of the ball, including at the positions where the current MLB squad is at its weakest. And their 44-39 record is only one game back of where they were last year after 83 completed contests, and well within reach of the current postseason hunt at 2.5 games out of the second Wild Card.
So what’s it gonna be? A classic A’s second-half surge, with everyone finally clicking, some new rookie sensations providing a spark, and the front office making some shrewd deadline acquisitions? Or another few months of being tantalized by near misses and almost-wins and soul-crushing blown saves after eight great innings?
Only time will tell. The fans are still more confident than not, resting at the two-thirds mark for now, but that percentage only ranks 19th-best in the majors among the other fanbases. At least they’re off to a good start, having won 3-of-4 on the road since this survey was taken, including both matchups against a solid Cardinals team.
Fans were asked about manager Bob Melvin as well, and everyone still loves him. His approval rating climbed up to 92%, after sitting in the 80s the last couple weeks. They’ve got the right skipper at the helm, and now it’s up to the players to perform.
As for the national question, it was a bit of a gimme this time. Of course billionaire owners should pay for the stadiums where their extremely valuable teams play their games, just as the A’s are trying to do by self-financing their own new park in downtown Oakland. For too long, state and city governments were duped into footing the bill for what are essentially private corporations, and fans (and other citizens) are sick of it. That 91% is about as much of a national consensus as you’ll find on any topic, baseball or otherwise.