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Oakland A’s fan confidence keeps rising for starting rotation

The triumphant return of an injured star likely provided a boost to this vote.

Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

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.

***This week’s survey is live, so make sure to vote if you haven’t already!***

A’s fans were asked last week if they have confidence in the team’s starting rotation, and the result was a resounding “Yes!” for the second month in a row. This time 82% of fans answered Yes to the question, “Are you confident that the A’s can contend with their current starting rotation?”

This is the sixth time we’ve asked about the starters this season, once per month. The approval rating began barely above zero, but increased as the year went on and has now skyrocketed lately. Looking back (each poll taken around the middle of the given month):

  • April: 5% ... Entering the season the rotation was full of question marks and didn’t seem to have a true ace, and many fans were disappointed that the team didn’t make a bigger addition over the winter. Also, this poll was taken when Mike Fiers had an 8.28 ERA, just before he turned the corner.
  • May: 33% ... Marco Estrada and Aaron Brooks were out, and Chris Bassitt and Daniel Mengden were in. Frankie Montas had emerged as a budding ace, and Fiers had thrown a no-hitter. The rating was still below 50/50, but clearly on the upswing.
  • June: 21% ... This poll happened just before Montas was suspended for PEDs, but it would have made more sense had it come after that news. Otherwise, the rest of the rotation was still doing pretty well.
  • July: 33% ... The rotation kept plugging along after losing Montas, and by this point they had just acquired Homer Bailey. Fans were tentatively optimistic about the group’s surprisingly strong performance but still needed to see more to fully buy in.
  • August: 69% ... Fiers had proved himself with 17 straight quality starts, and the A’s had picked up Tanner Roark at the trade deadline. The whole group was pitching pretty well and they’d been doing so long enough to gain some fAith from the fans. Nice!
  • September: 82% ... Sean Manaea returned and posted a 1.14 ERA over his first four starts. Bailey and Anderson kept cranking out good games. Fiers hit a slump and had an injury scare just before this poll was taken, but now we know he’s fine on both accounts after his gem on Friday. Bassitt is waiting in the bullpen if needed, and dynamic rookies Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk are available for piggyback duty.

The rotation looked like the A’s biggest weakness this spring, but it’s become an area of particular strength and truly inspires confidence with the postseason approaching. Manaea is succeeding without big velocity, and Bailey has been an undercover star and arguably their best starter since the All-Star break. Fiers did his best impression of an ace for most of the year, Roark has had more good games than bad ones since arriving, and Anderson has quietly kept the team in almost every game he’s pitched. Who knew that by September the A’s would have more good arms than they could fit in a five-man rotation, with Bassitt squeezed out for now?

Key stat: The A’s 49% rate of quality starts ranks sixth in the majors, and much closer to the leader (54%) than the MLB average at (37%). It’s not the most scientific stat, but it goes to show how often Oakland’s starters are at least giving the lineup a chance to win games.

As for the normal weekly questions about the A’s, here are the latest results.

  • Confidence in direction of team: 93% (up from 85%)
  • Confidence in manager: 95% (same as last week)

This survey was taken last Monday, just after the A’s had won 6-of-7 on a road trip to Texas. They shocked the Astros with a series victory, and then swept the Rangers in three games. They were riding a six-game winning streak heading into their final homestand, and had taken control of the Wild Card race. All is still well since then, as that homestand went great and they now lead the Wild Card race by two games with six left to play.

Only three teams got higher approval from their fans last week: the Astros (100%), Braves (99%), and Twins (95%), with the Wild Card competitor Rays (91%) and Indians (64%) lagging behind. This is Oakland’s highest mark since four weeks prior, and they haven’t beaten 93% since 22 weeks ago (in Week 4). At the other end of the spectrum, the Pirates (3%) and Rockies (8%) continue to toil in the doldrums, while the Phillies (21%) dropped down to third-worst. Out of 30 teams, half finished below the 70% threshold.

Regarding manager Bob Melvin, we still love him. Next topic.

As for the national question, the Yankees were picked as the heavyweight most likely to disappoint in the playoffs, though only barely over the Dodgers. This poll was taken before star pitcher Domingo German was deactivated due to allegations of a domestic violence incident.